Coming from the United States to be an exchange student in Madrid has been a great opportunity to explore Spain. Hi! My name is Angie Sandoval, and I am a colombian student living in the United States. Recently, I am experiencing a new adventure by being an exchange student in this beautiful country -Spain-. Now, I want to share my experience with you!
One of the first things students think when they go to study abroad is to go and travel around countries near the one you are visiting, or just travel inside through the different beautiful cities this country has. Well, one of the things I decided to do since I got to be in Spain was to visit Barcelona because I wanted to visit with my friends one of the most well-known cities of Spain after Madrid. Barcelona is a beautiful rich city full with activities for young people to do; we visited the most famous park named Park Güell, and the Sagrada Familia Cathedral, masterpieces by the famous Spanish architect and artist Antoni Gaudí. Locals are very proud of his work and his creations, so that´s why they still keep them on the city and part of their cultural identity. Another place we visited were Font Màgica which is a spectacle of water, music and lights. Something really important to know is that with a university student ID, you enter for free to Pablo Picasso museum, just how we did, and we saw his most important artworks.
Two things that may impact you a lot in Barcelona:
- A lot of houses, apartments,and places have the flag of Cataluña. On a first sight I kept insisting that the flag was from Puerto Rico and I thought that Barcelona was a famous place for Puerto Ricans to live, this is very funny to tell, but at the same time embarrassing because I lived 5 years in Puerto Rico and its flag does not have yellow and red stripes. Well, it turns out that the flag is the strong presence of love and nationalism that locals have for their city and region.
Spain is divided by regions and each region has its own cultural traditions, history, food, customs and even language. Basically, going to Barcelona it feels like going to a different country. By seeing so many flags around the city showed me that locals are so proud of their region. For example, in the United States, you don’t usually see Pittsburgh’s flag on houses, but you do see flags from the US. In my case, I come from Colombia, also divided by regions, but you only see colombians flags everywhere you go.
2.Every sign of a restaurant, market, service place and street names were written in Catalan language, this makes you think like: why are the words not in Spanish? Am I still in Spain?
Spain has 9 different languages spoken around the country, the official one is Spanish, and every person in this country must speak this language, but besides that, in every region of Spain there´s a language that defines the region itself. Barcelona is part of Catalonia, so their official language is Catalá, but personally I never thought it was a “serious” aspect of its culture. I had the idea that Catalá was only spoken by older generations or locals that wanted to study it, and I assumed it might be the same for the Basque language or Galician. However, is not like that. Parents talk to their children in Catalá, at school they learn Catalá and Spanish, and in daily life Catalá is used
This experience may leave everybody intrigued by reading words in Catalá and looking at the differences and similarities with Spanish. I did it myself, but honestly it is a totally different language that just left me confused while I was there.
To finish, I would say that Catalá is a mix of Spanish, Italian, French and other Roman/Latin languages, it could be easy to identify a word to its meaning if it was a place like the supermarket or bank. At the end the flags and the Catalá language enriched the experience in Barcelona, a place where being fluent in Spanish doesn’t help you see it all.
There’s still a lot of places from the regions of Spain that I recommend to visit; for example, Valencian community, Basque country, Galicia, Navarra, and so on. Spain is a country full of different cultures to experience.
So, let’s explore Spain and open your mind to learn something new from your trips here!
By Angie Sandoval