First, I’d like to comment in response to the person who posted, “Could these students choose more vanilla locations?” in the comments on the original study abroad introduction page.
I almost have to agree. I can’t speak for the rest of the bloggers, but Barcelona is an incredibly touristy city. There’s no way that I can ever fit in, because everything about me screams “tourist” — from my excellent command of English to my pale skin, which is still pale despite my Mexican heritage and the constant sun here. My roommate wanted to fit in and to integrate into the culture, and I’m glad that’s not my goal. Barcelona’s culture is a tourist culture, and I’ve learned to accept that if I’m going to fit into this beach town, it’s going to be as a foreigner.
It does help that I speak the language fluently. It means that I feel more at home, even if they’re not addressing me in English. If you wish to really challenge yourself, you must go to a country where you don’t know the language that well, and you must live with a host family. I, however, am glad that I’m living in a dorm. I’m having enough difficulty adjusting to my new life, new friends and lack of boyfriend or support system, without the added culture shock.
Speaking of difficulty, there’s been a lot of trouble with getting the right to be here for the entire year. My friend here assures me that some countries, like the U.S., are much worse with paperwork, but that doesn’t mean I’m not completely pissed off and stressed out about how I’m going to get my tarjeta de estancia para estudios that I need to stay here for the full year. I have a list of ten steps at three different offices that I need to take in order to get this stupid card.
It’s actually not that difficult. What is difficult is that the CASB program has us scheduled for required classes, for which we’re allegedly getting credit, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day except weekends and holidays. Because here, until September 24, it’s apparently still “summer,” all of the offices have shortened hours. One of the offices is open only from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Of course, what must be sacrificed are classes, but since fewer than ten of the students on the program are full-year, we’re destined to be behind in classes and confused about homework compared to everyone else. It wouldn’t be so frustrating if we were taking classes in the local universities, but these are supposed orientation classes scheduled by the program. Shouldn’t they know how much trouble they’re causing us?
As for actual classes, I still have no idea what I’m taking or where. Apparently they start in one week, but I’m still totally clueless. No matter. It’s almost midnight, and my new Barcelona friend Pau (Catalan for “Paul”) invited me and my friend to a party. Talking with locals is the best way to practice the language, so I can’t wait!