You might be thinking of applying to study at university in Barcelona, or perhaps you’re planning on doing a work placement and are considering Catalonia as one of your options… or maybe the thought has never even entered your head. Whatever your current thoughts and feelings, I’m here to tell you why choosing to spend a year in Catalonia is one of the best decisions you could possibly make.
First things first, the food. It’s AMAZING. Along with all the typical food such as paella, tortilla de patatas and patatas bravas that you would expect to find in Spain, Catalonia has its very own food culture. There is no better way to begin the day with a few slices of Catalonia’s flagship dish, pa amb tomàquet – bread with tomato, drizzled with olive oil and then sprinkled with a pinch of salt – accompanied by some fuet, Catalonia’s take on chorizo. For the more adventurous soul, there are cargols a la llauna – or snails. Popularly associated with French cuisine, snails are a speciality of Lleida where they are usually served accompanied by allioli and vinegar for dipping.
Of course, one of the more obvious reasons to go to Catalonia is that wherever you are, you are always only a stone’s throw away from Barcelona. Whether you are taking a stroll around Gaudí’s Parc Güell, admiring the majesty of Barcelona’s centrepiece la Sagrada Família, or taking in the electric atmosphere at the Camp Nou, there are always plenty of things to do and see in the Catalan capital.
However, if you are more partial to a more leisurely break than the busyness of the bustling city, do not despair. To the south of Barcelona lie the sandy beaches of the Costa Daurada, while to the north you are spoilt for choice with plenty of cosy coves and picturesque towns such as Blanes and Cadaqués lining the region’s Costa Brava coastline. Not to mention, during the winter months, the snowy slopes of the Pyrenees are a short hop away to enjoy a weekend skiing.
Catalonia is also home to some very intriguing traditions. One of the most famous ones is Els Castells, or the human towers. Originating in the town of Valls, near Tarragona, these human towers can be as high as nine or ten stories! The splendour, magic and majesty of the arrival processions of Els Reis (the 3 kings) at Christmas are also something to not miss out on. Or for anyone of a more daring disposition, participating in a correfoc (fire run) is an opportunity that just cannot be turned down – what’s not to love about running through the streets with people dressed up as devils holding flaming pitchforks setting off fireworks all around you?
Whatever your interests, hobbies, or personal tastes, Catalonia really does have something to offer for everyone. More than that, however, is the amazing opportunity to discover and become a part of a culture that, despite the popularity of Barcelona as a tourist destination, remains relatively unknown, even today. T’hi apuntes?
Written by Stewart Tunstall
The UoB Linguist Magazine
Guild of Students,
University of Birmingham