After just two weeks in Barcelona, Isha is left spellbound by the city. She writes about preparing for a culture shock and how she adjusted to a new living environment. She also learns about the philosophy of adopting the city as part of your living space and navigating Barcelona through its neighborhoods.
Barcelona, one of the most cosmopolitan and globalized cities in the world, is segregated into neighborhoods and districts. Unlike most cities in the world, Barcelona doesn’t have a grid syste—so you cannot merely go in the direction of North, South, East, or West.
Instead, one has to go find their way on the “ocean side” or the “mountainside” of the city. It makes it hard to navigate your way around initially but once you get the hang of it, there is a plethora of places that invite you to make you feel like the city is your own.
On an average day, I get lost in the city at least three times, and I’m always left spellbound because I observe a completely new side of Barcelona that has its unique characteristics.
Image courtesy of Mapa de Los Distritos de Barcelona.
However, keeping aside the norms and culture of Barcelona, an integral part of a study abroad program is housing. CAPA does its best to ensure that all students are put in a comfortable and safe environment to enjoy the rest of their semester without worrying too much about the ways of living in an entirely new country.
Streets of Barcelona.
Housing in Barcelona, like any other metropolitan city in the world, is restricted to smaller areas in big settlements because of lack of space.
My professors in different classes often say that they’re content living in these small apartments as that is what keeps the city’s old charm alive. They say that you don’t need a big living space especially when the city is so large because soon the city becomes a part of your living space itself.
I’ve been here for two weeks now, and I can finally understand what these professors mean.
Just like any other home in Barcelona, our apartment is also a three-bedroom flat in the busiest and most popular neighborhood in Barcelona, the Eixample.
Before arriving in the city, us students were told to be aware of a culture shock we might experience due to a change in our living conditions, and to a large extent, it was pretty true, but we all took up this challenge head-on.
From a high rise multi-storey residential hall to a three-bedroom apartment in a five-storey building, I’ve been put in a completely new way of living, but the support of CAPA and the resources the city has to offer made this transition an easy one to embrace.
Our apartment had the bare essentials we needed to get things going, and the more we got comfortable in the city, my housemates and I brought things along the way when needed. It really helps not buying everything in one go, because in smaller spaces, there is a restriction to store things. Basic crockery in the kitchen, bed linen, a washing machine, and a little vibe of comfort to call it home for the next three months was all a part of the “move-in drill”.
One of the rooms in our apartment.
The neighborhood Eixample is a central, friendly, and safe area to live in Barcelona. We are about a two-minute walk from the bus stop that takes you to all the major parts of the city and a four-to-five minute walk to the nearest metro station.
We have a grocery store located right in front of our apartment which is open from 11 am to 8 pm and a pharmacy two blocks away which is open 24 hours. The nearest hospital to us is also about a 10-minute drive.
My new neighborhood.
The commute in Barcelona is easy once you’re familiar with the routes that are going to be a part of your daily commute. During the first few days in the city, google maps was one of my best friends and I’m grateful to it for helping me get to my actual first few friends in this new world.
Overall, CAPA aims to choose locations that help make our transition into new cultures easier. As three girls, living all by ourselves in apartments for the first time, they ensured that we had a pool of resources accessible to us to make this semester a memorable one.
Isha Mahajan is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2019, sharing her story in frequent posts on CAPA World. A Political Science and Journalism major at University of Massachusetts Amherst, she is studying abroad in Barcelona this semester.
Isha's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.