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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My Favorite Place in the World

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As I look back at my experience abroad, I realized that I spent a lot of time scrambling trying to do everything that I had forgotten to do. From museums, to Park Güell to trying all of the live markets. As I was focusing on all of that, I realize I had completely overlooked my favorite place. This place is the Bunkers del Carmel, the place I will miss the most. The uniqueness of the area, the beautiful views and the relaxing environment is something everyone should experience, but it hasn’t always been that way.

History of Bunkers del Carmel:

Bunkers del Carmel came from the Spanish Civil War in 1937. They were formally used barcelona-during-spanish-civil-waras underground military bunkers. Dating back to ’37 the bunkers were used as part of an anti-craft battery against attacks from fascists. They also stored a great deal of guns and weapons used in combat.

imgresWhen dictator Franco came into power as the Civil War ended, the guns were taken away and locals began using the bunkers as shelter. In the late 50’s-60’s the bunkers provided shelter to nearly 7% of Barcelona’s population adding up to nearly 3,000 people living in that area.

It wasn’t until the 1992 Olympic games when Barcelona’s biggest 1052px-1992_Summer_Olympics_logo.svgtransition began that the city began to relocate the residents in the bunkers to flats and apartments around the city in attempt to clean up the city. The village was abandoned completely.

In the 2000’s locals began visiting the area to enjoy one of the prettiest 360 views of Barcelona. It was said to be one of Barcelona’s best kept secret until recently it has become very popular. It is a famous place for people to have a picnic, drink some wine, enjoy and watch the sunset.

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When I first arrived in Barcelona, my friends and I stumbled upon this area by taking the wrong bus and it ended up being the best thing that could have happened. When we got back down, we realized that we had no idea how we even got there in the first place. But after research, we learned that it is pretty easy, but also confusing. Here is how to get to the Bunkers:

BUS:

  1. You will need to take the 24 or the V17.
  2. You will get off at Gran Vista- Turó de la Rovira
  3. From there, you will walk uphill for about 10 minutes where you will stumble upon the slabs of concrete with paths and plants to explore.

METRO:

  1. You can take the L4 or L5.
  2. Get off at either Guidardó I Hospital de Sant Pau or La Teixonera.
  3. The closest stop is Turó de la Rovira.
  4. From there you will walk on foot for about 15 minutes or hop on a bus to the top.

 

Here is a 360 view of the bunkers:

 

Patience is a Virtue

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I am known to be one of the most impatient people anyone knows. I have troubles sitting still and get aggravated when having to wait for simple things. However, being abroad I have learned that patience is one of the most important attributes. Because Europeans perceive time differently than Americans, you have to learn to be patient. From waiting for a train, to walking behind slow walkers to listening to people complain when we are in some of the greatest cities in the world.

  1. Transportation

In the states, I rarely use public transportation but in Spain it is my only form of taxis-barcelonatransportation. At the beginning, I would just take taxis around because I was so confused by the metro/bus system. But after getting yelled at by my parents about the amount of money I was spending, taking taxis was the first thing to go. The metro system was easy to figure out and if you ever had questions almost anyone was kind enough to help you but it was the busses that I struggled with the most. Sometimes 3 of the same bus would come in a row, sometimes I had to wait 30 minutes. The best part about this, was if a bus didn’t come I would have the chance to walk. The best times I had in Barcelona were walking around aimless, lost in the city.

  1. My biggest pet peeve: slow walkers

shutterstock_153214664One of the first things I noticed when arriving in Spain was how slow people tend to walk. It was almost as if they were doing it on purpose. It takes me an extra 10 minutes to get to school because I am constantly dodging slow walkers. It took me awhile, but I eventually learned that because time is not of the essence here, I would have to deal with it. Now I have noticed that I am the slow walker and I truly believe that it has made me stop and enjoy the little things abroad.

  1. Dinner

In America, restaurants almost pride themselves on efficiently getting people in and out 20150928094934_1215759319_3241_9of a restaurant in a timely manner. In Spain, it is known that when people go out to eat for drinks or tapas, it is a social event. Dinners typically last 2-3 hours and this quickly tested my patience. People like to sit, relax and enjoy the food and each other’s company. At the beginning I would get very frustrated when it took 20 minutes to get the check but now, I think if it as quality time with my friends. It’s a perfect time to stay updated about each other’s lives. Although this was extremely frustrating for me at the beginning, dinner has become my favorite event of the day.

