Choosing to study a language at university usually means studying or working in that country in your third year abroad. I was fortunate enough to find my placement in Barcelona, a city that has intrigued me since day one, and having the opportunity to work here has been a dream come true.
For anyone wondering how I found this job, LinkedIn became my best friend for a while and after applying for a few jobs, I came across this one and knew it would be the best option. Barcelona seemed right for me because the weather is amazing all year round and I felt like it was the best city to practise my Spanish in and become more fluent.
Not only do I work in a sunny city but I also have the chance of working in the food and drink industry, surrounded by new and innovative food products each day. Barcelona is full of life, art and has an amazing culture. Coming here as a student may be hard for some but trust me when I say that the ride is definitely worth it! Don’t get me wrong, not everyone has an easy time settling in to a new international city but I embraced it all from day one and it has been the best decision.
Upon arriving here, I didn’t really experience a culture shock as such because the lifestyle here is so similar to my hometown, Cyprus. People don’t eat until late and the streets are always filled with people so you don’t have to be worried walking around at night. What I have learnt though is that Catalan’s feel very strongly about their language and culture and in some areas of Barca, you can only hear Catalan being spoken. I find this really interesting, however sometimes it can be stressful when you make the effort to talk in Spanish (or Castellano as we say) and they reply to you in Catalan, knowing full well you don’t speak the language.
What not everyone knows, and not everyone sees, is that Barcelona isn’t just a modernist city, but a very contemporary one as well. There are many artists who come to Barcelona just to promote their work and many do in the streets of Raval and Poble Sec. The newest addition, which I’ve only just caught on to is what I like to call “Cool Cans”. Not many people know who the mastermind is behind this art, but everyone that walks along Poble Sec & Born just loves them. It consists of creating messages using used cans and sticking them on the walls with messages like “Look at me in your eyes”, or “Dream Big”.
Barcelona is full of amazing monuments and museums that are all a must see while here. I could sit here and tell you all about how amazing Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell are (which they are, don’t get me wrong!) but there is so much more hidden in Barcelona than what meets the eye.
A few months ago I visited Gaudi’s first ever house, which is still relatively hidden to most people and I can honestly say it was my favourite. Hidden in the beautiful neighborhood of Gracia, Casa Vicens was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2005. The most important source of inspiration in all Gaudí’s work is the world of nature and this can be seeing while walking through each room of the house.
Coming to Barcelona as a student meant that I had to be careful with how much I was spending as being here for a year meant being strict with my budgeting. This was a slight challenge at the beginning because when you arrive in a new city, you want to visit as many things as you can and eat all the food in the world.
The best thing you can do is learn about all the best supermarkets to go to that won’t charge you an arm and a leg for one item. What I’ve realised is that there is no need to go to one supermarket for everything; Barcelona has many fruit markets where I get all my fruit and veg from – not only is it cheaper but the quality is so much better.
Making food to take to work is also a life saver. My top tip would be to make a bit more pasta salad the night before to make sure you have enough for the following day! Living on a budget has made me realise that it is possible to do so, as long as you’re smart about it.
Now that brings me onto my next big point, Barcelona has an abundance of amazing restaurants, ranging from tasty tapas, to fish restaurants along the beachfront. If you’re a foodie, then you will never get bored of eating in Barcelona. Some of my favourites so far have been – Palosanto (my number one restaurant for tapas), Koku Kitchen for the most delicious ramen and Miss Sushi for mouthwatering makis. I was even lucky enough to find a Greek restaurant (being home for seven months has made me miss my home cooked food so much!) which was delicious!
Brunch is just a whole different story here in Barcelona. The Spaniards do love their brunch and I’ve come across so many amazing cafes to grab some eggs benedict and a soya latte. I have too many to mention but some of my favourite have been Enkel, Federal Cafe & Oma Bistro.
Every street you turn on, you’re bound to come across a place you’ve never seen or heard of before. That’s the charm that Barcelona has, you can never get bored of walking around this city!
What you definitely have to try while in Barna is the gelato. It is undeniably the most refreshing treat when you’re walking down windy rounds in the June heat. My favourite by far has to be Amorino. If you ever get the chance to visit, do try the Coco, Passionfruit or Mango sorbets!
What to watch out for
Before arriving in Barcelona, so many people had told me “to be careful with your bags” and “keep an eye on your things while walking around”. Since being here, I have witnessed a few pick pockets on the prowl, most of them hanging around the metro stations, watching people get on and off the metro. Others attempt to catch out the tourists on La Rambla for example and usually run away with what they manage to get.
I wouldn’t recommend the restaurants along La Rambla, as most of them are expensive and the quality of the food really isn’t good compared to what you can get in local restaurants. This is true for a lot of travel destinations, so it’s always worth doing some research and being careful with your stuff when travelling!
So all in all, if you’re wondering where to do your placement, Barcelona is definitely a city worth exploring and considering for your work placement or study abroad. Being here for 10 months now has made me appreciate this culture and has helped me grow as a person too. You’ll have the chance to meet people from all over the world and get enriched in a beautiful culture. You will learn new things every day, appreciate a culture different to yours and eat some of the most amazing food ever!
Studying abroad has been an invaluable experience, and if you choose to do it, wherever you end up, make the most of the adventure and enjoy every second of it.
Links to my favourite places
Palosanto – http://gruposantelmo.com/en/restaurants/palosanto/
Koku Kitchen – https://kokukitchen.es/
Miss Sushi – http://www.misssushi.es/
Casa Vicens – https://casavicens.org/
Amorino – http://www.amorino.com/es
Enkel – https://enkelbcn.com/
Federal – http://www.federalcafe.es/barcelona/
Text and photos by Isabella Mia Panayayiotou
Featured image by Juliéy Pham