Monday, September 19, 2011

Week of 9/11

This past week was exciting as it was a week of firsts, first class in Spain, first Catalan festival, etc.  I wrote most of this week's blog from parks including the ciutadella park and the arc de triompf.

Sunday 11/9/2011 
First off, I want to send thanks to all those overseas fighting for our country.
Sunday, I went to my first Catalan fair.  9/11 is to the Catalans was a major loss in their fight for freedom. It was the day that they lost to the Spanish and the Spanish Army marched into Barcelona.  The catalans commemorate this day in order to remember their desire for freedom, which is due to several reasons one of which is their loss of many of their freedoms under the Spanish government

Therefore, there was a big fair at the Arc de Triomf.  There were lots of booths selling shirts, candy, key chains ( I bought a pretty sweet dino key chain with the Catalan flag on its belly), drinks and hand made artifacts all of which were for Catalan pride or for remembering the fight for independence. Earlier that morning, there were political speeches... which we thankfully missed. We watched a few of the free concerts they had there and then went to the ciutadella park to look at the book fair that was going on.  After that we went to the the Cascada, which is a large ornate fountain in the park which Atoni Gaudi (a very famous Catalan Architect) assisted with as a student.

When we returned to the fair, Cory (another student in my study abroad program) and I took a picture with a very excited an probably drunk Catalan Viking.  He was very excited so we joined in with him for his cheers for Independence.

After that there was a huge crowd of several hundred people cheering for independence that marched from around the city and then gathered at the Arc de trimpf for the celebrations. At that point I left with a few people as i had to get groceries as I had no food in my room. Unfortunately, all the stores were closed as it was a holiday.  I later found out that there were a large number of riot police assembled near the Arc just on stand by.

Monday 12/9/2011
Today, was the first day of my Spanish class.  For the first week and a half of the program, we have an intensive portion of Spanish with 3 hour class every day.  And then later next week, all of our regular classes start.  During my first class and few days here, I realized how easy it is to forget something if you don't use it for 3 years.  I took Spanish for 5 years through senior year of high school, but 3 years off from learning/using it puts on a lot of rust.  However, I remembered a lot and started dusting it off.

After class I went home and was going to go to the grocery store, but once I laid down on my bed I didn't wake up till after 5pm.  Once I woke up I finally began my quest to find the ATMs that didn't charge fees.  the first one I went to, based on google maps, took me to a very sketchy location with not an ATM to be found.  However, there was a big group of people watching me as I came near there.  Therefore, I quickly turned around and walked away.  After walking for a while, I finally found another area with ATMs.  While looking for it, I stumbled upon a kids fair and watched the show for a bit.

After the show, I went to the grocery store in the mall.  This was my first grocery shopping experience here and it was overwhelming! Trying to read ingredients in Spanish takes so much talent.  I spent literally 5 minutes with each food trying to read the ingredients and without anything to translate.  And let me tell you, Spanglish does NOT work in Spain.  Asking a worker, "Donde esta el milko?" or "donde esta la bathrooma" will not get you anywhere, even if you say it with a spanish accent.

Tuesday 13/9/2011
 On its way.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Catching up

Day 4 in Barcelona!

Things have been jam packed so far. Orientation just finished yesterday and I finally got some time to relax in my room and catch up on my blog.

Wednesday, was the first day of orientation and we had several presentations on the program and Barcelona. I met a lot of other students that day. In total, there are about 90 students in the Barcelona Business and Culture Program.  After the presentations, we broke up into small groups with our guardian angels, our group leader for the semester,  and went on a scavenger hunt around the city.  Walking around the city was amazing! I got to see what the city was like first hand instead of on pictures online. We saw the Plaza de Catalunya, La Casa (the   office of CIEE where we will be taking some classes), ESCI (escuela superior decomercio internacional, the host school), and the arc de triompf,  and learned how to ride the metro (which by the way rocks! The trains come often and it is really clean)

Later in the day on Thursday after more presentations and lunch with our groups, we all left the hotel for our own housings, either the residencia or home stay. I am living in a residencia which is similar to a mix of dorm and apartment.  I have my own room and bathroom with a shared kitchen for the floor.  The place I am living, the melon district marina, is a really new and our rooms and bathrooms are nice however small. After settling in a bit, I went with another kid in my program, Will, to get his bags from a hostel in the ramblas.  We walked around the area for a bit and it was very fascinating.  The neighborhood had really small streets where cars can't drive on (unless you're Jason Bourne). The buildings were an older architecture with most made out of stone.  One point we came across a large fancy building (which we later found out the next day was the palace of  King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, the king and queen who funded Christopher Columbus).  Although this area was amazing to see, it wasn't a safe area.  There is lots of pick pocketing and smaller crimes in this area and I would definitely not recommend coming alone at night. After getting back to my room I went to bed early, partly because I had to get up early but mostly because I was jetlagged and didn't wake up from my "small" nap till the next morning.

On Friday, I went on a bus tour in the morning.  We traveled around the city learning about the history and its layout. We visited the top of the mountain, montjuic where the olympic stadiums of the 1992 summer are.  From the top we could see the entire city on one side and the sea on the other.  From there we went back to the city and saw the statue of Christopher Columbus pointing out to the Americas (however, although the statue is pointing out to sea, it is actually pointing to somewhere in Africa).  We saw the palace of Ferdinand and Isabella, the harbor of Barcelona, and some of the beaches.  The last place we saw that day was the Basílica y Templo Expiatorio de la Sagrada Familia, but commonly known as la Sagrada Familia. It is a Church that was designed by the famous Catalan Architect  Antonio Gaudi.
That night we went with our groups for tapas (similar to american appetizers).  And after that we went out to experience Barcelona's night life, which is amazing!  The first thing to know about night life here is it starts late and doesn't end.  Normally, 1.. 2 ..3 am is late in American, however here the night is just getting started.  Mostly everyone in our program went clubbing that night.  We went to a group of clubs along the beach.  They were all free and we hopped between clubs the whole night which ended around 4:30.  I walked back with group of friends back to our residencia, because the metro closes at 2 am Friday night and doesn't open until 5am on Saturdays.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


I am finally here! Still feels kinda surrealistic.  I had a long journey. A 7 am flight from Phx to Newark and then 7pm from Newark to Barcelona, which was delayed about 2 hours.

Vinee was on the same flight from newark to here.  I got through customs and immigration easily and met a few people, including Tori, Mina, Dean, and a few others, from the program.  I am now at the hotel where we are going to have orientation in a bit so I'll update more later!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

3 weeks till Spain

Today is the the 3 week mark till I am in Spain.

I'm excited and nervous at the same time.  I'm excited to be in another country again. I've explore two other countries outside of the US.  I've been to India several times and went to Jamaica for spring break 2011 to do a service trip.  Those were amazing experiences especially since I was immersed in a different culture.  But I'm nervous since everything is going to be different and I have lots to do before I get there: buy my ticket, pack, find out my housing situation (I'm waiting to hear back from the program still), and most importantly brush up on my Spanish.  I've taken five years of Spanish and within a few years of not using it, its gone rusty.  I've watched some Spanish shows (Spanish soap operas are really entertaining) and doing some studying.  There is a two week intensive Spanish course all the students will be doing before classes start at school, so that will help a lot.

I will be taking a few business and humanities courses at the CIEE program and the  Escuela Superior de Comercio Internacional.

Well its time to get packing!