Six Things I Learned While Studying Abroad in Barcelona

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1. Paella is everything.

Paella is a traditional Spanish dish that has rice, a special sauce, and typically some sort of meat.  It’s cooked in a skillet until it reaches perfection.  Let me tell you, seafood paella is the best thing I ate while I was studying in Spain.  You can get it at literally any restaurant in Barcelona (and any other city in Spain as well, I’m sure) and I never had a bad dish.  So, if ever in Spain, paella is a must-try.

2. Siestas are life-saving.

Spanish culture is the bomb for an abundance of reasons.  Firstly, and definitely most importantly, in the long list of awesome Spanish customs is siesta.  Siesta in Spain is the time during the day that all of the stores close, everyone goes home from work, families eat a huge meal together, and then they take a nap.  It takes about three glorious hours to finish siesta and it is the perfect

3. Spanish history is really fascinating…and not very well-known.

Before I studied in Spain, I didn’t realize how little Spanish history I was familiar with.  Spanish history is not widely taught in the US but it’s actually really intriguing and studying abroad in Spain helped me to learn more about the country’s history.  Spain’s history, I learned, was often overlooked by other countries because of more pronounced conflicts that were happening at the same time.  Prime example: while the majority of the world was involved in World War II, Spain was having a brutal civil war.  If any history buffs out there want some interesting new content, Spanish history is definitely one I would check out.  From the Spanish Inquisition to the Spanish Civil War there are tons of topics to study.

4. Nude beaches are very popular in Europe.

One important thing I learned while studying abroad in Spain was that you need to be prepared when you go to the beach.  Nude beaches are the normal thing in Europe so don’t gawk or freak out, just play it cool.  I’m not saying you’ll get used to it in the semester you’re abroad but it will make you feel less awkward if you’re expecting it.  Take it from someone who wasn’t expecting it.

5. You never have to leave your neighborhood in Barcelona for anything. Literally never.

During my stay in the Gracia neighborhood in Barcelona, I realized that everything I needed was right outside my apartment.  Just in a quick walk around the block could get you a loaf of bread, a haircut, pots and pans, and a new outfit.  It was a really nice change in comparison to going to Kroger or Walmart for something that you need and everything was fresh.  It was also really cool that you knew you were helping families run their small businesses.  Getting to know your neighborhood is awesome but do try to explore the other neighborhoods in the city you’re staying in, too.  Every barrio is different and has its own interesting flair.

6. Going abroad might just be the coolest thing you ever do.

Barcelona is such a great city but studying abroad anywhere can be just as eye-opening.  Studying in cities that are unlike your own like Sydney, Seoul, Moscow, or Lima can open your eyes and make you see things that you had no idea were there.  You get to see the cities in a way that a tourist can’t.  You get to take the metro, shop in non-tourist barrios, eat at hole-in-the-wall restaurants, and talk to locals.  Doing all of these things opens your eyes to other cultures and makes you reflect on who you really are.  And that is the coolest thing ever.

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Madeline Mudd is a junior at the University of Kentucky majoring in International Studies. She participated in an Education Abroad program in Barcelona in the Summer of 2014 with International Studies Abroad (ISA).