Hola todos! (Hello everybody),
I am in Spain for the semester! Though the pre-studying abroad process can feel stressful and frustrating, especially since study abroad always feels so far away, it is by far one of the more worthwhile experiences I have had in my life. I am living in Barcelona, Spain for the semester and just wanted to share my first few experiences, impressions and struggles studying abroad.
I have been to Spain many times in my life, and I even have family that live in the capital, but coming to Barcelona has been a difficult and amazing adjustment. The first thing that hit me was the time difference. Since Spain is 6 hours ahead, adjusting was difficult because I was used to sleeping during the daytime here and doing things during the night. However after a few days of forcing myself to stay up during what felt like the night, it has become normal.
The Trinity team is full of nothing short of miracle workers. Agueda and Brian work to coordinate our schedules, our field trips, our money vouchers and so much more. Though we have been here a mere 3 weeks, we have had numerous outings, both optional and mandatory, which include museums, cooking classes, hikes, tapas eating, trips outside the city, flaminco dancing, self-defense and more. Gabriela, also on the Trinity team, often takes students on optional field trips.
We have been lucky enough, through Trinity, to access some amazing sites in Barcelona for free. The Trinity space itself is located on Pau Claris, which is an avenue in the center of Barcelona in walking distance from the Gaudi buildings and parallel to Passeo de Gracia. The advanced students are taking a history class which is located in the Ateneu, a historical building located right off the Ramblas, which has a renown library, a beautiful cafe in the courtyard, and classrooms on the top floor. The rest of our classes are at the UPF (Universitat Pompeu Fabra) and are in the middle of the city, in all different parts of the school.
As far as housing during study abroad here, there are 2 options. Students can choose to stay at the TSH (The Student Hotel), which is located in the Melon district, or students can choose to live in a homestay. There are upsides and downsides to both choices, as with many things, but the perks of both situations significantly outweigh the potential costs.
In a homestay, students have the chance to fully immerse themselves in the Spanish language. Students are placed with families, meticulously vetted by Trinity’s staff, who have expressed an exceptional interest in taking in an international student. Students fill out a survey explaining both what type of living situation they are looking for (for instance, do they want little kids, pets, etc) and a form explaining their living personality. The host families do the same and students are matched to the best of the programs ability with a compatible home. Though the families all speak Spanish in the household, they are very patient with students learning the language. This semester we have a student in a homestay who speaks very little english, and both he and his host family are very patient with each other learning to communicate in broken Spanish and broken english. But the advantage of living in a homestay is just that: the student picks up the language at an alarming rate. Learning to speak in a language is very different from learning the dissect the language into grammatical concepts. Students in homestays get the chance to practice their conversational Spanish everyday and everyday they become better Spanish speakers. Another advantage of living in a Spanish household, is the advice they can give you about the city. Nobody knows the ins and outs of the city better than they do because it is the city they live in, and for many, the city they grew up in. Host families can give the best advice as to places to eat and exhibits to visit, but also the places to avoid, the cautions about living in the city and much more. Many people in homestays eat at least dinner with their families which gives them time to bond and time to practice their Spanish!
The other option offered to students is TSH. The Student Hotel is located in the Melon district and is home to hundreds of students from all around the world. From the TSH dorms, it is about a 5 minute walk to the metro and it’s within walking distance of the beach and the university. Each student is issued a room key that allows access to the cafeteria, the building, the kitchen and the common areas. Each floor consists of about 10 rooms on either side of the hallway and at the end there is a shared kitchen. The cafeteria is on the ground floor and is connected to TSH but is a public restaurant in the area. The common space consists of a large study room, a large TV and viewing area, a pool table, ping pong table, fusbol table and more. The residents of the space are invited to regular events that are put on by TSH that engage students in activities with one another. Students at TSH also get to enjoy the rooftop area, which looks out on the city of Barcelona from 12 stories up, as well as a rooftop pool. There are also many advantages to living in the TSH. The rooms are small, but private with queen beds, and private bathrooms. There is a cleaning service that comes once a week, and a service that cleans the kitchen as well. There are shared fridges and cabinet space with allows students to cook during the week as well as store groceries for convenience. Living at TSH, students are entirely independent and entirely responsible for themselves and their needs, such as laundry and meals.
Either way, every student has amazing living accommodations while studying abroad in Barcelona and students from TSH and homestays have plenty of opportunities to spend time together during the week and on the weekends. Trinity does a great job with matching up families with students as well as placing students in the generous hands of The Student Hotel.
Overall, this trip has been amazing so far. We are so lucky to have so many amazing people on the Trinity in Barcelona staff who have helped us to get settled and encouraged us to explore on our own. So far, this has been an amazing semester and I cannot wait to share more of it with you as I go!