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My semester in Barcelona

Last September, I moved to Barcelona for an exchange semester at UPC. Now that I’m leaving the city, I want to look back on the past months.

Living in Spain was a dream come true. Since I was little, I felt attracted to the country: the people, the language and the weather. Barcelona was an obvious choice after falling in love with the city and making a good friend there in 2018. I wanted to take these months for exploration and self discovery. I paused my work contract to find time for side projects and to go out.

Living with roomies

I moved in a shared flat with my friend which was also my first true roomie experience. After living alone for more than a year, I got to enjoy the solitude, but it was interesting to live in a more lively environment. Living under the same roof with someone provides a deep view into how they live and deal with all kinds of daily situations. As a result, I adopted some of their behaviors - some intentionally, some unconsciously. Two of my roommates are a couple and I liked how openly they would discuss their worries and feelings. I come from a family where we did not share much personal feelings, so I tend to choke them up, but my roomie told me how good it feels to vent off and not let problems accumulate. There is a healthy limit of course, but I agree and have been opening up on my inner thoughts.

Eating vegan

Secondly, I got into veganism through my roommates. They are good and healthy cooks and I liked to explore new meals. I started eating more vegetables (steamed 👌) and got new food inspirations. I realized how I could mostly drop all of the non-vegan stuff and find good substitutes. I already mostly avoided meat before (for health and ethical reasons) but consumed lots of dairies, eggs etc. My friend raised my awareness for how I equally support industrial livestock farming with those animal products, just like meat. I did not become vegan, but I’ve set it as my baseline.

Side projects

Working on my own projects was challenging and highly rewarding at the same time. It’s challenging because there is no one to keep you responsible and motivated. On the other hand, finishing a project pushes the confidence in one’s own skills and seeing people star the project, because they might potentially find it useful, feels great. My biggest project was my personal search engine misou. It started as a Hackathon project with some friends from uni and I continued working on it to practice and make it usable. On the side, I was reading O’reilly literature on TDD, polished up on Typescript and React and enjoyed how I could bring into practice in my project without excuses (dirty legacy code..). With a classmate, I solved a small kata to practice TDD and get to know Svelte. It was really fun but also instructive to see the others perspective. I also developed a little blog CLI which is super useful to me and forked a personal CRM to my needs.

Reserving time for my learning goals and work on what seems meaningful to me is something I definitely plan to keep.

Swimming and Salsa

I found much more time to exercise and rediscovered swimming. I like how swimming calms the mind and brings the focus to the body. Compared to other sports, I find it easier to do deliberate practice: focusing on breathing, body movements. And observing the improvement always felt rewarding. I went from panting after about 50m to calmly swimming freestyle for more than 1km.

I also went outside to dance much more often. I took my first bachata course and went on a salsa congress. I made progress in my style, but I realized that I need a regular dancing partner to practice outside classes. Consolidating new figuras in memory takes more than one class, but unless I feel good about them I won’t incorporate them into social dance. As a salsa master told me on one occasion: “It takes a lot of practice and going through the basics gets repetitive and boring, but this is what it takes to get good.” I want to keep Salsa as a fun activity and don’t become professional, but I will need more deliberate practice to progress.

☀️🏝😀

The sunny weather and secondly the beach were real boosters for my happiness that I don’t want to miss anymore. Sometimes I would pause and just appreciate how good it is to be here in this moment compared to the grey winter in Germany. The sun is my simple pleasure. Similarly, I also love the sea. I particularly enjoyed yoga classes on the beach in the morning, watching the sunrise, the outdoor beach gym and cold bathing. But even a simple walk by the sea would lift my mood. I’ve set both elements high on the priority list for where I want to live after my studies.

The more social me

Since living alone during COVID times, I spent much less time socializing but also enjoyed spending time with myself. The experience with my roommates and the more social nature of the people here (talking and hanging out..), however got me to rethink. I want to share more with my friends again and seek more time to hang out together. I’ve changed my attitude towards strangers and enjoy talking to new people. In the last weeks that I approached people, I was impressed by the positive responses and amazed by the kind of people I coincidentally met.

Conclusion

The time passed all too fast and I am hesitant to leave. But what lies ahead is the next chapter enriched by all the learnings from the last one. Sure, I won’t have another Erasmus semester but adventures are not a matter of chance or destiny, but rather something that needs to be looked for. I’m excited to see what the next chapter will be!

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