How Not to Starve in Spain (And Other Food Abroad Stories)

Keely Meyers is a student at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor and is an intern in Barcelona this spring. Read about her adventures with food in Spain and how it has unexpectedly impacted her intern abroad experience!


One of the things I was most excited about while traveling abroad was the food. I couldn’t wait to try new things, cook traditional meals, and learn more about the Spanish culture through something I already loved. Food has played an integral part in my experience abroad. All of my experiences surrounding food – the good, the bad, and the ugly – have taught me more about myself and my host culture. 

Chocolate con churros from Cafe de l’Opera
Chocolate con churros from Cafe de l’Opera

Cooking and Eating in Spain

Learning to cook Catalan food has been one of the best parts of enjoying food in Spain. I took a Catalan cooking class as part of the cultural activities through CISabroad and learned how to make traditional foods such as calçots and romesco sauce, artichokes, pan con tomate, paella, crema catalana, and tortilla española. I also got to keep the recipes to take home and impress my family and friends with my new skills and broadened palate.

The culture around food here is much different than it is at home. For example, meal times in Spain are not what I am used to. Here, locals eat a large lunch around two o’clock in the afternoon and take their time, similar to how many Americans eat dinner. The dinners here, on the other hand, are very small and eaten late at night – usually around 10 or 11 o’clock! It took a while to get used to the different eating schedule, but embracing the different mealtimes has made me feel more immersed in the local culture.

Also different from the U.S. is the amount of time devoted to cooking and enjoying food. Spaniards take a lot of pride in preparing their food from the freshest ingredients and enjoying the eating experience with family and friends. There are various mercats around the city – markets where you can find the freshest fruits, vegetables, meats, and seafoods – where locals buy ingredients to cook with. Cooking and eating meals are also much longer processes than they are back home, often lasting multiple hours.

Fresh fruits from Mercat de La Boqueria in Barcelona

Fresh fruits from Mercat de La Boqueria in Barcelona

Trying New Foods

Trying new foods is something that I definitely wanted to do while abroad. One of my rules while traveling has been to never say no to something I was offered – no matter how weird or scary it seemed. Because of my self-enforced rule, I have enjoyed culinary “delights” such as blood sausage, cow intestine, octopus, squid, and anchovies. Even if I hated them, I knew it was important to try new things and embrace local flavors. I have also gone out to new restaurants or been invited over to eat meals with new friends and tried foods I never would have back home, including pho from a traditional restaurant in Paris, authentic Chinese food from a local restaurant in Barcelona, and home-cooked Argentinian asado. I have found some surprising new favorite foods and learned that things I was too scared to eat weren’t actually so bad! (Except anchovies, those were about as bad as they sound.)

Some of my favorite local foods that I have tried have been the tapas. I have tried ham croquetas, pan con tomate, patatas bravas, and many more. I have also enjoyed cava, the Spanish version of champagne, and went on a cava tour with my site director to learn about the history and production process of this regional drink.

Another local eating experience I had here was taking part in a calçotada – a large feast centered around sweet onions called calçots. The process of eating calçots is both messy and fun, and is an important local tradition that I absolutely loved experiencing.

Tapas feast from my welcome lunch with CISabroad
Tapas feast from my welcome lunch with CISabroad

Grocery Shopping

Trying new foods has also come naturally because of the different selection in supermarkets in Barcelona. Brands and even types of food from home are not found here, which has forced me to push myself outside of my comfort zone, craft new recipes, and pick up local habits. When one of those habits includes picking up a fresh-baked baguette daily, I’m not one to complain!

