In the past week, we have welcomed over 100 students from all over the US to Barcelona. The reactions of students when they step off the plane range from excitement to terror. For many students, this is their first time in Barcelona. For some, it is their first time abroad. For a few, it may even be their first time on an airplane.
The first stop for our students arriving in Barcelona is to their flat or homestay. When living in Europe you need to have an open mind about housing- everything is much smaller than in the states! Most flats don't have a drier- you line dry all of your clothes. You often have to light the gas range on the stove, and sometimes the showerhead will not be attached to the wall in the shower. Learning to adapt to these differences is one of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of studying abroad. Every student flat is unique and they are VERY nice by Spanish standards. One of my favorite things about Barcelona is that just about every single flat in this city has an outdoor living space. Whether it is a tiny balcony just big enough for a single chair, or a large terraza where you can convene with friends, it is easy to enjoy the fresh air from the comfort of your home.
After students settle in, we have orientation. Often times, students will have had a "pre-departure" orientation on campus that may cover many of the same topics, such as health and safety, travel tips, and cultural sensitivity. However, once students are actually on the ground, this all seems more "real". Orientation is a great opportunity for students to meet one another as well as ask any burning questions they might have!
Orientation is followed by a walk in the city center. The tour begins by showing the students how to buy a metro pass and navigate the Barcelona metro system. Despite the fact that I don't speak Spanish, I personally find the metro here easier to navigate than the metro in Washington, DC. We take the metro to Catalunya, which is the third largest plaza in all of Spain.
Although it is not technically the center of the city geographically speaking, this is considered by many to be the "central' point in Barcelona. From here we explore the Cathedral of Barcelona, a bit of the Gothic Quarter, Placa Sant Jaume, and Las Ramblas. And of course no tour would be complete without a pit stop for gelato :)
By the end of their first day in Spain, students are exhausted, yet excited to begin their Barcelona adventure.