In my short time here in Barcelona, Spain I have learned to be more patient that ever. It has really made me appreciate the little things in life and I hope I can take this important skill to my everyday life at home.

 

 

Ana López on Digital Marketing

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Our class had the pleasure of listening to Ana López, previous head of Digital Marketing for Estrella Damm, speak about her experience and involvement in the journalism field. Through her involvement working with Estrella Damm, it was interesting to learn a little bit more about what goes into digital marketing, advertising campaigns, promoting brand awareness and market analysis of social trends.

Ana López attended school at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona where she had aurl double bachelor degree in journalism as well as social and cultural anthropology. She then received her masters degree in communications and advertising management at ESIC: Business & Marketing School in Madrid where she learned how to use digital marketing to attract the right target market when promoting a product. During this time she worked as an account director at Marco de Comunicacion. After graduating, she began working as a Brand Manager and later as the Head of Digital Marketing at Estrella Damm in Barcelona.

Estrella-DammEstrella Damm is one of Barcelona’s oldest brands and also a major part of the culture. It is a lager beer brewed in Barcelona and is now available in many different countries around the world. When López began working there, the company did not have much knowledge on the concept of digital marketing as it was just really taking off. She expressed when speaking with us that she was alone, she had no digital marketing department or digital team. López and her team focused on launching advertising campaigns, public relations and media planning. They also completely took over the companies Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and most importantly their Youtube channel.

The same year López starting working for Estrella Damm, they launched a 3 minute music video/commercial. The video was of a Swedish group that no one in Spain had heard of. In just one summer they reached over 2.5 million views on Youtube which resulted in the song being the most downloaded song of the summer in Spain. The video was filmed in Formentera, Spain which became the destination of the year. This advertising campaign increased their brand awareness by 225%.

Over the next couple of years, Estrella Damm focused on their social media presence,awareness
launched smaller campaigns and maintained relationships with key partners. They wanted to collaborate with these partners to grow digitally and expand brand awareness.

Estrella Damm has a different advertising approach as most companies. “Good things never end, there is always something to remind you” is the motto behind most of their campaigns. Spaniards are known for being relaxed so they do not focus on the beer itself but rather the good times that surround the beer and the Mediterranean ways of life. Their Instagram account is a perfect example of their marketing strategy. Right now, landscape photography is a huge social media trend. The goal is to blend in with social media trends as much as possible. Estrella Damm prides itself in being a Mediterranean beer, so instead of having photos of the same old beer bottle on the account, they have put their focus on photos from all around the Mediterranean Sea.

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After years of expanding, campaigning and focusing on digital trends, Estrella Damm had another record breaking video campaign in 2015. The video was a 10 minute short film featuring the famous actress, Dakota Johnson. The video quickly reached 5 million views and was awarded as the best campaign in Spain by Youtube. The campaign increased brand awareness in Spain by 5% which is crazy considering how popular the beer already was. Because of this campaign, they received awareness from all around the world including 30% increase in the UK.

Many things were learned from this class discussion.

  • Communication between the brand and the consumer has completely changed. Because technology and social media have evolved so much in the past couple years, there are many different ways for a brand to create awareness.
  • It is important to match the way you promote to the interest of the target audience. (i.e. using landscape photos on Instagram)
  • Analyzing the target audience (or place) is necessary. It is important to focus on the motivations and demographics of the area.
  • Make messages short, sweet and clear. This way, people will remember the little things without overanalyzing.
  • Companies need to start using technology and social media to digitalize their advertisements and campaigns because of how far they can reach audiences.

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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.

Valentí Santjuan

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Santjuan is a journalist who has used his passion, strength and determination to compete in many strenuous events. He started off running marathons and almost a dozen ironmans (which consist of a 3.86 km swim, 180.25 km bike ride and a 42.20 km run… without a break). But most impressively, completing to Ultramans which is a 3 day endurance challenge composed of a 10 km swim through the ocean, 145 km bike ride (I’m not talking a flat bike ride through a city, they endure climbs of up to 6,000 feet) on day 1, a 276 km bike ride climbing up to 4,000 feet on day 2 and ending with a casual 84 km DOUBLE marathon (because why stop at just one?). When hearing about Valentí Santjuan, I was expecting a bland journalist, not someone so strong, driven, inspiring and passionate about his life and past times even when enduring many hardships along the way.

