…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.
In less than a week I will be saying goodbye to my family, my friends, my country, and all that I know so well. Goodbye to the familiar food, sights, sounds, currency, routes, weather, and smells.
It won’t be the first time I’ve gone abroad to study. When I was in secondary school I was a YFU (Youth For Understanding) exchange student to Norway where I was hosted by several families. When I left the Philippines for Norway in 1996, the Internet was still a novelty in those parts of the world. Letters were sent through the post instead of through email, and I remember my father giving me $2500 as pocket money for one year. It was the most money I had ever had , and by the end of the year, I hadn’t even spent all of it.
Seventeen years later I am once again heading out into the great unknown, but this time on my own. After weeks of gathering the necessary paperwork I have taken all my savings, liquidated my investments, made a downpayment on the tuition fee, and bought a one-way ticket to Spain. I don’t have a place to stay when I arrive, and since my funds aren’t enough to cover living expenses, I plan to work in order to support myself during my studies.
This is a chronicle of my journey, a life experiment if you will, and perhaps, it may serve as a guide to any of you out there who dream of venturing outside your comfort zone. Of making mistakes, of falling flat, so many times that you become immune to the pain, and become very good at dusting yourself off.
See you out there.
For a theme song, I thought This Year from the Mountain Goats’ The Sunset Tree album would be appropriate.