Barcelona: Lost in the City

Tegan Hanlon is a student at the University of Pittsburgh and an ISA Featured Blogger. Tegan is currently studying abroad in Barcelona on a Fall 1 program.

A group of the students from ISA posing after taking a break from the bus to look out over Barcelona.
This is what we saw from said overlook.

Barcelona day one neared completion on Sept. 6 around 8:30 p.m. Well, while this may be nearing completion in the U.S., here it’s really just the hour pause before dinner. So, I suppose we were about nine long jumps from the day’s finish line, and that’s a conservative estimate.

Mother Fina (my host mom) told my roommate Julia and I to rest before meal time – most likely a response to the two of us struggling in the door accompanied by a worse-than onion scented odor resonating from bodies [OK that was probably just me] and limping legs. But we were two little girls lost in the city, what did you expect? Anyway, complying and resting we are.

ISA really put us through the ringer today – like a bull tossed into the ring, I ran and I fought but alas I’m laying nearly face down on our bed’s second story, feet dangling in the vicinity of the bed below, and my stomach at the next door Mexican restaurant – begging for entrance and a one Euro taco.

The journey before momentary body into bed melting was nothing less than incredible. From Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter to Guadi’s Park Güell and Las Ramblas; we saw a lot today, but certainly we didn’t see it all. And that’s the intimidating, but mostly thrilling part.

Park Güell was designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí and built from 1900 to 1914.
Parque Guell

Incredibly dense and with a population of more than 1.6 million [sure, call me the human Encyclopedia], after only 24 hours into my four-month love affair, it appears the city has a little bit of everything. It’s a one-stop shop for mountains, beaches, Dr. Seuss-like architecture courtesy of Gaudí, a city strip reminiscent of good ol’ New York, ancient Cathedrals and just about everything in between – which I will wrap up in that cliché phrase because a list might be excessive.

Upon entrance into our study abroad location Tuesday we drove down the strip marked with stores like Coach and Louis Vuitton accompanied by a Starbucks handing out caffeine at every corner. My mental record player swirled into its personal rendition of “God Bless America” and I thought to myself that this was in fact not too far off from home.

But, today defied those initial thoughts.

In short today was: Pompeu Fabra University tour — our new university, 2.5 hour Barcelona bus tour, ISA office tour, city walk, Gothic Quarter tour and then 7:30 p.m. struck, or shall Spanish Tegan say “19:30″, and it was time to take the metro back to homestay world for some home cooked dinner. Julia and I assumed the journey would be flawless back to the apartment bookended by La Sagrada Familia and a retired bull fighting ring.

The optimistic expectations continued when we plowed through the security door of a complex near the La Plaza Monumental de Barcelona. We exchanged “holas” with the front desk woman, and began walking up the marble staircase and … alas our keys did not belong there. Some photo taking, some standing in one place and laughing because we had no idea where in the world both we and Carmen San Diego were, some encircling of a few city blocks and alas we landed on the Anel home both sweaty and smiling.

This is our neighboring former-bull ring The Plaza Monumental de Barcelona. It did not help us get home, but it is quite beautiful to look at.

And then I landed on this bed. On Sept. 6, as sun rises I landed on a Spanish placement exam complete with an oral component. I haven’t touched one of these things since high school. I assumed my fate similar to NASA’s Challenger. That may be insensitive, but it may also be real.

I placed in pre-intermediate, the lowest level, and for good reasons. I must say, I’m excited to get back into the language!

– T

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