While Valentí was conquering the world with his strength, he was also running a Youtube channel. Many years ago, Valentí started working in the journalism field. He quickly realized that he was not a huge fan of having bosses and coworkers tell him what to do. He also went through a difficult time ending a long relationship and sadly losing his mom in the process. He realized life is short and this is when he started up a Youtube channel with videos including talk shows and interviews.

Valentí has a couple different Youtube channels based on what the audience is maxresdefaultinterested in. One is radio/talk show style and another  focusing on sports. He explained that is important to make content for everyone or the amount of viewers/ subscribers will be limited. Combined with multiple channels, he has more than 100,000 subscribers and millions of views. His Youtube channels have helped him grow into a popular social media presence.

dddddddThe cool thing about what Valentí does is that he does not have one specific boss. As mentioned in our class he has multiple bosses: his audience, the brands he promotes, his Youtube channel and most importantly himself. His audience is what keeps his channel going, essentially they are the reason his Youtube channel is considered his job. He stated that “without his viewers, he would be nothing.” Second, sponsors request that he incorporate and promote their brand into his Youtube videos or social media platforms. They will pay him for each las-cosas-importantes-deben-entrar-listas_media_1-1441653414395advertisement resulting in lots of money made. Youtube is another one of his bosses in the sense that they control what he can and cannot post. Without the help of Youtube, he would not have viewers. Lastly, he is lucky enough to call himself his main boss. He is in charge of what he wants to promote and post as well as what he does to reach the level he has reached.

While Valentí considers himself a journalist, he also is a Youtuber, a brand, a producer, an entrepreneur, an athlete and an inspiration to people all over the world.

Sitges, Spain

 

img_3834Sitges is a small town located on the coast of the Mediterranean in Spain. It is best known for its sandy beaches, sunny days and the infamous carnival. After visiting Sitges twice now, I have realized that it is one of my favorite places in Europe. However, the two experiences I have had there have been completely different and I think that is what makes it so special.

Day trip:

My day trip to Sitges was actually an AICAP for CEA. We started off in El Penedes, Spain at a winery with a traditional Catalan meal. To be quite honest, I had no idea that afterwards we were heading to Sitges. We were dropped off right in-front of the beautiful beach and the first thing I noticed was the lack of tourists (well, besides the big bus of college students that rolled up for a tour).

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Supposedly, Sitges has an average of 300 sunny days per year. This doesn’t surprise me whatsoever as the sky had been filled with clouds all day until we arrived. I think that is something truly amazing about that quaint beach town. Not only do they have one of the cleanest, softest, most relaxing beach I have ever been to, but sunny blue skies to accompany it. I remember sitting there on the creamy, smooth, delicious sand and never wanting to leave. Besides the beach and blue skies, the narrow streets filled with tiny shops, patatas bravas and some of the best frozen yogurt I have ever had.

 

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Night Visit: 

The night visit was completely different from the day trip because of one major factor: the Sitges Carnival. Each year leading up to Lent (a Catholic holiday), the town throws a week long party for people to let loose before Lent begins. Yes, they celebrate Carnival everywhere (basically Mardi Gras), but no one does it like Sitges, Spain.

We decided to go on the last night, and typically the most crowded night of carnival. It was Fat Tuesday so people were drinking and eating, dressed up in drag and silly costumes to go crazy one last time. There is a huge parade that makes its way down Rua del Extermini. There are huge groups of people drinking and dancing, giant floats and lots and lots of loud music. The parade is something I’ve never seen anything like before and I am not exaggerating when I say that I was finding confetti in my hair and clothes for days after. So. Much. Confetti.

Overall, I would say that Sitges is a hidden gem that everyone should get the chance to visit. It is beautiful, quiet, quaint and full of life. The people I encountered are some of the nicest people in the world and they really seem to follow Catalan culture. And if you’re ever near Spain for Carnival- make it a priority to dress up and have the time of your life roaming the streets of Sitges.

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(This is a photo of me thriving at Carnival, if you look at the ground you will understand why confetti was falling out of my boots for days.)