Barcelona always held my interest

Emma Merlo and the view from the bunkers of Barcelona. Foto: Emma Merlo’s archive

I am a 20 year old student at the Haskayne School of Business in Calgary, Canada. I am a major in Risk Management and Insurance and I have studied the Spanish language since a young age. Currently I am studying abroad at ESCI-UPF for one trimester.

My decision to study abroad was a lengthy one. For my whole childhood it was an aspiration of mine as I watched many of my peers travel while attending school. I was involved in competitive sports and so for me leaving home for an extended time was not allowed, due to training/tournament commitments. However, when I started University and left my sport behind, I decided that this was the perfect opportunity.

Through Haskayne, there are many partner universities which occupy many countries. My decision was easy as it was always Barcelona that held my interest. To study at ESCI-UPF I had to complete an application a year ago and subsequently an interview component. At Haskayne only two students were chosen for the program making it a competitive process. When I was notified that I had been chosen for ESCI-UPF tears overwhelmed me instantly, I felt very honoured to accept this wonderful opportunity. The next six months were full of excitement and planning. The month prior to arrival something I had never experienced happened, my excitement and anticipation shifted to a sense of anxiety. I’m sure a lot of my peers can relate to this feeling, being a young person and leaving home for the first time. Change and entering the unknown can be hard to maneuver, but believe me it was also very rewarding. At first, I felt a combination of complete freedom and longing to find a new normal. However, arriving at ESCI-UPF was a very settling feeling, everyone was welcoming and truly there to ensure our comfort.

At ESCI-UPF there was orientation the week before classes start. I think this was a great idea because I got to meet new peers prior to school. After orientation, a few of us immediately stuck as friends and just like that I had my people. The friends I have made in my short time at ESCI-UPF are already irreplaceable. The best part to me is that there are students from all over the world, it allows you to really open your eyes to new experiences. Before this, I was confined to a small space of mind. With only spending a month and a half here so far, my appreciation for every person’s individual differences is enhanced and deeper.

My classes are similar to that of at my home university with the exception of having smaller classes. This allows for a more personalized experience to each student. You are less of a number and more of an individual with importance. My professors make a point to learn who you are and what your background is. All the courses I am taking are counting as options towards my degree which is convenient for me.

My advice to a student considering exchange is to be true to yourself and not to change yourself in order to fit into your new environment. I do think it is important to immerse yourself into the culture, but at your own level of comfort. For me I had to learn the hard way, for example there is a certain drinking culture surrounding university students in Barcelona, I have avoided this but have still found myself in a few undesirable situations. My advice is to keep your friends close and to trust yourself.

As for the city of Barcelona it is truly magical, the streets are the home of intricate architecture and are enriched with history. I could never get bored with something as simple as a walk around my neighbourhood. I personally love architecture and here Gaudí has many inspired works, all which offer their own interesting story. My favourite thing I have done so far is visiting The Bunkers, the view from there is something out of a movie and not to be missed. In my free time, I like to browse the small boutique stores; I love to get unique pieces. I also like to hike and I haven’t gone yet, but I plan to visit Montserrat. I prefer the countryside to the city, so I think this will be perfect for me.

As for the food, I find eating out to be slightly more expensive than in Canada, but the grocery stores are about on par, making cooking in my flat very attractive.

I will never forget my time here and I’ll be forever grateful to everyone who has had a part in making this experience amazing. I have a month and a half left in Barcelona and I am looking forward to exploring the city further!

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