Spring Break in Barcelona

Bon dia! Over spring break I visited Spain for the first time. Our spring break lasted from March 16 – March 19 (basically the length of fall break at Hope) so I had a short time to visit as much of the city as possible.

This was a popular travel weekend. Flight prices were getting expensive once I factored in all the attractions I wanted to see and my food budget, so I decided to take an overnight bus on Wednesday, March 15. The ride itself took over 14 hours, including breaks, but it honestly was not as bad as I expected. I ended up having two seats to myself, and there were outlets at each seat as well as Wi-Fi.

I arrived in the city early in the morning and set off walking towards the Latin Quarter where I wanted to see the Picasso Museum and the Barcelona Cathedral.

The beautiful Arc de Triomf, built for the 1888 World Fair in Barcelona.
Inside the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia (Barcelona Cathedral).

I loved the Picasso Museum (sorry, taking pictures inside was not allowed) because the collection was supplemented by descriptions of changes in the art world as well as changes in Picasso’s life. It created a better understanding of the pieces.

After walking to my hostel and getting dinner, I took public transportation (bus and metro) to the Bunkers del Caramel. These old Spanish Civil War bunkers offer some of the best views of the city. It was a little nerve-wracking; the last bus to get up to the bunkers was more like a rickety school van, speeding through the hills. But watching the sun set over Barcelona was definitely worth a little motion sickness.

Just wow.

I dedicated the next days to the architecture of Gaudi. I recommend buying tickets online to avoid longer lines and get a discount at major attractions such as Sagrada Familia and Parc Güell. You also get to choose the times that work best for you, so you can plan your day accordingly.

Construction is still underway on the facades of the Sagrada Familia, expected to end in 2026. Gaudi designed the interior (pictured) to mimic tree branches. Church services are also held inside.
Got a tan (and some blisters) walking around Gaudi’s Parc Güell.

On my last day, I relaxed at one of Barcelona’s many beaches with some seafood paella before catching my flight to Paris.

If you’re able to visit Barcelona, don’t hesitate! The city is stunning and the people are welcoming. I was able to practice my (very minimal) Spanish, but I never felt judged asking to speak in English. If you learn a few phrases in Catalan before you go, you may get an even warmer welcome – I got a free pastry with my coffee for trying a few phrases.

Barcelona is an extremely walkable city, but I would suggest getting an HOLA BCN pass when you want to visit sights further from the city center such as Parc Güell, and to take the bus to the airport. You can buy passes online for 2, 3, 4 or 5 days.

Why Soccer Players Should Study Abroad

Hope Soccer

Balancing academics, athletics, and social life is no easy feat. Student athletes certainly have a lot of on their schedule and often overlook studying abroad as it is seen as something unobtainable. The thoughts of, “My coach would not allow it” or “I would be missing spring workouts” often come to mind. This blog is to share my real experiences as a student athlete abroad through highlighting three main points on why athletes should study abroad… Especially in Barcelona!

  1. You’re not alone. In my IES program in Barcelona, I have met countless student athletes going through the same journey as me. To illustrate, there are college athletes from Wofford College, Virginia Commonwealth, University of Redlands, St. Thomas, Connecticut College, Augsburg, the list goes on and on. Most of these student athletes, female and male, are soccer players. This mixes well with the city of Barcelona, which boasts a handful of leagues from professional to semi-professional, thus allowing every college athlete to not only watch the most elite players in the world, but also find a place to play and improve their craft.

    Los Chicos Americanos
    Los Chicos Americanos
  2. You are challenged in different ways than before. It is no secret that the college soccer game revolves around fitness and athleticism. In Barcelona, these attributes fill the background as skill and craft lead the way through the Spanish “tiki taka” style of play. This challenges student athletes to sharpen other tools of their game, such as technical and tactical abilities. When returning to the college game, this will help make you a more complete player.

