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Getting a Hang of Barcelona in My First Week Abroad

Jul 22, 2022 4:30:00 PM / by Mia Forouhari

Mia Forouhari details her first impressions of Barcelona from the moment she lands in the airport and through her entire week. She shares a great starting point to exploring the city, as well as how to prepare for all your new classes after arriving abroad.

After months of preparation, a negative COVID-19 test, careful packing (or stuffing a suitcase the night before), and a 14-hour travel day, you’ve finally touched down on the Barcelona El-Prat Airport tarmac. Now what…? To help you navigate your first week and help you understand what the first few days are like, here are my first experiences in Barcelona.

My First Impressions

After waiting an hour to go through customs I finally see a glimpse of my home for the next six weeks. I hop in a taxi, heading to the Camp de L’arpa neighborhood where my apartment is. A CAPA staff member, Gemma, was already waiting outside to let me in. After my three roommates arrived, she gave us a tour of the apartment, making sure to explain any differences, like not having a clothes dryer or air conditioning. Gemma took us on a mini tour around the neighborhood which helped me get my bearings and allowed us all to ask the many many questions we had. Camp de L’arpa, located just outside the city center, is full of narrow cobbled streets and delicious bakeries. Standing on my apartment balcony I can see neighbors watering the flowers on their terrace or hanging up clothes to dry in the hot sun. The cafes and restaurants never have a shortage of patrons, whether early in the morning or past midnight the locals are always enjoying each other’s company eating outside.

sunset in a Barcelona neighborhood

Caption: There is no shortage of amazing sunsets here.

narrow streets in the neighborhood

Caption: One of the many narrow and beautiful streets in the neighborhood.

Starting to Explore

Throughout your first week, you may be overwhelmed with the sheer amount of things to do in Barcelona. Between classes, navigating a new and busy city, and meeting lots of new people, there is lots to do. Your CAPA orientation is a great place to get to know the other people in the program and start to explore the city with. Take advantage of any CAPA excursions as well, including a tour of Parc Montjuïc. Be prepared to walk…a lot. During my first two days here, I walked 12 miles each, exploring the Gothic Quarter, visiting La Sagrada Familia, and visiting restaurants like Bo de B sandwiches (which I highly recommend). If you’re lucky, you may be able to see the Castellers de Barcelona—the human towers. I suspect I may have found my favorite place already: Parque del Guinardó offers endless panoramic views of the city, all the way to the sea. It may be quite a hike to get to the top, but I promise it is worth it.

view from Parque del Guinardó

Caption: One viewpoint from Parque del Guinardó. Can you believe this isn’t even the very top?

the human tower
Caption: The smallest climbers heading to the top of the human tower.

Navigating a New City

During your first week here you will probably get lost…and that’s okay. My roommates and I boarded the metro and only realized three stops later we were going in the opposite direction that we needed to be. The next day I picked up a phone call from my roommate to hear heavy breathing; she was late, sprinting to her first class and asking me where the building was. After taking the wrong metro line to class I fell up the stairs as I was exiting (with a full crowd of people behind me). Yes, you may get some more stares than usual and look like a helpless American, but don’t worry. Even if you can’t figure everything out right away, it just takes a little bit of trial and error. Now, by the end of my first week here I can confidently get where I need to be without having my nose stuck in my phone on the sidewalk. Try mapping out your routes for class the night before and leave extra time the first day to account for any mistakes, more time than you think you’ll need.

Throughout my first week here I have been able to settle in with new routines and begin to adapt to Barcelona. In a city that boasts endless sunshine and opportunities, I am excited to continue exploring and hit the next items on my bucket list. See ya next week!

Thanks, Mia!

Mia Forouhari

Mia Forouhari is an official CAPA blogger for summer 2022, sharing her story in frequent posts on CAPA World. A Marketing major from University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, she is studying abroad in Barcelona this semester.

Mia's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.

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