Three months into my semester

Juggling Uni vs Social

 

One of my favourite hobbies. Visiting local art galleries!

As a foreign student in Barcelona, it has been difficult to juggle my studies, sightseeing and social life. There is so much to experience here that it’s hard to find time to do everything. Going back to university to study as a mature student is one thing but being on a global exchange has been and continues to be exciting! I feel I do not have enough time to see and experience everything. The first two months of university has been absolutely crazy. Settling into my subjects, searching for a new home, making new and wonderful friends, traveling around Catalan and getting into a schedule to keep myself on track with my studies were not easy. There are many temptations coming from different angles! However, I had a good advice before leaving home from the CSU Global Exchange team – “keep a balanced life”. And with this in the back of my mind, I was able to lessen unnecessary obstacles by regularly doing my university studies and was able to manage my time to enjoy the cultural experience of being in Barcelona, Spain.

 

Doing things I never thought I would do

 

In Huesca (pre-Pyrennes) where it’s famous for canyoning

 

Who would have ever thought I would swap my beach lifestyle to hiking mountains and canyons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 via Ferrata at Sants Feliu de Guixols

 

Barcelona lifestyle

birthday_celebrations

At a classmate’s birthday party

I was surprised to realise I did not feel homesick after the first month away. I have an old Aussie friend living in Tarragona, an hour away by train from Barcelona, who came up for a weekend and introduced me to the Spanish lifestyle first hand. I learnt quickly, where to get my groceries, whether at Carrefour or at Mercadona stores; what’s good to eat and what’s not; avoid shopping between 2 to 4pm as almost everyone takes their siesta and shops are closed for lunch. Public transportation is so efficient that I quickly dismissed any ideas of getting a scooter or an image of me scooting around Barcelona.

I have to admit by the end of April I became homesick and yearned to be back on the powdery sands of the Northern Beaches of Sydney and craved for a simple peanut butter sandwich or hot fish and chips at my local beach. But life is so intriguing in this small city of Barcelona that I found myself quickly submerging into the Spanish culture. Plus, having good classmates around helps a lot.

 

International Day at La Salle University – 26th April

exchange fair

Proudly representing Australia!

It was my absolute pleasure to represent Australia and CSU on International Day. A little advice for all future global exchange students going overseas: pack an Aussie flag! This will save you spending time drawing and colouring in an Australian flag. And prepare to bake or cook 2 or 3 Australian dishes. I was able to bring mini meat pies, sausage rolls and the famously delicious vegemite sandwich for the event. I didn’t win any prizes but more importantly, everyone had a very good time. I was happy to share my knowledge of Australia and be a model for the happy, laid back vibes of Australians.

 

Orientation – It begins!

Orientation Day and the first week of classes

My second week, started with Orientation Day. I admit I was nervous going to orientation day, as there weren’t many mature age students. Amongst the 70 exchange students from all over the world, I noticed 3 others mature age students who were enrolled in architecture courses. I quickly brushed away thoughts of insecurity and I met some wonderful colleagues. We were soon sharing stories, classes, breaks, post class drinks and sightseeing together around the city. I am learning so much academically and culturally and enjoying every moment.

Meeting my new classmates

From Departure to Arrival

Departure Day

As the weeks and days got closer to the departure date, saying my goodbyes to family and friends got harder as reality kicked in that I will be gone for 1 year. I realised emotionally this is going to be a big move. Nervous? Yes. However, I am positive and excited at the same time. Having a good friend’s support at the airport helped calmed my nerves. I am blessed to have family, friends and CSU supporting me along the way.

Saying goodbye at the airport

Arrival!

As soon as I arrived at Barcelona I went straight to Vodafone inside the airport and purchased a temporary SIM card for my mobile. This gave me immediate access to a wide range of information including Google Maps. and I was immediately able to communicate with taxi drivers, agents and do shopping on my first day. Although I was excited and wanted to sightsee, I was simply knocked out from the long flight.

In the first week

There was so much to do and see in the first week of arriving in Barcelona. I thought, not being able to speak Spanish or Catalan would make it very difficult to move around; however, it was the total opposite. The locals are amicable and always willing to assist. Google translation was a big help, and if that doesn’t work, a big smile goes a long way, so I had no problems here. I was able to totally soak myself in the Barcelona’s culture and lifestyle.

I visited the famous Antoni Gaudi’s artistic architectural buildings Casa Batllo, and enjoyed delicious local food such as tapas at the local cafés. Getting lost and simply walking about was the best way for me to explore the city. I still cannot believe I am here in Europe! Even though it was cold and rainy most of the week the excitement of this old Catalan culture gets me up early every morning to see what’s out there. Every day presents a new adventure.

Tapas time!

Casa Battlo

‘Dragon’s Back’ Casa Battlo

Back streets of Barcelona – the things you find when you get lost!

My acceptance into the Student Exchange Program

When I learnt that I was accepted into CSU Global Student Exchange Program (SEP) I must admit that I was absolutely surprised, and even more so when I was accepted into La Salle – Ramon Llull University of Barcelona for one year. I kept thinking “what a wonderful opportunity” to learn a new culture, and language with a fresh vista to promote my future studies and career. A great way to open new doors for a mature age person in search for a new life in different industry or career path.

Visa interview

One piece of advice for applying for your Spanish visa is plan ahead of time! Start planning early as there is a long check list of things to do prior to applying for your appointment at the Consulate General of Spain. Some of the check list items may take between 2 to 5 weeks, like the Police Fingerprint Check Certificate. I started planning from October and by mid-November, when I had all my documents ready for the visa appointment, the Consulate General of Spain informed me that they were booked out and I had to wait till January. Getting closer to my departure date without a visa, I was very nervous, however with the support of the SEP team, I never felt I was alone and when the visa arrived, I quickly announced it to everyone. Feeling of happiness!.

Now, looking back, during all my planning I really would like to thank my family, teachers and the CSU Global team, who were extremely supportive in many ways, especially getting my visa, throughout my journey.

 

More than just packing

Many friends advised me that packing less is better and since the climate is so different to Sydney, I will be better off buying a new wardrobe from Barcelona.  Yes, I liked that idea, however I still could not comprehend taking one suitcase of clothes, shoes, souvenirs and toiletry for a whole year. So, I packed away my wetsuits, surfboards and my favourite hair straightener. Matter of fact, it was a big move as I had to packed away my whole apartment and temporarily closed part of my business, as I would not be able to do the service part from overseas. Being organised and making a priority list of what to do helped smooth the transactions.

Barcelona, here I come!

 

 

Ready To Go ….

It’s been an interesting project preparing for my trip to Spain. I know I’ll miss my family, friends and the love of my life, the ocean. However, how could I resist this fantastic opportunity. I am Suzan Rundle, a mature-age student studying Business Studies and very interested in international business.

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