Grocery shopping in Spain was definitely an experience the first time I went. For one thing, the grocery stores are all closed on Sundays and often close much earlier than American supermarkets on weeknights. As a result, my first Sunday in Barcelona also happened to be a very hungry day for me! When I did find an open grocery store the next day, it took a little getting used to. I vividly remember shopping with my roommate, who was searching for milk. Eventually, she had to ask a woman in the store where it was. The woman gave her a confused look and proceeded to point right next to the shelf where the two were standing, not understanding how we didn’t know to look for the milk on the shelf and not in the refrigerated section. Embarrassed, we thanked her and proceeded to the checkout. However, another thing we did not know about grocery shopping in Spain was that grocery bags were not free. We tried to save some money by carrying our groceries home in our arms, struggling and laughing the whole way home. We did not know at the time, but the bags were only 10 cents – definitely worth getting to avoid dropping your eggs on the city streets.

Food has been a huge part of my experience here in Barcelona and has been a way for me to challenge myself to try new things, learn about local customs and cuisine, and immerse myself in the daily life of a local. I have learned to be open to new things, try my hand at cooking once in a while (I’m not quite as terrible as I thought), and use food as a way to connect with people and cultures from around the world.


Want to learn more about how you can have an amazing experience in Spain? It’s easy with CISabroad! 

Barcelona to Morocco: CISabroad Study Abroad Excursion

 

“Joining in on this experience allowed me to feel welcomed into a culture of community.” Chelsea Couture, Program Coordinator

CISabroad students studying or interning in Barcelona have an opportunity to travel to Morocco.

Excursion to Morocco

Photo by Taylor Williams, CISabroad Intern in Barcelona

We recently caught up with our program coordinator, Chelsea Couture, to inform us about this amazing opportunity. Interns may be able to attend if the trip falls during their internship. Fall and Spring semester students enrolled at The Barcelona Semester have it included in their program. (For students attending the Semester at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona or Semester at University of Barcelona the trip will cost about 500 Euros to join or go on their own). We recommend students contact our onsite staff for recommendations and to also notify us about their travel plans.
Excursion to Morocco When do students usually have the opportunity to travel to Morocco? In the fall or spring semester CISabroad students have the opportunity to travel around their third month. It’s usually around the time students are comfortable traveling around Europe, feeling more like a local in Barcelona and they are ready to step a bit more out of their comfort zone. What are some of the difference students will notice right away when they arrive in Morocco? Easy. The arrival, the culture, the food and the language. The Arrival. If they arrived in Barcelona at the start of their semester abroad they most likely arrived in a highly modern airport with high end shops and a variety of restaurants to choose from right in the terminal. In Morocco, it’s simple. When I arrived in Tangier we stepped off the airplane onto the tarmac and there were only 1-2 places to eat, no shops, no unnecessary glamour.   The People and Culture. There were people everywhere. People who were so welcoming, whether it be just saying hello, asking you to sit and share a cup of delicious Moroccan mint tea, or opening up their home to you for a Friday couscous. The ever present sense of community in Morocco was unlike any I had every experienced in my travels. During meals large families eat out of the same bowl with their hands. Joining in on this experience allowed me to feel welcomed into a culture of community. 

Excursion to Morocco

Photo by Taylor Williams, CISabroad Intern in Barcelona

Excursion to Morocco

Photo credit: Taylor Williams, CISabroad Intern in Barcelona

The Food. I may have easily packed on about 5 lbs over roughly 4 days. The surplus of honey garnished treats, fresh fruits, home baked breads, tagines, and couscous dishes made it hard to leave. The Language. Our study abroad students and interns in Barcelona are used to speaking English throughout Europe when needed, but in Morocco this is not the case. Depending on the region you may hear French, tje Moroccan dialect of Arabaic, other variations of Arabic, and even some Spanish. It’s helpful to learn a few phrases before you arrive. For example: Salam = Hello; Shukran = Thank you;  Humdililah = to show gratefulness (literally translates to Thanks be to God) As a woman traveler yourself, what tips do you have for other women traveling to Morocco? The guides we hire to travel with us to Morocco prepare us and suggest women wear long sleeves or at least cover their shoulders, bring a scarf to cover head etc. no flashy jewelry. We traveled with an organized group so we were never alone. Morocco is a relatively safe place, yet it is easy to stand out as a tourist. Be respectful, participate in local customs, and enjoy the incredible hospitality of Moroccans.
Lastly, what is your favorite part about the CISabroad student excursion to Morocco? The round table and peer to peer discussions we have with local moroccans. Our students are able to dispel myths about Muslims, create a common ground, and learn that young adults around the world are all influenced by pop culture, have the same worries, dreams, and friendships. Also, I loved the Hammam- aka the public bath houses. Public bath houses is something that may sound scary to your average American, but I have never been more empowered, experienced such a sense of community, or felt so clean as I did when participated in the unique Hammam culture! Morocco is truly a life enriching experience that varies so greatly from the US, Barcelona, and even most of Western Europe.

