Where are you studying? Barcelona, Spain (Catalonia)
Third-year student European Languages and Cultures
Paella, tapas, and football
‘Coffee? I don’t drink coffee’, Anton laughs when he’s asked about the price of a cup. ‘But it differs, just as it does for beer or soda. At the Ramblas it can cost as much as 5 euros, but a regular bar will only charge you 2. For dinner, people eat paella or tapas. The Spanish consider the latter a starter, but tourist eat it as a main course. My parents were here for Christmas and we had a nice tapas meal for approximately 20 euros each. The prices are comparable to what you’d pay in Amsterdam. In terms of nightlife, there are many clubs near the beach, but you can also just have a beer at a nice little café.’
You’re an Erasmus student in a city that’s gone through some political upheaval recently. So let’s dive right in: what was the situation with the referendum like?
‘The first few weeks of the academic year were quite eventful. But large protests are always really well-organised; Catalans don’t just take to the streets willy-nilly. I didn’t feel unsafe during the protests, and I didn’t leave the house on the day of the referendum. I eventually got used to the subway being full of people carrying flags. I didn’t know much about Spanish politics, but my stay here has taught me a lot about the reasons behind people’s desire for autonomy.’
You probably had other things on your mind when you got here: finding a place to live, making friends?
‘I came here in August with a co-worker. Finding a room was easy, although the price is a bit higher for Erasmus students because we’re only here for such a short time. I’m paying approximately 470 euros a month for a 25 square metre room. The friends I’ve made here are mainly fellow foreign students, unfortunately. It’s hard to make friends with the Spanish.’
Have you spoken absolutely no Spanish here?
‘The classes I take here are all in Spanish, so I’ve certainly learned a lot! I also took a multimedia course, where we had to work in groups to create a website for a publishing house. That was a lot more hands-on than I was used to, and it didn’t really match my courses in the Netherlands, where my focus was on linguistics. But I did speak the most Spanish in that class. Most of my classes here are lectures, they don’t really do seminars. I mainly speak English with other Erasmus students.’
Barcelona is a tourist city. Did you go to less well-known places?
‘I’m a big football fan, and so I went to quite a few matches: four by FC Barcelona, and a bunch by Espanyol, Girona, Valencia, the FC Barcelona youth team, and even the Barcelona women’s team. I met Lieke Martens there (ed.: star player of the Dutch national women’s team). When I was walking through Park Guëll for the fourth time, I found an even better lookout point that literally forced me off the path. It was fifty metres above the famous benches, and I got an even better view of Barcelona.’
Would you be able to permanently move to Barcelona?
‘I’d definitely like to come back, but I don’t think there is any one place where I could spend the rest of my life. Barcelona was my second choice. I originally wanted to go to South America. I’d still like to go there. The best thing about Spain, and Catalonia specifically, is that it’s the same size as the Netherlands, but it has it all: from snowy mountains to warm beaches. And football, of course.’