My Study Abroad Experience

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Barcelona, Spain is somewhere I never thought I would have the chance to go to. But when I learned of CEA and their program here, I had to take advantage. I have always wanted to study abroad but I never knew where and once I was presented with this opportunity, I was over the moon. I always knew it would be an amazing experience, but I never thought it would compare to this. To sum up what this experience has entailed would be impossible, but writing about it is a great way to help explain.

13532832_1065872086856929_134676324399694845_nFrom learning to live with new people who have very different lifestyles and backgrounds to traveling on the weekends, this experience has been life changing. Besides the city itself, my favorite part of studying abroad was the people I had the chance to meet. My roommates were from Kansas, Georgia and Arizona so I was lucky enough to learn about different lifestyles from the United States as well. On top of the chance to meet other Americans, I was also introduced to local friends. Going out with them and allowing them to show us around the city was amazing. It was really interesting to learn about Barcelona from a local perspective.

Traveling on the weekends was another opportunity that I was lucky enough to take 18118810_1146833282094142_8307658241948532453_nadvantage of. Traveling is something that requires immense patience, street knowledge and can sometimes bring out the worst in people. From trying to navigate a foreign city without Google maps, to dealing with the biggest complainer in your group, the biggest thing I learned was simply patience. Patience is something I struggled with before coming abroad but is something that is needed to succeed and make the most of the experience.

16143003_1065867600190711_8838851271856486439_nThe best part of this was not the traveling or the people but rather Barcelona itself. Having the chance to live in such a beautiful, energetic, clean and unique city is something I will never forget. My favorite times were the times where I found myself aimlessly walking around popping into local stores and coffee shops. I think that was the best way for me to get to know the city.

 

Since the minute I stepped foot on Spanish soil, I have been changed for the better. It is something that I cannot explain but I know in my heart that I have become a better person, a harder worker and more grateful than ever. The best way I can explain the way I feel about Barcelona is comparable to falling in love, but much deeper.

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Sitges- A Hidden Gem

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Sitges, Spain is a small beach town located just 26 miles southwest of Barcelona and is most commonly known for sandy beaches, clean water and windy cobblestone streets. The small alleys consist of cafes, bars, local shops and delicious gelato. When exiting the alleys you will be led to a beautiful beach where the sun is shining almost 100% of the time. It is small enough to be explored in a short time period, so be sure to plan a day trip when visiting Barcelona! Here is some history and tips on how to do Sitges right.

“Sitja” in Catalan, silos which are deep pits in the ground used to store grains is where the 2552405name “Sitges” came from. It is suggested that approximately 53,000 years ago, many silos were located in Sitges. In the 1700’s Sitges was bombed during the War of Succession. They fought off soldiers demanding food and shelter, as well as pirates and bandits coming up the coast. The people of Sitges stayed strong overcoming these hardships and building a warship as well as a rock formation called “La Fragata” where they rebuilt the church. The church stands strong today and still has a canon out front in remembrance of the 6 canons used to protect the town.

antiguas2186 la puntaThe church that still stands in between the beaches of Playa de la Fragata and Playa de San Sebastion is called “Iglesia de Sant Bartomeu I Santa Tecla.” It is considered to be the towns most famous monument and is often used in postcards. As wars continued during the nineteenth century, Sitges continued to make remarkable improvements and as ties with Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Americas became closer, business started booming. They were able to invest in banking, vineyards and railways to nearby cities. This continued through the nineteenth century as they progressed and economic growth boosted.

In the mid-twentieth century piped water, the telephone and electricity was introduced. They specialized in the shoemaking business and nearly 75% of their workforce was in the shoemaking industry. As Sitges became more IMG_4993popular it was soon known for a home to
sculptors, painters, poets and singers. During the Franco regime, tourism picked up and they began building museums, art galleries and hotels around the town. After Franco was seized, they were allowed to continue their culture, traditions and culture such as “Carnival” which was banned during the dictatorship. Sitges is now known for its gay vibrant night life and its relaxed, laid back vibe.

