A fortnight before school starts, I arrive at Plaza de Cataluña blissfully unaware of all the troubles of not having rented a room before hand is about to get me into. I walk down Las Ramblas trying to find the hostel I will be staying at during my first couple of days in Barcelona. During my wide eyed walk through the city, I notice some women standing in front of a hotel, looking quite misplaced as they watch the tourists walking down the street. Continuing onwards, I intervine with the locals for the first time since arriving, when one of them suddenly yells “wanna fuck?!”. After an apologetic “no thanks, I am good” in the typically Swedish fashion, I hurry onwards.
Barcelona is a decadent city, and many times I have found myself wandering the streets having little to no idea of where I am, asking myself ”what have I gotten myself into?”. It is not a city for the faint harted, as non-locals moving about in the night will surely come into contact with pickpockets, pushers, prostitutes and poverty, not seldom all at once. During the first two weeks I witnessed two attempted pickpocketings: one on myself and one on a friend of mine, but if you are aware of their tactics and always keep a watchful eye on your belongings, there is not much to worry about. But boy-oh-boy is it easy to have a good time here. First of all, the hostels house coulorful characters of all nationalities and creeds (except for locals) and is a great place to meet outgoing life connoisseurs. Also, Erasmus students enjoy a special place in the heart of the Barcelonian night life, always getting into the clubs for free without any bothersome ques.
But as always, one must sooner or later face the reality of school and day-to-day life, which was quite difficult as I, and many with me, found the University of Barcelona to suffer from some beurocratic difficulties, and some courses lacking in quality. Being used to the fast paced academic level of Lund, I actually found studying here to be quite easy. Apparently, courses given in English are not as hard as the ones given in Spanish or Catalan, and as they employ a continous assesment of your academic skills, school has not been much of a hassle. Because of this, I found the transit from tourist to student life somewhat bizarre as there seems to be a Festa Major on every day of the week during early autumn. The allure of burrying your head in books and class notes is almost non-existant. But as time progresses, you start falling into the routines of daily student life, with assesments during the week and parties during week-ends.
I would recommend Barcelona for the student who wishes to escape the hard core academics for a semester of cafés, parties and 3.50 euro mojitos at Lime House. But you will also encounter the dark side of society, so have your wits about you and never dance along when a group of guys form a dance circle around you on the street and you will be fine.