Taking Five: Insights to a summer study abroad in Spain

Have you considered studying abroad in Spain, but always wondered what the experience would truly be like? We recently got the inside scoop from one of our summer study abroad students in Spain, Alexa! Read on to gain insight and travel tips from the winner of our La Vida Local scavenger hunt competition, and check out the photos that earned her free churros con chocolate—yum!

"Scavenger hunt item 3: Snap a selfie in Plaza Mayor!

“Scavenger hunt item 3: Snap a selfie in Plaza Mayor!

What made you choose Spain as your study abroad destination?
Given that I had already traveled abroad to a few different cities in Mexico, I thought it would be a great opportunity to visit a different Spanish speaking country…and what better way to complete my Spanish studies than to spend a month immersing myself into the beautiful country of España!

What have been the top highlights from your time here?
In all honestly the entire trip has been the highlight of my year! In comparison to my last semester at Friends University to now I have gained a tremendous amount of confidence in speaking Spanish. During my time here I have not been afraid or nervous to ask for help or directions, to spark up conversation with my host parents, or to barter with local vendors. I have also had an amazing time sightseeing. Whether it be during a guided tour, a paseo through nearby towns or simply walking to and from class every day. There is always something to be mesmerized by. I have also enjoyed people watching, everyone here gets together at their favorite cafeteria to have a tea or coffee and chat with their friends or family; I love it! It’s almost like there’s a pause in the day solely for tea or coffee time. It has been so nice to be able to experience that with the most beautiful scenery surrounding us.

If you could go back and do one thing differently about your program, what would that be?
It’s hard to say. Surprisingly enough I packed very light and it worked out great! I also took both a weekend and a single day trip to other towns during free time. So, the only thing I can think of is not revisiting some of the sights we visited during guided tours.

What is one thing about the Spanish lifestyle you’d like to bring back to the US?

Alexa enjoying her victory churros at Cafe Futbol in Granada, Spain

Alexa enjoying her victory churros at Cafe Futbol in Granada, Spain


Tapas! It doesn’t get any better than a free snack with your favorite beverage  ☺

What advice would you give to future students planning to study abroad in Spain?

Challenge yourself! Push yourself to try new things. Every time something seems “different” to you, step back and try to see it in a different light with an open mind. If you do that, you’ll be able to think back on “that one time I went to Spain” and remember how you tried a new food, asked a stranger for directions, or conversed with someone from a different culture. You won’t regret it!


Ready to take your summer study abroad or internship to the next level? Contact a CISabroad study abroad advisor today.

Barcelona for LGBTQIA Students Abroad

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Hi Everyone! My name is Pam and I’m a marketing intern at CISAbroad. This past summer, I studied abroad in Barcelona, Spain and backpacked around Europe. It all seems like a two-month dream now that it’s passed and I’m here in snowy Northampton!

My experience studying abroad was amazing in every way and a tad different from other students seeing as I identify as queer. Being a member of the LGBTQIA community is something that is a huge part of my life and it was important to me to bring that with me overseas. I wanted to share with you what my experience was like in Barcelona and offer some great things to do in Barcelona for LGBTQIA students who decide that Spain is the study abroad destination for them!

