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How to be a Local in a Sea of Tourists

April 9, 2019

One of the things I’ve consciously tried to do while living abroad in Barcelona is avoid sticking to the touristy attractions. While I of course hit those the first month or so of being here, I was curious what it would be like to live like the people who actually live here. I still love to go to the clubs aimed at study abroad students and stroll through La Boquería with the rest of the tourists, but I’ve discovered some hidden local gems during my time here. Here are some tips/local places you should check out…

  1. Live with a host family!

I can’t stress this enough. My host family experience has given me a completely new and different perspective on life that I’m sure I wouldn’t have if I lived in an apartment or dorm here in Barcelona. I talk with my host mother about politics, local news and her favorite things to do in the city. We shop and walk the dog together often. When I’m with her I see what life is like for a 70-year-old woman who’s never left Spain.

  1. Find new study spots

During my first month here, I found myself studying in Starbucks inbetween classes. It was easy, plus it’s right next to the IES Abroad Center. But as I became more comfortable, I branched out to local bookstores (Laie is my favorite and close to IES Abroad) and coffee shops (check out Sweet Ophelia, only ten minutes from school).

  1. Volunteer

One of my classes required us to participate in a food service. I wasn’t particularly excited about going, but volunteering in a soup kitchen gave me a very enlightening view of the people of Barcelona. I learned what it was like to live here and struggle between meals. I interacted with the people and provided them with a warm meal. It may be the most rewarding thing I’ve done this semester.

  1. Get to know your area

A lot of IES Abroad students don’t live in the city center—in fact, some live decently far. It takes me a 25-minute metro ride to get to the main plaza of the city, which has helped me to integrate with my own neighborhood. I go on runs in the park, eat at the restaurants and talk with the residents of my apartment building. I rarely see tourists in these settings, and it’s helped me to get the real Barcelona abroad experience.

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