I can’t believe it’s been a couple of weeks since I last wrote; it has been so busy with settling into my classes both at IES Abroad and at UVic as well as my internship. While many people that I know have travelled to different countries on the weekends since being in Barcelona, I have been taking my lack of planning for trips to get to know Barcelona and its culture.
September is an interesting cultural month for Barcelona with many events happening. During my first weekend in Barcelona, Sunday was Dia de Cataluña. Barcelona is in the Catalonia region of Spain which is why many people in Barcelona not only speak Spanish but also speak Catalan as well. The national day of Catalonia is both a day for one to show how they feel about their region, and to peacefully see whether they side with being independent or not from Spain.
I had no idea what to expect as I was headed out to the celebrations of this day, but I was very excited and surprised. Unlike July 4th in America, where people don’t think much about independence and spend the free day barbequing or hanging by the pool, Dia de Cataluña is a day where people go to the streets to show their pride. As I was heading to the city center, I saw so many flags out on buildings and also held by people. There were banners and pastries with the corresponding flags. Streets were filled with people wearing the national day shirt and imitation costumes from the past. I saw human towers being built at the end of the streets, which are a rich part of Catalonian culture. Once I got to the main area of the national day which was near the Arc de Triumph, Catalonians of all ages were packed in the center peacefully chanting for independence. Flags were waved, speeches were made, and more human towers were built. Adrenaline and amazement went through me because while I stood as an outsider on this day, their energy and pride for wanting independence was palpable.
On my next weekend, I went on a Discover IES Abroad trip to Collserola. Many people think Barcelona is just a metropolitan city, but it also does have a lot of nature. I am not really an outdoorsy person (I hate bugs!), but I love that the opportunity to get out and explore the nearby mountains and greenery is possible. Collserola Park is a large mountain range and park, and that day, other IES Abroad students and I set out to hike from Barcelona city to the city on the other side. Knowing that the hike would be around eight miles was intimidating, but I was optimistic. I am not going to lie; some parts of the hike was a bit tiring, and I questioned why I decided to put myself through this on a Friday morning, but the views were seriously breath-taking. I liked that this trip was something that I probably would not have done on my own, and I enjoyed seeing the sites along the way, the other city, Sant Cugat del Valles, and getting a sweet treat from there before heading back to Barcelona on a train.
Finally on the last weekend of September, La Merce, which is an annual Barcelonan festival full of shows and events, was happening. I loved that there was something happening every day of the weekend. During the day, for the most part, I went to the park where there was a wine tasting area, food trucks, and concerts. I had such a fun time relaxing on the grass with friends while listening to the music. I thought it was wonderful that the festival was not just for adults; there were also a ton of activities for kids. I also saw large puppets, various kinds of dancing, and games, as well. On Sunday, the highlight of my day was seeing the correfoc which is Spanish for “fire run”. It is a traditional feature of the festival where people, some dressed as devils, walk down and set off sparks and fireworks. Though I wasn’t able to actually participate because I was not in the right attire, it was still exhilarating to watch the sparks and the fireworks so close to me.
All in all, these last three weeks have gone by so quickly, but immersing myself in Barcelona’s culture has really helped me settle in and find my footing better. Talk soon!
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<p>Hi! My name is Chirlien and I am a native New Yorker, going to school at the at the University of Rochester. While I am a science student, I also really enjoy writing, photography,and journalism. I am so excited to be studying abroad in Barcelona this fall. Come with me on this journey as I try to learn the ropes of Barcelona's unique culture and people-hopefully I don't get too lost!</p>