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Park Guel

Let me start off by saying that Barcelona, Spain is an amazing place to go for LGBTQIA-identifying individuals. The culture and people are both lively and accepting. Same sex marriage was made legal in Spain in 2005, making it the third country in the world to do so! There is no need to fear being as out (or not!) as you want in Barcelona. It is a safe and welcoming place for people of all identities.

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View from the top of La Sagrada Familia

The district of Eixample is affectionately referred to as Gay-xample by many. The area is home to many popular LGBT+ bars, shops, and restaurants. The area is large and is not a strictly gay area, but if you are looking for LGBTQIA destinations, then this is the place to go. You can find fun places to grab something to eat, window shop, or go out dancing with friends! Eixample is also home to many historic sites including La Sagrada Familia and Antoni Gaudi’s Casa Milla.

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Sitges, Spain

 

Want an LGBTQIA-filled day trip? Sitges is just a short 40-minute train ride away and is a popular destination for gay men and women, especially in the summer. Sitges is a vibrant and cultural hub having attracted the likes of Pablo Picasso and Santaigo Rusinol. The city is popular for it’s yearly Carnaval, gay pride, and international film festival. Rainbow flags can be seen sprawling the streets day and night in this cute beach town. Whether you want to spend a day soaking up the sun on the gorgeous beaches, head to a museum, or window shop from the many gay-friendly shops, you won’t be disappointed.

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My friends and I dancing in the Pride Parade

I wanted to experience the LGBTQIA culture in Spain and see what it was all about! One of the most memorable weekends I had in the city was at Barcelona Gay Pride. Barcelona Pride electrifies the city in a a ten-day long affair full of events, activities, conferences, and most notably a parade down one of Barcelona’s busiest streets, Avinguda Paral·lel. I even danced in the parade with friends and almost got pulled onto a float!  If you find yourself in Barcelona mid-late June, make sure to make your way over to a pride event. The energy and feeling of community are infectious!

Overall, my experience as a queer student in Barcelona couldn’t have been better. I made friends with LGBTQIA-identified locals, felt comfortable in a city that was accepting of my identity, and was able to explore a part of the culture that is important to me. There are many reasons to love the city of Barcelona, and it’s LGBTQIA friendly atmosphere is just one of them!

 

 

Alumnus Spotlight: Summer in Madrid, Spain

HalHal McKinley is a rising Senior Business Management Major at Hampton University. He spent this past summer with CISabroad’s  Summer at Nebrija University in Madrid, Spain. We caught up with him for a brief interview regarding his experience and advice for students looking to study abroad!

 

Summer in Madrid, Spain

Metro stop in Madrid, Spain

Why did you choose a summer in Spain program?
As a Californian, I have grown up close to the Spanish language and I have always wanted to expand on the language because I find it beneficial for business and life.

Where did you live while in Madrid?
I stayed in a residency in the heart of Madrid near downtown with students and interns from several different countries. I loved the location and the culture I was exposed to through my roommates.

What do you miss most about your experience abroad?
I miss nothing more than the freshness of the fruit from the local fruterias.

Summer in Madrid, Spain

If you could go back and do one day over again, which would it be?
I would go back to the World Cup quarter-finals at the Holland House. The atmosphere was contagious and exciting.

Spain takes on Holland in the 2014 FIFA World Cup

Spain takes on Holland in the 2014 FIFA World Cup

What are five things you wish you packed?
I wish I would have packed shorts, thin t shirts, and more sneakers. Nothing else.

Any advice for future students?
Go to Spain! This experience made me feel free and it expanded my expectations for life.

Summer in Madrird

Any stories that you’d like to share from your trip?
The trip was more special because of the walls that God knocked down in front of me to make it happen.

