Student Perspectives ) SPAIN
Coming into this program I did not admittedly know anything about Cava. I had never even heard of it before I got an email about the events during the program when we would be visiting a Cava vineyard as well as where Cava is actually made. My hesitant preconceived notions about the day trip were shattered after only a couple of hours touring the vineyard. I did not realize all of the hard work that went into each bottle of Cava. My favorite vineyard or Cava cellar/factory was the second one and the smaller one, Torrallardona Cavas. There was so much pride and knowledge that went into that place. From an outsider’s perspective Cava just seems like a drink similar to champagne but after visiting this place, it became more than that. Each bottle is a result of precious time and care from another person. Whether the Cava is aged or sweetened does not matter because it is the result of a hardworking family. At Torrallardona we were told that Cava is very popular in the town and the country especially around certain times of the year. It was just a simple Spanish tradition that we were welcomed into for a day.
CATALAN TRADITIONS WORKSHOP
I had various [thoughts] about the San Juan holiday upon arriving in Barcelona but admittedly most of the things that I had heard were not very positive. Before the Catalan traditions workshop I did not know about any of the Festas or traditions associated with them. I learned so much about Catalan culture in an hour and a half. We did learn a little about Catalan culture during Franco’s dictatorship but the main focus was on typical culture for a typical Catalan.
“… it was something that seems so strange from the perspective of a different culture but has been integrated so much into Catalan culture that the practice is almost innate.”
I really enjoyed learning about the Castells; it was something that seems so strange from the perspective of a different culture but has been integrated so much into Catalan culture that the practice is almost innate. For instance, how little children in the villages volunteer to be the one to go to the very top. If a situation like that was proposed to a little 5-year-old American, there would be outrage by the apartments and the child would probably be very afraid and refuse to do it. I really learned a lot from Laia’s presentation. Learning a little bit of the Sardana dance was a lot of fun. This was the first time I experienced coca as well and I think it is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
SANTA MARIA DEL MAR
My favorite place in the city is Santa Maria del Mar. I first stumbled upon the church my second weekend in Barcelona after coming back from the beach. The design and architecture of the church is truly unique but the overall feeling of the church surpasses any physical element. I learned merely from the readings and bulletins around the church that the Catalan language was well regarded and respected in Santa Maria. While the church is highly regarded in the city (and a common stop for tourists) and a beautiful site to see, I believe the church itself is a symbol of Barcelona as a whole. There have been smooth (the church was built in a very short amount of time) and rocky (numerous fires in the church) parts for both. Nevertheless, Santa Maria del Mar is very unique. Some of the walls are blackened by fires, the columns are very thin for a Gothic church, and an old statue of Santa Maria is placed on the altar with a wooden model of a ship. I feel like each time I visit Santa Maria I learn something new about Barcelona whether it be a new Catalan word or part of the religious history of Catalonia.
I came into this program essentially not knowing anything about Catalan culture or even basic knowledge about geography and language. I was under the impression that Catalan was merely a dialect of the Spanish language. After arriving in Barcelona, I was soon corrected and taught about the Catalan culture and language. Living here for a mere six weeks has really allowed me to appreciate Catalan culture and the lifestyle. I learned more about the relationship between Catalonia and Spain and the history behind that relationship. While my Spanish has improved a great deal, I cannot say the same for my Catalan. I appreciate the language itself but as for learning and speaking it, I think I still have a lot more studying to do.
The three activities above that I participated in set up a framework of knowledge for me about Catalonia culture, religion, and history. I am glad that I am at a point now where I can understand where the tension between Catalonia and Spain comes from or why there is not any tension for some people. I also find it really interesting that things I had previously associated with Spain is really part of Catalonia like Sardana dance, coca, and Festa Major. Overall I am very happy with my experience in Catalonia. I feel like I learned specific Catalonia culture things that I would not have learned had I studied abroad somewhere else. I had traveled to southern France before this study abroad program started and I wish that I would have known a little more about Catalan culture before I had gone. I do not speak French so I do not know if I would have been able to pick out any Catalan but I want to travel to other parts of Catalonia now and compare the culture or see Catalan in other parts of the nation other than Barcelona.