…all of which–with the exception of La Fabrica del Sol which was under renovation–I would recommend if you are traveling to Barcelona.
Moreover, I’ve been fortunate enough to have traveled to six cities (Sant Pol del Mar, Sitges, La Palma, Andorra, La Molina, Girona), strolled through four parks (Parc Guell, Parc Citudella, Parc Pedralbes, Parc de Montjuic), attended four musical performances, one stand up comedy show, one stage performance, three lectures related to cultural management, visited one printing press, shifted out of the Master’s Degree to the Postgraduate Diploma in Arts & Cultural Management (a story for another post), signed up for two dance classes which I did not go to, worked three part-time jobs, moved flats once, met loads of people from all over the world, and have learned quite a bit about European culture and this wonderful city called Barcelona.
All these novel experiences are just the beginning and have of course, irrevocably changed me. My philosophy is that novel experiences are by default, positive. So whenever I have to make a decision, I usually try to go for the one that has some degree of uncertainty, but always, always, I choose to act, as opposed to inaction. In this way, the change is encouraged, if not welcomed, and sometimes, the change can happen on my terms, as opposed to the common condition where change is seen as an unavoidable imposition.
Moving to the Spanish Apartment, as well as the new flat (which I have dubbed Rockafort–as that is more or less the name of the street) was surprisingly simple, although the circumstances around it were anything but.
When I was moving to Barcelona, I sent an email to everyone in the university’s Master’s program, asking if anyone was looking to share a flat. I got a few responses, and the result was that I had a place to stay–paid for in advance–even before I had set foot in Barcelona.
The rent of the flat was divided by everyone, and a month later, the occupants had risen from four to five, reducing our individual shares. However, this would only be until April, by which time the rent would go back up again. This, including the fact that one flatmate–who shall remain anonymous–and I were basically getting on like a house drenched in ice-cold water, made me decide it was time to make a change.
So I began asking around, and it so happened that Lena, one of my classmates, had just moved into a flat with a room available. Upon visiting the flat and meeting the other occupants, I decided that I could live here. I contacted the landlord, made the reservation and started moving my things that same day. Being the cheapskate that I am, I tried to move everything on foot: a twenty-minute walk at night in the winter. Only in Barcelona can someone get away with this.
I had to find someone to take my old room, however, as we had agreed prior to my moving in that should I leave before the end of the contract, then I had to find a replacement. Equally important was finding a good person to move in, someone who wouldn’t flip out or make the others feel unsafe (as I mentioned, there are no locks on any of the doors in the flat—not even the bathrooms).
Surprisingly, this again proved to be easier than I expected. Minutes after posting a notice of the room in various fb groups for Erasmus students and others related to housing in Barcelona, I already had several offers and had scheduled visits that same afternoon. In the end, I decided on a French Erasmus student taking up a Masters in Economics at the University of Barcelona. Three days later I had handed her the keys to the flat and had already spent one night at Rockafort.
The change of flat included having new flatmates: three Spanish guys–Adria, Alvaro, and Ricardo, Anna, a Korean, Lena from Hamburg whom I go to school with, and a wonderful pug named Fiji, who is clearly everyone’s favourite occupant.
Other changes include a considerably smaller and colder flat, room, kitchen, bath and toilet to share, less amenities (no lift or dishwasher), slower wifi, and hot water that disappeared while you were showering when any other faucet was switched on. On the brighter side, cheaper rent and cool flatmates all of whom—with the exception of Fiji–are professionals who preferred to speak Spanish, giving me the chance to practice my castellan.
Below is Adria, who isn’t in the above photo because he works crazy hours:
I will be writing a bit more about my new flatmates in a future post, but basically, a lot has changed over the last 120 or so days, and unavoidably, I have changed with my circumstances. The frequency and intensity of these shifts, being compressed in a small amount of time has also accelerated my growth as a person. Having only a few people to call upon in an emergency–all of whom I’ve known less than half a year–taught me to be truly independent and self reliant. Also, it taught me to do something I have not done before: How to develop close friendships in a short amount of time. It means I have become better–not the best, obviously–at relating with others, an invaluable life skill regardless of who you are and where you’re from.
For this alone, all other benefits of studying and working abroad notwithstanding, makes the entire experience of putting oneself out of one’s comfort zone absolutely worth the price of admission.
People who study abroad are assumed to have been born with the proverbial silver spoon in their mouths.
If you go abroad to study art, the silver spoon is assumed to be up your ass.
This assumption is made because studying abroad–especially if you are coming from a developing country–is extremely expensive. So costly in fact, that even citizens from developed countries wishing to pursue higher education would need to borrow money to do so.
In my case, I have never studied art in a school. The only time I ever studied abroad before now was when I was an exchange student in Norwaywhere I won a scholarship under the Youth For Understanding Exchange Program, and was hosted by host families.
Now that I have the luxury of going back to school to take a Masters in Arts and Cultural Management in Barcelona, Spain, it is not difficult to assume that I am one of the idle rich.
It is true that I am quite fortunate to have this opportunity, and that far from starving, I have, until around a year ago, lived rent-free in my father’s home. Living at home until one is well into one’s 30’s (I know some who are in their 40’s) is a fairly common practice in Philippine society–one that I have repeatedly tried to break away from at various points in my life.
But in fact, this schooling is funded entirely through savings that I have accumulated over the years. A significant portion of this is from commissioned art works as well as sale of stock investments. I have long wanted to study animation or art, but the schools I want to go to (the School of Visual Arts or the Vancouver Film School, where I had gained an acceptance) were beyond what I could afford.
The one-year graduate program at the International University of Catalonia on the other hand, was. But just. I have enough to cover the tuition fee, one-way ticket, and visa fees. For the living expenses however, I have enough only for a portion of my study period. Therefore, paid work is of the essence.
For more of a challenge, Spain is currently undergoing a recession. And in an economic downturn, the first to get cut from the budget are culture and the arts. And Barcelona has no shortage of creative, talented folks. You just have to go to any public space or subway, where you will be blown away by the level of talent on display. But there is a reason that the stereotype of the Starving Artist came to be–and persists to this day: Artists, more often than not, do not make money from their art. In fact, the joke is that whenever anyone responds “I am an artist” to the question “So what do you do?”, the follow up is, “And what is your day job?”
So for the past three months, I had to figure out a way to earn some money.
Use the Internet
The Internet is your friend. Use wordpress, twitter, facebook, instagram, and behance, etc, as freely-available platforms to showcase your work.
Specific to Barcelona are sites likeLoquo,Craigslist, where you can see job postings and advertise your services as well, and, if you are able to teach any thing, TusClasesParticulares, which is where the above ad is from. I posted my services as an art and english teacher for kids. So far no takers.
I’ve sought work in another country through freelance sites like oDesk, at the recommendation of friends who’ve been able to earn consistently.
Show Your Work
Artists sometimes have problems blowing their own horn, as in my case. But in order to get people interested, you cannot simply describe your work, you have to show them.
In the above photo, I happened to come across a nice little bookshop which had artwork on display. Upon making some tentative inquiries with the owner (who didn’t speak any English), I learned that they have art exhibitions every month. When I showed her some of my work, she said she would be open to my doing an exhibit in her bookshop sometime next year. We’ll see how that goes. Other great venues to offer to display your work are pubs, restaurants, and offices. It goes without saying that the venue gets a commission if some of your work is sold, but it’s good to get an agreement on paper in this case.