Curious to know more about Hal and why he chose Spain for the summer? You can reach him via email at hal.mckinley93 (at)gmail.com

Illustration: https://happymenocal.com/

Photo: https://www.dw.de/young-netherlands-team-shocks-spain-in-world-cup-rematch/a-17706271

 

Road Trip to Portugal

Amanda Zetah is a featured blogger and a student at Colorado State University. She studied abroad in England in the spring of 2013.

Currently, we are driving to Portugal and I’m in the midst of reading another book to pass the time away. I really enjoyed the short road trip of four hours from Spain to Portugal because we got to talk and listen to music and see some of Spain that you wouldn’t normally see. We finally arrived in Portugal at literally, the nicest hotel ever. Thank god we got this free hotel with my friend’s airline miles. I’m a lucky girl!

It’s my first five star hotel and once I got in that bed, I sure couldn’t get out of it. It’s like sleeping on a cloud of happiness and cupcakes. I took a small nap and Luke ventured out to get us some awesome sandwiches. They have great cheese here as well. What is it with these Spanish-speaking countries and their cheese?!

Then, we celebrated our successful road trip with some sushi by the beach. We walked along the beach for a bit, but it was chilly so that didn’t last too long.

On the way home, we got a little lost and ended up getting pulled over by cops with guns. Apparently, they were looking for a criminal and decided to pick on the tourists in the meantime. It was scary to say the least, but we managed to work our way out of the situation with our handy-dandy passports.

We are officially calling it a night. I’m excited to lay by the beach all day tomorrow.

Also, I know absolutely no Portuguese. The language barrier keeps getting worse! The funny thing is, they speak more English than Spanish, but I keep telling them “gracias.” I keep assuming they’ll know what I’m saying, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Oh well! Guess I’ll have to practice more of my Portuguese. Maybe I’ll read a book about that on the return trip home.

Have you ever been to Portugal? Leave a comment below!

Internship and Tapas

Ashanka Kumari is a featured blogger and student at University of Alabama. She is currently studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain. 

Today was the beginning of my last week at my internship. I know I will definitely miss working at this company and am fortunate to have had the opportunity to work here for six weeks. When I mentioned it to my supervisor, she could not believe that it was already time for my final week. She thought that only three weeks had passed and told me that she would definitely miss having me around.

At work, I worked on a couple of articles but only successfully finished one: Title defender continues charge. The communication on the other articles is still a working process, so we’ll see if those happen soon.

After work, I met with another intern and we went to a nearby restaurant and had lunch. I had Croquettes de Pollo, a delicious Tapa which is fried similarly to a mozzarella stick but smaller in size and can be filled with either chicken, ham or cheese (as far as I’ve seen) and a bacon and cheese sandwich. It was all very good. I’m definitely going to miss Tapas.

Following lunch, I went back to my home stay and enjoyed the rest of day off. Tomorrow I plan on going to finish my to-do list at last and seeing the stadium/area where the 1992 Summer Olympics were held. Hasta luego!

What is your favorite part about an internship abroad? Leave a comment below! 

4th of July in Barcelona

Ashanka Kumari is a featured blogger studying at the University of Alabama. She is currently studying abroad in Barcelona. Today, I revised and re-edited the article I wrote for the Russian and main magazine yesterday to further please the Russian editor’s plan for the magazine. I also translated a web blurb for my boss from Spanish to English. Although it was Independence Day in America, it seemed that Barcelona was rather dead. After work, I went home and watched movies on my laptop for the majority of the remainder of the day.

For dinner, my host mom surprised me and made a spinach dish (which was pretty good) with cheese and bacon, since she knew I like spinach. I appreciate how hard she tries to make me feel at home. After dinner, I accompanied my host mother at La Nena and was reminded how much of a barrier there can be between cultures. When discussing Independence Day with my host mother, she asked if it was the holiday where they serve turkey and have big dinners, which I told her was Thanksgiving. Sometimes I forget that America has its own holidays and traditions but it’s always interesting to try to explain them to those who aren’t as familiar with them. Have you ever celebrated different holidays abroad? Leave a comment below!

