In the United States, classes usually start on time and sometimes end late. In Barcelona, classes never start until fifteen minutes after the scheduled time and the teacher gets mad if you don’t tell him when class is supposed to be over. (“We’ve been here for almost five minutes! I should get an alarm clock to tell me when class ends if you guys aren’t going to do it!”)
Other than this small adjustment, classes haven’t been all that different from Northwestern. Instead of having everything on Blackboard, everything is on Campus Virtual, which is lucky for me because you can access the course materials without logging in. Considering that I’ve been attending classes for a month and still haven’t been officially enrolled, this has been a lifesaver. Here’s the Web site for one of my classes.
I know I haven’t said much about my day-to-day life since being here, but truthfully it’s kind of boring. Living in a major metropolitan European city has its advantages and disadvantages. One might argue that the disadvantages are exactly the same as the advantages – everything makes me feel a little bit too at home.
While it’s true that everyone who is native here speaks Spanish, they speak Catalan first and Spanish only reluctantly and often grumpily. If you want to learn Spanish, go to another city in Spain. I’m even taking two (out of four) of my classes in Catalan and in a ten-person class, being the only one that can barely understand the language is quite the disadvantage. However, the teachers are totally understanding; they’re quite used to having foreigners in their classes.
Which brings me to the problem: I am so sick of Americans (and British people, to a lesser extent). Thankfully there aren’t any in my classes that are taught in Catalan, but otherwise they are everywhere. Walking down the street. On the trains. Looking confusedly at Metro maps. Asking me where I’m from. Telling me they go to the one school whose name I refuse to utter because of the pain of being waitlisted, bringing up feelings which I thought I left behind freshman year only to have them chase me down thousands of miles away from home.
The advantage is that, since Barcelona is such a tourist and expatriot destination, some of the comforts of home are quite helpful. Like Starbucks — there’s one right outside my school. Also, Bikram yoga. I started doing yoga this past summer and loved it, but thought I’d have to do without for a while. Fortunately, there are two Bikram studios in Spain, here and in Madrid, and one of them is a 20-minute walk from my dorm. There’s also a Starbucks on the way to yoga.