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Student Post: Experiencing Spanish culture during Study Abroad

Editor’s Note: This is a guest blog post by B-Section senior Lisa Mitchell, who is majoring in Mechanical Engineering and works as a co-op at UTC Aero Systems LK in Connecticut. She is currently sharing her experiences in study abroad. If you’d like to write a guest blog post, e-mail jmurphy(at)kettering(dot)edu

By Lisa Mitchell

We arrived back from Prague on Monday morning, did laundry on Tuesday, hung dry our clothes, went to class on Wednesday morning, then packed after class and caught a train to Barcelona, Spain!

We are so busy here, it's hard to imagine a time when it will slow down. Luckily, the reservations we had for the night train was a couchette instead of recliners, so it was infinitely more comfortable than the trip to Prague. This weekend we had four days in Barcelona which we gave the name, "Barcelona Beach Bum Weekend." On Thursday, we arrived in the early afternoon and after dropping our stuff at the hostel and freshening up, we hit the city.

What's amazing in Europe is that you can travel a short distance and be engulfed in a completely different culture. It gets confusing with languages because I'm fluent only in English, but I know bits and pieces of German and Spanish, so when I'm put in a stressed situation, my sentences come out with words from each language (which really doesn't help any situation, at all). On Thursday, we hit all the major aspects of the city that we wanted to see so we could spend the rest of the weekend relaxing on the beach. We got the four-day transportation pass so we really took advantage of it throughout the weekend. Our first stop was lunch (as always), and once again we got a screaming deal at a restaurant (three course meal for under 10 Euro, this is a great find in Spain). After that we climbed to the top of a hill that overlooked the city and got a view that was tremendous. Then we visited the buildings designed by Gaudì (it resembles something you would see in a Dr. Seuss book).

Photos from Lisa Mitchell's Study Abroad experience in Spain.

The following day, we were planning on going to the beach, but it was pouring rain, so instead we just wandered the city more and visited The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia (aka The Barcelona Cathedral), which is currently in the process of being built. It was unique to other cathedrals we have seen because it is significantly more modern than most other cathedrals in Europe.

Around 6 p.m., the sun started to peak out so we went to the beach and got to spend an hour or two enjoying the time on the beach with a frisbee and a soccer ball -- a little blessing on the rainy day. After we hung-out on the beach, we got dinner, then Savannah, Abhishek and I got tickets to the Spanish Opera. It was quite the experience! It was a 5-hour performance, and surprisingly enough, was based on a German play called, Die Walküre. So the entire performance was in German and was conveniently translated to Spanish. It was an AMAZING show, despite the fact that we had absolutely no idea what was going on. During each intermission (complimented with Hors d'oeuvres and champagne) we were all making estimates as to what was happening and how the characters were related to each other (which was extremely confusing). With each new act our guesses were proved wrong because, for example, once we were convinced two characters were brother and sister they would kiss and our guesses were back to square one.

Once we got home we Googled the play in English, and as it turns out it's a traditional German play based on Norse mythology and is actually largely about incest! The story line was absolutely convoluted so it's no wonder we couldn't follow the play perfectly. Despite the language barrier, the orchestra and the opera itself was amazing. Luckily, you don't have to understand the language to appreciate the beauty of it.

The following day we hit the beach! We went about an hour outside the city so we could go to a more relaxing and less populated beach near Sitges. We practically had the entire beach to ourselves (at least for the first part of the day). We spent all of Saturday laying out, and playing frisbee in the ocean. It was paradise, and brought some much needed relaxation.
That night, after we got back, we decided to walk down the street about eight minutes from our hostel to get some noodles. Little did we know we would be RIGHT in the path of a protest. It was an insanely scary experience because when everyone walked past the restaurant, they were yelling in a language we couldn't understand and most of them were wearing masks. Right when we went to go back, we heard an explosion then saw a bunch of people running down the alley towards us and away from whatever exploded. I was pretty darn scared. On the way back to the hostel, we passed by a car that had been lit on fire and had exploded (right in the same spot we had walked by 15 minutes prior!!), and we kept hearing tear gas bombs going off in the distance. We got back to the hostel as quick as we possibly could, and luckily in one piece! It was quite a frightening experience!
The following day, we woke up around 9:30 so we could get ready and check out of the hostel in time. Then we headed to the Barcelona beach to chill out for the day. It was another sunny day, and the beach was significantly more full than the beach we went to on Saturday. A few of us decided to eat lunch at an amazing restaurant located directly on the beach. Instead of sitting at a table, we lounged on a couch and ate while we were sitting/laying on the couch. The restaurant was so unique and the food (I got sushi) was a bit pricey but worth the money. After dinner, it was time to catch our train back to Esslingen. So we got our bags from the lockers at the train station then ventured back to our home away from home. We arrived Monday around noon and again, showered and napped then walked our usual 35 minute walk down for class.
Up next: Greece for a 9 day trip!