Guest Post By Marketing Junior Kelsey Chuang. She is a Foster Undergraduate who participated in the Foster Barcelona Program in Summer 2018.
It is inevitable that, as time ticks slowly and steadily away, our memories will become sluggish, as though swimming through thick syrup. Now, safely back home in Taipei City, Taiwan, reflecting back on these past six weeks with ALBA [Foster Barcelona Program] study abroad program, my time in Barcelona starts to feel like an enchanted, hazy dream in the back of my mind.
My family and relatives in Taiwan have undoubtedly peppered me with questions about how they think Spanish people would behave or like to do. While some of the remarks are indeed quite stereotyping and prejudicial, I can understand how the media have influenced them, having never step foot in the region, to think a certain way about the Spanish lifestyle. I do not blame them, but I wished that I could have whisked them off to Spain to experience the life by my side.
Immersing myself deeply in a totally distinct culture stunned me in various ways! I feel like I have shed some old skin to become a different person, as though my senses have been pried open even more sharply by the unfamiliar environment. I began to take note of all the quirky things while living in my apartment on Rambla del Poblenou and traveling all over the city in between my business and Spanish classes.
Initially, it was the unique weather and surroundings that baffled me. Can you imagine the sun setting around 9:30 pm everyday, pushing back dinner time to 10 pm? In Taiwan, as we’re so near the equator, just thinking about it is truly absurd. The sounds of people chattering heartily, glasses clinking and musicians playing violins (and sometimes piano-playing puppets) for dinner guests are still in full swing at midnight, leaving me and my roommates speechless in disbelief and awe. The breezy outdoor seating with huge umbrellas propped all along the streets is also a intriguingly different scene compared to the forever rainy and stormy Taipei City, where all the stores are crammed indoors. Stepping out of my Poblenou apartment and going left straight down the road, the vast sky and huge stretch of sandy beach along the Mediterranean sea greeted me within a mere 15 minutes.
Interestingly, I hardly saw any Asians as I made my way through the bustling streets and crowded metro stations. This made me feel quite uneasy and unsettling, sticking out awkwardly among people with skin the color of toasted almonds. And interestingly, the popularity of Asian cuisine has not spread into Barcelona yet (getting decent kimchi, bubble tea, or dumplings is strangely difficult)
Then it was the language. People speak Spanish so freakingly fast the sounds are gibberish to my ears. While I did start learning Spanish there, whenever I spoke it was like moving marbles with my tongue, the words rolling disobediently and making me stumble over the pronunciation. After adding in conjugations, I feel as though my mind was racing my mouth to match the right verb tense with the subject. By the end of the program, my Spanish did not improve a whole lot, but I am able to recognize some simple words and pretend I can speak Spanish with my “Hola” and “Cuanto cuesta?” when purchasing in stores.
How could I forget the food? We had weekly cooking classes taught by Aurora, our sassy Spanish cooking instructor. We’ve made Spanish tortilla, seafood paella with shrimp and mussels, crema Catalana (like creme brulee), tomato bread, gazpacho (cold tomato soup) and sangria…I’ve also had some lip-smacking Catalan sausage and olives, delectable panna cotta with blueberries, and glasses after glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice. Plenty of us have indulged in cones of flavorful gelato whenever it gets too hot (which is nearly everyday).