Greetings from Spain! Faculty-Led Biology/Spanish Language in Barcelona
By Jessica Kweon
Arrival and Exploration
Hola from Barcelona, Spain! As a brief intro, my name is Jessica Kweon and I am a rising sophomore Biology student. I’m studying in Spain at Pompeu Fabra University as a part of the Phage Hunters Lab course led by Professor Ivan Erill from UMBC. I will be writing a series of blogs documenting my experience here, so keep a look out!
After a long flight, most of our students met our host families at the meeting point. What is intriguing about the homestay experience is that all our participating students live in different neighborhoods in the city, each unique with different eateries, sights, and ambiances. Every family is also just as individualistic. For example, many families are Catalonian (not Spanish; they are different!) and are excited to show students their culture, such as the food and language.
During our first day, we had an orientation with Academic Solutions, our program coordinators, at their office in Avinguda Diagonal. We then met Professor Erill and enjoyed lunch at a restaurant. After, our group visited the outlet stores nearby and explored the rest of the city, including a church and street market. We all shared different tapas by the beach, which were delicious, and enjoyed a Flamenco performance in the restaurant. That night, we also ate crepes at a café.
Saturday was beach day: we all went to La Playa de Barceloneta. The metro ride to the beach, while packed, was enjoyable; live performers played popular songs like “Bailando” and “Despacito” on their instruments. For dinner, we ate at a Catalonian restaurant. Interestingly, black rice, which is tainted with squid ink, can temporarily stain teeth and lips! After, we all enjoyed gelato at Gràcia (which for me, certainly trumps American ice cream) and sat at a square called Placa del Sol, a “hidden gem” for youth in the city.
On Sunday, Jaime led a bus tour around the city, pointing to areas of the city we could visit, such as Montjuic. Our final stop was the Expiatory Church at La Sagrada Familia, a church designed by Gaudí. Started in 1882, it is still incomplete (apparently it doesn’t run on public funds and solely ticket sales and donations). The church has 18 pillars but only a few of the lower pillars are complete; the final pillar of Jesus is estimated to be 172m tall! The east side of the church is very detailed and gothic, the style of Gaudí. But the west side is more geometric, almost abstract; this side was designed by a different artist roughly a century after the original plans of Gaudí were destroyed during the Spanish Civil War. While I have yet to go inside, I intend to do so sometime during the next few weeks.
That evening, we met students from College Park who are also studying abroad. We enjoyed small sandwiches and desserts (snacks between lunch and dinner are called meriendas), and beverages. Fanta here is so different; it’s mixed with actual orange juice! Likewise, there is a popular chocolate drink, called Cacolat, that tastes like a rich, dark-chocolate YooHoo.
I quickly grew out of homesickness after the first day. The city of Barcelona is wonderful! Full of art, history, and culture, I am excited to call this place home for the next 6 weeks. Transportation is so accessible – I personally walk and ride the metro to get to my destinations. I am so excited to see more of and outside of the city these next few weeks.