While I studied abroad in Spain, I lived in a small apartment on Calle Bordadores located “en el barrio centro” which is basically the downtown area. Spanish city life was very exciting as there were always people around and many stores and coffee shops nearby. Although the Spanish capital had a lot to offer, I was of course looking forward to the trip that our program had planned to Barcelona for the second weekend. During my time in Barcelona, I was able to learn about a whole different region of Spain, including transportation, cultural differences, and the history of the conflict between the northeastern region and the rest of Spain.
The more time I spent in Spain, the more impressed I was at the accessibility and user friendliness of both public and private transportation. Specifically, Spain has one of the longest high speed rail networks in Europe, making it very easy to quickly travel between cities in Spain. The high speed train system is called Alta Velocidad Española or AVE which actually directly translates to “bird” in English. The process to get to Barcelona from Madrid was very simple. We arrived at the Atocha Station and waited until it was our turn to go down to the train and board. Each ticket has a number on it indicating your train car and seat number. On the train there are large windows that allow you to see the Spanish countryside as it takes less than 3 hours to arrive in Barcelona.
Aside from the salty fresh air that you get when in the coastal city, one of the first things that you may notice is the language difference in Barcelona. Barcelona is located in Catalonia, the autonomous northeastern region of Spain. Catalan is one of the official languages of the region and is spoken by a majority of its citizens. The language is a Romance language so it shares the same alphabet as languages like Spanish and French. As someone who studies Spanish, it was really interesting to see the similarities and differences between the languages on billboards and advertisements in Barcelona. Another cultural difference is that you won’t see the Spanish flag a lot in the Catalonian region. This is because there is a growing movement for complete Catalonian independence, so balconies and government buildings will fly the Cataonian independence flag instead.
As mentioned previously, there is a growing movement for independence in the Catalonian region. As a Spanish minor at my university, I have actually taken classes that have discussed the history and current developments on the controversial situation. It was very interesting to me as a student to be in Catalonia and see the independence flags and talk of independence first-hand. Though it was deemed illegal for Catalonia to separate from Spain, it has not stopped seperatist from flying the independence flag and draft legislation that symbolically separates them from the main region of Spain.
Overall, this was my favorite weekend in Spain. Not only was it educational, but it was a nice break from classes as we were able to go to the beach, visit the famous Sagrada Familia, and explore the city!
Washington University in St. Louis