    Watching some of the best - Messi, Neymar, Suarez
    Watching some of the best – Messi, Neymar, Suarez
  3. You can play outside, all year round. In my two months in Barcelona so far, it has rained three times for a total of approximately one hour. There is no snow or bad weather to stop you from training outdoors and on a full size field. Also with the sun out every single day, you will have a little extra energy in your step to get through your workouts… Especially during the February blues.. which do not even exist here!

    Pitch of 3rd tier side CF Montañesa, where we have play are games. This photo was also taken in late February!
    Pitch of 3rd tier side CF Montañesa, where we play our games. This photo was also taken in late February!

These three points have been reiterated through my continuous experiences as a student athlete studying in Barcelona, Spain. I would not change this semester for the world and hope to inspire more student athletes to study abroad.

Shredding the Pyrenees

From the beach one day to the mountains the next, Catalonia is full of surprises. Earlier this week I travelled north to La Masella, a Catalonian-Pyrenees Alp that stands just above 8,000 feet tall. With bluebird skies, stunning panoramic views, and solid company to ride with, this trip could not be any better… Then again, we did the whole trip – transportation, day pass, and rental gear – for less than the price of a full tank of gas from the Holland Bp station. Not a bad way to spend your Friday.

Trae (right) Jimmy (middle) and myself (left)
Trae (right) Jimmy (middle) and myself (left)

Although the mountain is located way up in the Pyrenees, and a short drive from Barcelona,  it is not a tourist location. La Masella is survived by many locals, with Spanish actually being the second language of the mountain; to Catalan (Catalan is the local language, a mix of French and Spanish). Oh, and no one spoke English. Because of these “locals only” vibes La Masella expresses,  I found this trip culturally enriching. Encompassing myself in the tranquil mountainous spaces of northern Catalonia was an excellent change of pace from the hustle and bustle of the Cosmopolitan city of Barcelona.

Just above 8,300 feet are views of Catalonia, France, and Andorra
Just above 8,300 feet are views of Catalonia, France, and Andorra

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Words cannot describe how much fun I am having this semester abroad. Do not get me wrong, I absolutely love Hope College and miss family and friends dearly, but learning and adapting to an entirely different lifestyle is a new challenge that I will never forget. Cheers to you, Barca!

 

 

Resting the legs after a fun day on the slopes. Not a bad rooftop view either
Resting the legs after a fun day on the slopes. Not a bad rooftop view either

Barcelona: First Thoughts

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What’s up guys! I have finally made it to my study abroad destination, Barcelona, Spain. The time change has taken some getting used to, as well as the lifestyle of Catalonians. For instance, mornings last until 2 pm, dinner is at 9 pm, and the daily dose of tapas is a bit overwhelming. Tapas, for those that do not know, are Spanish appetizers that are a blend of culture and deliciousness. They are eaten just about every day. Below, you can observe shellfish tapas – one of the most flavorful dishes I have had since arriving in Spain.

Shellfish Tapas
Shellfish Tapas

I have also taken the pleasure of visiting Camp Nou, the compounds of Barcelona FC. Here, they have a soccer stadium, ice rink, restaurants, bars, and a three story megastore where you can buy anything and everything related to BFC. Barcelona FC has not only a professional soccer team, but also basketball and handball teams as well. Pretty cool stuff!

Camp Nou, is the sports compound for Catalonian giants, Barcelona FC. It is also only a 20 minute train ride from my homestay!
Camp Nou, is the sports compound for Catalonian giants, Barcelona FC. It is also only a 20 minute train ride from my homestay!

I have also been blessed with the most lovable homestay grandmother, Margarita. She is kind, caring, and full of smiles and joy. She is in her 13th year of hosting American study abroad students. The largest struggle we have is communicating, as she does not speak any English and I speak very little Spanish.   Below, is a picture of her.IMG_0888

There is so much to see and do in Barcelona. Looking ahead, I have a few goals set for myself for the next couple weeks.

  1. Find a soccer team (equipo de fútbol) to play on
  2. Go to a Barcelona FC game!
  3. Complete all my homework (This one is for you, Mom)