Every Thursday at 9am at the exit of the hotel: that was the routine for the duration of the program. It served as a break from the Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule of classes, and a hiatus from the twice weekly conversation exchange with local students. We would head outside of the boundaries of Barcelona, leaving behind La Sagrada Familia and Las Ramblas, and branch out to other towns to get a taste of another side of Spain.
The theme of these trips varied depending on the location: in Girona we focused on medieval times and faith, in Alella we learned about the wine industry in Spain, La Coasta Brava emphasized the life and works of Dali, while Montserrat was a choose your own adventure: attend mass or hike around the mountain. All of these trips were led by our trusty guide (shout out to Leila) who was a wealth of knowledge about every building, sculpture, museum, street, and historical event. Sometimes the content of these tours was completely new, but often it related to our studies in the classroom. It was like having a much more fun version of a recitation. Whether it was seeing the variance in language use like in bilingualism, visiting the works mentioned in art history, or learning more about events from history class, the excursions managed to create a balance between learning and simply exploring.
Although these trips were certainly educational, they were also just fun! It was a built-in excuse to not do any homework and included multi-course lunches that left you overly full and ready for a siesta. One trip in particular stood out to me: a long weekend spent in Tarragona. Although I can’t say I was a fan of the food (I prefer white rice over arroz negro), the environment was so relaxing that it almost felt like I was back at home. We were certainly active over the course a of a few days, taking a bicycle tour of the area as well as a boat ride and a hike, but being out in the country with rolling hills and little streams was a nice break from living in the city of Barcelona. As much as I love going to school in D.C. and am always excited for a trip to New York City, it is always nice to head back home to the country. Living abroad in Spain and immersing myself in a whole new culture and foreign language was an amazing experience, but it could be a lot at times. Tarragona was a chance to head back into a rural area for just a little reminder of home.