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8 Things to Know Before Arriving in Barcelona

Feb 23, 2022 3:40:00 PM / by Stephen Dwyer

Almost 2 weeks down and 11 more to go! Stephen writes in from Barcelona to share 8 things you need to know before studying abroad in this city. Take in some of these gems and see how you can get better prepared for your spring, summer, or fall semester abroad in Spain.

It’s been a wild first week and a half here in Barcelona. I feel like I’ve lived a whole lifetime, but I still have 11 weeks left! So far, so good, and there’s a few things I’ve learned before or during my time here that I’d like to share with you.

Gaudi’s famous Parc Güell, a must-see for anyone coming to Barcelona

Caption: Gaudi’s famous Parc Güell, a must-see for anyone coming to Barcelona.

  1. Get an International Credit Card

Call your bank to see if your credit card has any foreign transaction fees. If it does, make sure to sign up for a card with no foreign transaction fees before coming to Europe, as those fees can add up over the course of your semester abroad, and the fees for exchanging US Dollars to Euros are no better.

  1. Make a Budget

You’ll also want to make a budget for when you get here. I did not take good account of my spending for the first few days, and it added up quickly. Before going abroad or soon after you arrive, I highly recommend plotting out what you want to do and where you’ll be putting your money. That way, you don’t end up spending all your money on patatas bravas (though it’s a worthy investment in my opinion).

  1. Plan Your Route From the Airport

To begin, you’ll want to have your passport and other travel documents at your disposal for a smooth exit to baggage claim. Once you get your luggage, head outside to find your transportation to your new apartment. 

  • Option 1: Taxi Cabs

Open cabs will have a green light above the window. I recommend you print out the address and directions to your apartment in advance so that you do not face any trouble with communicating your destination to the driver. 

  • Option 2: The Metro

The metro is a cheaper option, though you may not want to travel on it with all your luggage. Likewise, if you decide to take this option, definitely print out the directions before you go, as you may have trouble trying to find your way around your new home right off the bat.

  1. Study the Metro 

Metro station in Barcelona

Caption: Here is the blue line station near my apartment. The trains are very clean here.

Which brings me to my next point: the metro will be your best friend when it comes to getting around the city. It was a bit daunting at first, but I was soon able to find the similarities between the metro here and the T back in Boston. Ten days in, and I feel like I know my way around, but you could be situated before you even get here if you do a little research.

  1. The Beach is the Sunday Spot

CAPAStudyAbroad_Spring2022_Barcelona_Stephen Dwyer_Me lounging on a beach in Barcelona

Caption: Play volleyball, go for a swim if you’re brave enough, or just chill on a blanket (like I am doing here).

Don’t ask me, ask the locals. The beach at Barceloneta was packed with people hanging out on blankets, enjoying the sea breeze last Sunday. Although most Barcelonans are still wearing puffy coats here in January/February, I did go for a dip in the Mediterranean on my first visit. It was about the same temperature as the water in Gloucester, MA in July. 

Also keep in mind that on Sunday, most stores in Barcelona will be closed, although a lot of restaurants are still open around the beach. 

  1. You’ll Miss Your Friends, But You’ll Also Make New Ones

Sorry to my loved ones back home, but in the excitement of my first week and a half here, I have not had much time to miss them. Except for when I actually call them. Once I virtually hang out with any of my friends and family from back home, it reminds me of how much I love being around them. My advice isn’t to not call your friends and family while abroad, you absolutely should, just that it may remind you of what you’re missing back home. Not to worry though, because you’ll make great friends while abroad! People who, like you, wanted to leave their hometowns and experience new things with new people in a global city abroad.

  1. Bring a Refillable Water Bottle

Probably the most annoying difference from America to me, is the fact that you get charged for water here at restaurants. I know someone who has asked for free tap water, and they were denied. My way of working around this is byby is carrying my reusable metal water bottle with me. It can be a hassle having another thing to carry around, but I know I’ll save a lot of money in the long run. For instance, today I paid €2.10 for water at a diner, which is $2.40 with the current exchange rate.

  1. Learn the History of Barcelona 

Plaza de John Lennon

Caption: One of my favorite discoveries in Barcelona so far, Plaça de John Lennon, a Plaza named after John Lennon with a Lennon cafe and a bunch of related paintings.

Barcelona is an incredible city with a rich history. Many people know about the Catalan Independence movement, but few know of the hundreds of years of history that go behind it. Catalonians are a proud people, and many are happy to explain their position to you if you ask respectfully. I recommend doing your research before you come to know the facts, and get to know the local perspective on an interesting ongoing struggle in the world.

Thanks, Stephen!

Stephen Dwyer

Stephen Dwyer is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2022, sharing his story in frequent posts on CAPA World. An operations & information management and sport management double major from University of Massachusetts Amherst, he is studying abroad in Barcelona this semester.

Stephen's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.

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Topics: Predeparture & Study Abroad Preparations, Barcelona, Spain, Local Culture