Now that you have a brief history of what Sitges once was, lets learn about how to make the most of your visit to this beautiful town.

How to get there:

One of the best parts about Sitges, is that it is located just outside of the beautiful city of Barcelona and it is SO easy to quickly get there. If you find yourself by Passeig de Gracia (one of the more popular streets located in central Barcelona), all you have to do is pop down the stairs in the metro stop and buy a ticket for the R2 Renfe train. The tickets are just 8 euros round trip and you will have a view of the beautiful beaches along the coast the entire time.

Once you hop off the train, grab a cup of coffee at a local coffee shop and keep walking straight. After just a few blocks, you will be greeted by the sight of sunny skies, blue water and sand soft enough to sleep on. It seems that everything in Sitges is within walking distance, so don’t rely on needing cab money!

While you’re there:

Although Sitges is far less touristy than Barcelona, there are still so many enjoyable and interactive things to do. From exploring museums, viewing historical landmarks, to relaxing on the beach and eating tapas or drinking cocktails along the coast.

Museums:


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Although most people know of the common beverage, Bacardi, most people don’t know that it has a strong connection to Sitges, Spain. Facundo Bacardí Massó was actually born in Sitges in 1814. After many struggles and hardships, him and his wife began distilling rum and created the first ever white-rum. There is a museum built after them where you will learn about the history of Bacardi, how it is distilled and you even have the chance to sit back and enjoy a free cocktail at the end of the exhibition with your ticket.

 


Cau Ferrat Museum

Cau-FerratIf drinking is not your thing, or you are with children this museum might be more your speed. With ancient art, modern sculptures and works by famous artists including Pablo Picasso and other local Spanish artists. With new exhibitions opening all the time, you are sure to get a glimpse into the history of Sitges along with the artwork connected.

 

Landmarks:


Passeig Maritim

This is a walk you cannot miss. This marble street is lined with restaurants, shops and sculptures on one side, with bars, sandy beaches and an ocean view on the other. Although this street can be slightly crowded (nothing in comparison to Las Ramblas), it is perfect for an evening stroll or a sunrise walk. Be sure to keep an eye out for locals selling their beautiful works of art and steer clear of the vendors attempting to sell you knock off purses.

Church of Sant Bartomeu y Santa Tecla

Getting up close to this old church is a must do. Known as the “post card picture”, it is the most famous landmark in all of Sitges. Be sure to go around sunset because the shining of the light on the church results in a magical view of the up close detail. If you want to get inside the church, try to avoid entering on the weekends as there are typically weddings.

 

Beaches:


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La Playa de Sitges

This is the largest and most prominent beach in the area. It is known for being clean, safe and full of entertainment. When you enter the beach you will quickly notice the lack of trash, resulting in laying on the most clean sand you will ever see. There are typically people playing fetch with their dogs, playing games or practicing musical instruments. The fun never ends!

Playa Balmins

If you prefer peace and quiet while laying at the beach, this is the one for you. It is more secluded and less crowded. It is a perfect place to hang out all day and enjoy the sunshine without being crowded by many people.

Food/ drinks:


When in Sitges, you just cant go wrong with food. Almost any restaurant with great tapas and better company will not disappoint. If looking for cheap tapas and delicious drinks, start roaming the narrow alleys through out Sitges. Not a far walk off the beach, you can find small bars and delicious gelato! Whenever in a small town, it is never a bad idea to check out a local fresh market to find some locally grown food. So, if you’re looking for a cheap DIY dinner, stop by a market, grab some snacks, bring a blanket and go eat and enjoy a sunset on the beach- you will not be disappointed!


Overall, Sitges is a must see if visiting Barcelona. Because of the easy transportation, quick walk and most importantly, lack of tourism- Sitges is a place that anyone will enjoy.