There's no better way to truly begin to understand your study abroad destination than by getting to know the locals who call the city home. Whether it's CAPA staff, a host family, other students, your internship colleagues or the fruit vendor on the corner, you'll find plenty of opportunities to do so. Below, we share a few of the best ways to seek out local connections in Barcelona.
1. Live with a Host Family
One of the surest ways to build lasting relationships with Barcelona locals is to opt for a homestay experience. You’ll be able to live with a family not far from CAPA and will have many opportunities to learn more about their city and culture firsthand. You’ll share meals together; they’ll likely love to show you a few of their favorite places; and you can’t ask for a better opportunity to practice your growing language skills.
Another fantastic way to meet locals in Barcelona is to intern. The friendly, yet professional relationships you build with your colleagues will be much different from the more familial connections you create in a homestay, and will teach you about a very different aspect of local culture. Greet coworkers in the morning, ask questions, invite them out to lunch, find a mentor, and make connections that may help shape your future.
If you’re passionate about a cause back home, why not get involved internationally and volunteer while you’re studying abroad in Barcelona? It’s a great way to meet others who care about the same topic, add depth to your experience, and give back to your host city. You’ll learn a lot about social dynamics while you’re volunteering too. CAPA staff can help set you on the path toward finding an organization or have a look online at places like Haces Falta which lists volunteering opportunities (in Spanish).
4. Stay Fit
Whether you join a gym, yoga class, soccer team or a park run, staying in shape can help you build a circle of friends who share the same enthusiasm for fitness. Make an effort to speak with people. Many locals will probably speak English, but practice your language skills and your efforts will be appreciated. When you show up and make an attempt to connect, you’ll have friends to go for smoothies with after your workout and may even be invited to share in some of the activities they enjoy beyond staying fit.
5. Join a Language Exchange or Other Meet Up Groups
One way to meet locals as well as expats from around the world is to join a language exchange. You’ll teach English to a local and they’ll teach you Spanish or Catalan, usually in a relaxed, conversational atmosphere. Check meetup.com for other meet up group options too to connect over interests as diverse as salsa dancing, beach volleyball, coding, and cinema.
6. Be a Regular
Show up at the same place several times a week and you’ll start to recognize people and become recognizable yourself, which can lead to small talk and potentially even friendships. This could be anywhere that you frequent: ordering your coffee from the same cafe every morning, taking your coursework to the local library, often having lunch at a local favorite in your neighborhood, or even becoming a regular face at a certain shop or salon, for example.
7. Attend a Religious Service or Meditation Group
If you’re religious (or curious for cultural reasons) mingling with the crowd at a mosque, church, temple, etc., before or after a service when people are in chatting mode can be an opportunity to connect with locals as well as learn more about their lifestyle. Same thing with a meditation group or any sort of spiritual experience that brings people together, whatever their background or yours.
8. Go to a Supper Club
Here’s a fun one for the foodies—and there are plenty of them living in Barcelona too, so you’re in good company! There are many supper clubs in the city like “Let’s Drunch”, one of the most popular, held in secret locations where dinner is prepared by a local chef and music is heavily involved. Or try a co-cooking space like “Espai Egg” in the Raval where the owners share their space with different chefs and host regular pop-up dinners to let the best seasonal produce shine for “Bear on Bike” events.
9. Learn Something New
Whether you sign up for a one-day class or attend a meet up group, learning a new skill alongside locals will give you a lot to talk about and make for an easy icebreaker too. Do some research and find something you’ve always wanted to learn like Catalan cooking, life drawing, tango dancing, or photography and it’s almost certain there’s a class or workshop you can attend while you’re abroad.
10. Attend a Conference or Networking Event
Take advantage of the fact that you’re living in a global city where there is a diverse calendar of events taking place on any given day of the week. Attend a conference, talk, or workshop related to your industry or seek out networking events to meet like-minded professionals in Barcelona. Share your own skills and knowledge, learn from others, and make some new friends while you’re there.