Adios, Barcelona!

Ashanka Kumari is a featured blogger who is currently an intern in Barcelona, Spain. My last day in Spain began with the usual breakfast of toast. Yes, I’ve literally had toast for the last 40 days of my stay in Spain. The jams have been varied and occasionally I have been given the option of cream cheese. Sometimes I get two pieces of toast with a sandwich (either just cheese or turkey and cheese) on the side or I get four pieces of toast. I must say, I am craving cereal and other breakfast foods. However, a small part of me will miss the regularly expected toast. After breakfast, I mentally planned out my packing and then waited around until I went to have my final lunch in Barcelona on the top of Las Arenas with another intern. It was cool to finally get to eat on top of one of my favorite sites in the city. I had a lovely lunch of some tapas and guacamole. Afterwards, we went to the bottom floor of Las Arenas where there are many cafes and restaurants and got some delicious ice cream! Following my lunch trip, I went back to my home stay for about two hours before going to see another intern perform in a dance show. It was really cool to attend the show and see all the different contemporary dances. My friend did a fantastic job performing! Finally, I took the metro for the last time and returned to my home stay to shower and pack before dinner. Packing took me about 30-45 minutes since I had already mentally prepared for it and I believe I have everything minus a few small things ready to go for the morning. Dinner consisted of one of the best pork cutlets I’ve ever had! It was even stuffed with bacon, which was absolutely delicious. These last six weeks have been an incredible journey and I will never forget my time in Barcelona. It’s hard to believe that this is my last day. This evening, my host mother and roommate and I went to La Nena, as per my choice to celebrate my birthday and my last day. My host mother gave me beautiful earrings as a gift and she treated my roommate and I to some drinks. We stayed for about two hours enjoying a variety of conversation topics and laughs. It was really fun and I’m glad that I got to end my last night in Barcelona this way. My flight leaves at 11:20 a.m. and I will pack my computer and final things up before going to bed soon to rest up for the long day ahead. Adios, Barcelona. I will definitely miss you! Have you ever been to Barcelona and what did you enjoy most? Leave a comment below!

Venturing around Malaga, Spain

Amanda Zetah is a featured blogger and student at Colorado State University. She traveled to Spain in the spring of 2013. 

Malaga Spain is blowing my mind. Blowing. My. Mind.181240_10201195480432887_582548025_n

Kendall and I honestly had no idea what to expect when we booked this trip and we tried to couch surf during our stay, but then it fell through.

So we are staying at Feels Hostel City Center. And the title isn´t joking. It´s literally in the center of Malaga.

Getting to our hostel was interesting. After our flight with RyanAir, we grabbed some cash from the ATM and navigated towards the taxis. My Spanish was alright, I was able to communicate where we needed to go.

And then, the funniest thing happened. A group of twenty five or so taxi drivers started rambling on about how they had never heard of that hostel and they were rapidly typing it into their GPS and scratching their heads.IMG_7725

Finally, after much deliberation, one of the taxi drivers chuckled and let us hop into his taxi. From there, it was only a fifteen minute ride and it was 10 euro. This city is cheap.

On the ride over, we passed the Alcazaba and this huge cathedral and cobblestone streets full of people dancing and eating and chatting away, even though it was 12:15 in the morning.

Kendall and I walked into an awesome hostel, dropped off our bags, and meandered around town a bit. What a great place! The weather is super nice, we are close to the beach, and our hostel hosts paella night tomorrow. Not to mention, we saw some guapo chicos all over the place.229666_10201195479672868_76936343_n

Looks like we´ll be having a great time in Malaga! We are trying to head to Morocco for a day since Malaga is so close the the port of the Straight of Gibraltar. Might as well hop over to Africa for a bit. I mean, why not?

Have you ever been to Spain? What was your favorite part? Leave a comment below!