Linguaschools Barcelona – this is the school at which I spend 2-3 hours of intense classes every day for two weeks this summer. I set out on this journey because I had for long studied Spanish and wanted to finally just get on with it, and thank goodness, now I could do so more seriously than with Duolingo. Though short, my classes focus on speaking above all, and teach me all about chiringuitos and what’s chulo that I need to know to later pretend I am half-Spanish when I meet a local friend of a friend.
After those hours I have a lot of time to wander on my own, and I imagine many alternative lives I could lead in Spain. I walk the parks Güell and Montjuïc, and sit alone at a sleepy lunchtime having tapas in Gracia, the neighbourhood awakening as children come out to play barefoot on the town square and Catalan protest songs begin.
More than ever, I realise I will always be a tourist in most places in the world. The graffiti on many walls tells me to go home, and I see how my presence in an over-crowded, financialised, city is affecting the residents.
On the other hand, I am and will always be interested in learning. During my two weeks at the language school I move up from A2 to B1, but way more than the levels express I gain a lot confidence in speaking.
Though it’s Spanish that I study, I am also fascinated by the Catalan language and learn enough to shop for gaspatxo, si us plau… In any case, my Spanish becomes good enough for me to spend 30 minutes with an eager cheese monger who explains to me all the ways in which the Catalan language was oppressed in the public sphere during Franco’s dictatorship. That, perhaps, is the moment which encapsulates my time in Barcelona the best.
There’s something special in learning the ways of another culture, and I am privileged to have attempted to do so out of my own volition and with the support of my home university and a language school with so many charming and professional teachers.
While my partner is Spanish, and though I have been thinking about moving there once I graduate, I don’t think I could have gone through with it without first personally experiencing the pull of that country so complex and rich both culturally, linguistically, and politically.
My last thought in Barcelona, on the day I board a bus for Madrid and the next adventure, is that I am already too used to late-night dinners, sun, incredible bookshops and open people for me to simply go home the way I was before. Affected by the local atmosphere more than I could have hoped, I feel that my time here, enabled by the GoAbroad fund, might just have cemented in me a part-guilty, part-expectant desire to not go home for good.