In less than one week, I leave for Amsterdam. I couldn’t be more excited. It’s such a famous European city, steeped in history and dignity. By history and dignity, of course, I mean weed and prostitutes.
In the meantime, I’ve been passing my time with the usual. But of course, I haven’t told you much about what the usual is, here, have I? This information is particularly important if you’re considering applying to the CASB program for next fall. If you’re not, I won’t be offended if you skip it.
The CASB program appealed to me because it lets you enroll at three of the many universities in Barcelona: la Universitat de Barcelona (UB), la Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona (UAB), and la Universitat de Pompeu Fabra (UPF). Fall-semester students are only allowed to take courses at the latter two, because the UB final exams are in January. I decided to take my classes as UB, formerly being a full-year student, which means that I’ve had to speak to each of my teachers individually about taking the exam early, in December. Annoying, but they’ve been understanding.
I really wanted to take classes that interest me here, so I chose classes based on the subject matter. I’m taking Phonetics (taught in Spanish), Sociolinguistics (in Catalan), and Historical Linguistics (in Catalan), as well as the CASB-mandated course, which focuses on Catalan history. I hate history. I hate history. Despite the fact that the CASB course is imparted in a language that I understand (Spanish) rather than a language that I barely understand (Catalan), I still absolutely despise this course. My two Catalan courses assign me a shit-ton of reading in Catalan. Now, don’t get me wrong, I can definitely read Catalan. It just takes me about three times longer to read Catalan than it does to read English. In essence, even though I have a pretty normal amount of reading for my classes, I have three times as much homework here as I did at Northwestern. Truthfully, most of it just doesn’t get done.
I’m not supposed to tell you this, but in my Catalan classes, I’m allowed to turn in assignments (papers, etc) in English. The reason I’m not supposed to tell you this, I think, is because the Spanish department would flip a shit if I tried to get credit for these courses. I’m definitely not planning on petitioning for Spanish credit, though, since I’m neither a Spanish major nor minor. Really, if you’re a Spanish major or minor, you shouldn’t be going to Barcelona. There’s too much Catalan around to really learn Spanish. A side note about this, however: Realizing how much I suck at Catalan has really made me more confident in my Spanish, so that’s something. Switching from Catalan to Spanish has the same relief-factor that switching from Spanish to English; that sense of “Finally, I can articulate my thoughts!” I care much less about the perfection of my grammar, knowing that at least I’ll be understood.
A quick note about the status of Spanish in Catalonia. I like to think of Catalonia as a Spanish sandwich. A lot of immigrants from Cuba and Peru and other Spanish-speaking countries come here and, much like in the United States, end up working lower-end jobs, so Spanish has a lower status than Catalan. However, Spanish is also imposed upon Catalonia by the state (state here is a synonym for the federal government, kind of opposite to what we’re used to) and is thus also a higher-status language. Catalan is somewhere in the middle. It’s imposed by the Catalan government to be taught in schools, and is dominant in Barcelona, but not much revered outside of the city center. Hence, sandwich; Spanish is the bread. Pretty interesting.
Another thing that I’ve been passing my time here in Barcelona with is something amazing that the CASB program has organized for us: Las prácticas de escuelas. Essentially, for four hours a week, I get to teach English to small children. This is obviously not appealing for everyone, but I LOVE small children. Even though I have to wake up at 7:30 in the morning two days a week, it’s my favorite part of the day. Kids are awesome and hilarious, and it’s consistently unbelievable that at five years old, they’re already fluent in both Catalan and Spanish.
Another way that I’ve been using my English knowledge is through Language Exchange partners. The universities will match you up with another person based on what language you can teach and what language you want to learn. I got matched up with an incredibly attractive and intelligent Biology student who wanted to improve his English so he can do research in Edinburgh in a couple years. Did I mention he’s attractive?
Today, my plan for the day is to go grocery shopping, take a shower, and then relax outside in a park and do some reading. It’s 65 degrees Fahrenheit here, in November, and I might as well take advantage of it before I’m dumped into the worst part of a Chicago winter. I might go out tonight, but probably not. I’m pretty sick of the club/bar scene here. My favorite bar (Chupitos, see previous post) was ruined because the bouncer has a huge crush on me, and as much I enjoy free beer (impossible to get otherwise in a bar that only serves shots), it was starting to get a little awkward.
And that’s my daily life!