By Hannah Langan (Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain).
The University – Universitat Autonòma de Barcelona
This uni accepted me as an erasmus student on the 10th of May this year and I hadn’t heard a word since. So after a couple of weeks I was beginning to worry something had gone wrong. Based on what I could find on the internet, term started on the 2nd Sept but when I eventually got some information (by going to the international welcome point at uni) I discovered my course didn’t start until the 16th. Don’t get me wrong, those extra days of freedom were bliss but I would say this university is much more casual than UoM.
I think Barcelona has more universities than Manchester! My friends are from various universities within the city. I am lucky enough to be at UAB, a recognised institution in spain that is located a scenic 35 minute train ride outside of the city in the mountains. Most of the local Catalan students live close by in Sabadell but most of the Erasmus students choose to live in the centre of Barcelona as it is perfectly accessible to the university, so you can still enjoy the life and buzz of the city.
My first day at UAB was the scariest I’ve had since arriving. Everyone around me was brunette, tanned and speaking Catalan. I’m white, blonde and obviously foreign. I looked around me and for the first time in my life felt like I didn’t belong, I felt different and completely alone. My friends don’t go to my uni, the lucky rascals are all at universities in the city or doing internships so it was like starting all over again in terms of settling in. It wasn’t until an italian student began speaking to me in English that my overwhelming anxiety diminished and I was at last able to speak. A little Spanish gets you by in Barcelona, a city thriving with people from all over the world but here, a little outside of the city, the students are all very much Catalan and it was my first true exposure to the Catalan culture. The people are lovely and do of course speak Spanish too, but all the signs are in Catalan so initial orientation was a little difficult. I feel like my erasmus life in the city and my academic life are two entirely separate parts of my life and I’m trying to find a balance between them.
I can’t believe I live here, I really can’t. I have found a great international flat in the Gothic Quarter – the very centre of Barcelona. The streets are thin, winding and romantic, I have completely fallen in love. The sun shines every day and there is always a buzzing atmosphere that feeds the vibrancy and life of the city. From the live music in the metro to the people dancing in the streets, Barcelona is alive, the people here love life and embrace every day. It doesn’t matter what you do, so long as you leave your flat and walk into the streets you are almost certain to stumble across something entertaining that will brighten your day. I constantly find myself saying ‘I love Barcelona!’ (to the point where it’s annoying), somehow there is always something going on and I’m yet to experience a dull moment. I’ve made sure to be a top tourist before uni begins as I have so much free time.
Highlights include Piknik Electronic, a free open-air festival every sunday where you can chill on Montjuic with some sangria and dance to the live DJs, who are often well known. There are beach volley-ball tournaments you can get involved in, sometimes a stage with live music will unexpectedly appear in a square, or a DJ will pop up in the bar you’re sitting in and before you know it you’re salsa dancing. Barcelona is bursting with life and I love it.