Final Celebration

¡Hola un otro vez!

First off, I have to give huge thank you to Ms. Segurola-Calderon for having me and making the celebration as fun as it was. I couldn’t have asked for a better class and I’m glad I got to share the experience with all of you. I’m lucky that I got to see Barcelona through all of your eyes, but meeting you guys and putting faces to names made it even better. I was definitely a little nervous coming in, but everyone was immediately friendly and ready to share.

It was no surprise to me hearing how good all of your Spanish is, but hearing everyone collectively recite Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech was something special.

Hearing everyone’s own personal dreams made me hopeful for the future and confident that we have some open minded young people out there. From saving the animals and environment, to advocating for a world where people are valued as the humans they are regardless of race, gender, orientation, to becoming the next professional futbol star, this day brought a smile to my face.


It was fun going over some of your questions from my travels about the people and places, and hearing about your desires and plans for traveling in the future.


I also have to thank Mrs. Segurola-Calderon for sharing the Spanish cherimoya fruit, which was a new one for me too! While the taste was similar to a banana, we all decided it was a little more tropical, kind of like a mango or guava crossed with banana.


It was fun to hear about the book you’re reading as well, Óyemos con los ojos, and how the deaf boy in the story loves the smell of the cherimoya fruit. It was pretty sweet and I was happy I at least knew what the Spanish title meant in a room for of bilingual students!



I was only planning on being there for 45 minutes, but as soon as someone said dance party I ended up hanging out with all of you for two hours!

I might not have moves quite like all of you, but it was fun hearing Spanish music again and reminded me of my time in Barcelona.

Since I’ve been back in Portland, it’s been easy to get caught up in work, school, and my personal life living in a house with my friends. Going through my pictures and putting together the slide show for all of you, as well as all of your questions and comments made me nostalgic for the now seemingly short three months I was there. It reminded me how we change based on our environment, and the social-cultural setting we find ourselves in.

I hope I can stay in touch with the vulnerability and open-mindedness Barcelona brought for me, and that I was able to share some of it with you. This was the biggest take away in my eyes, because it’s all too easy to fall into a routine when we’re comfortable. I want to thank you all again for sharing the experience with me, and learning from each other throughout. You have some big dreams and bigger hearts and made studying abroad what it was.

¡Hasta luego y gracias de nuevo!

Photo of the Last Week

One last time, hola amigos!

I’m sorry to say this is my last post from here in Barcelona. I’m so lucky to have had this be a part of my life, and to have shared it with you.

Luckily, this isn’t a final goodbye to you or Spain, because I get to come see you all in January! I’ve got some good stories to tell, but more importantly I can’t wait to hear from you.


For now, here’s my balcony one last time. I figured I started with it in my first post, so might as well close too. Definitely the view I’ll miss the most.

Thank you again for everything and bye for now, I’ll see you in January!

❤ Joni

Meet Jake!

Hi again guys!

I hope everyone had a lovely thanksgiving, and ate all the pie for me because I definitely miss it. We did a little Thanksgiving here with my program too. Do you guys like apple or pumpkin better?

I’m sad my time here is coming to an end, but thank you for letting me share it with you! While I’ve been here for about two months now, I’m still learning every day and just brushing the surface of Spain. To wrap it up a little bit, I have a special post with a new friend who can offer you a first hand, local perspective on what it’s like to be a middle schooler here.

Meet Jake!


Jake is an eighth grader here in Spain. I met him because he’s the son of the director of my program, and one of the coolest thirteen year olds I’ve ever met. I hopped on a train and went to visit him in the town that he lives in called Girona, just about 40 minutes outside Barcelona. I was going to take a picture of him there, but he insisted his soccer picture was his best look and sent me this one to use.


I wish I had more time in Girona because it’s beautiful. We met up at a café near the river here, and right from the start Jake was so comfortable and laid back, not even a little nervous like I would’ve been being interviewed when I was his age. I had quite a few questions written down, but we ended up more casually talking because he had so much to say!

Q: Where are you from?

A: Well, I was born in Barcelona, but I’ve lived in Girona since I was one. So basically Girona. I’ve lived here for twelve years now so like my whole life.

Q: What’s it like to grow up in Girona, and what do you do for fun?

A: Okay I mean I don’t know, I’m just here. I like it though. I think I mostly just play soccer all the time. I’ll call it soccer for all you Americans. On the weekends, I always have a game, usually Saturdays. Then I practice Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Actually I practice like every day cause it’s just fun, but that’s when I have actual practices with my team anyway. I play video games too, Fortnite and FIFA 19 usually. I just mess around with my brothers and hang out with friends most of the time. We play on the trampoline or work out cause we have a whole mini gym at home.

Q: What languages do you speak?

A: Let’s see, Catalan, Spanish, English, and a little French. Not too much French though.

Q: Do they teach all of those languages in school?

A: Yeah, you start language classes in third grade I think. But they only teach normal classes in Catalan.

Q: What’s your favorite food?

A: All of it. No but really probably pizza, like the kind with prosciutto on it, or hamburgers are good too. Wait actually llabrets de llom is my favorite. It’s Catalan, but basically like breaded pork chops with layers of cheese and ham. It’s so good, now I’m hungry.

Q: Do you take the metro or bus by yourself?

A: Yeah, I have been for a while now. I don’t usually go by myself but I’m allowed to. Sometimes I go with friends, but it’s easier to walk cause everything’s within like 15-20 minutes here.

Q: So I take it you like futbol then, do you have a favorite player?

A: I love it. And I have to say Messi I guess, just cause he’s so so good, Mbappa too. All the kids here love soccer, we all watch it and play. I’ve been playing since I was little and have gone to maybe ten games or something in Barcelona. Even a couple of the semi-finals and stuff! I play carriler, like left wing behind the forward. I’m not sure what the call it in the States but I score a lot.

Q: Do you think life here is very different than in the US?

A: They’re definitely not as good at soccer in the States. One time we were visiting our cousins in Florida and they had soccer try outs but me and my little brother Max just wanted to play, but we were doing laps around them. Even Max, who was three years younger. The coach told us we made the team at the end, but we didn’t even know and were like “uh sorry I’m going home to Spain in three days.” School’s pretty different too. I take thirteen classes. Only like six each day, but thirteen total. We have way more language classes and can take religious studies or ethics starting in 4th grade. Also our lunches are way better. We have chefs who cook everything from scratch, and we get three serving meals. The milk and cookies are the best. Wanna see my schedule? My handwritings not great, but I’m faster at cursive.


Q: Do you like the beach or the mountains?

A: That’s way too hard! They’re both like 45 minutes away, so I can’t pick cause I get to do both. I do really like skiing though.

Q: Cats or dogs?

A: Equal. I have a cat and a dog, so it would be mean to pick. Also a guinea pig, but Brownie is antisocial.

Q: Do you think you’d ever study abroad?

A: Oh definitely. I think maybe in my 10th or 11th grade year in high school I would want to go live in the US for a little cause I have a lot of cousins there, except one of them is a trouble maker. A lot of kids from here can get university scholarships for soccer too, since the level here is just so much higher. I wouldn’t want to know they were scouting me though, that’s too much pressure!

He had so much more to say and we ended up chatting for about two hours, which was so fun for me because I learned a lot about what it’s like to be a kid here. After, we went to Jake’s favorite ice cream place, which he told me was owned by one of the most famous and best pastry chefs in the world.


He convinced me to try the violet marshmallows and torched meringue, while he got something called “strawberry rose bits” that looked like pink coffee beans to me. Definitely a necessity in Girona.

I was sad to say bye, but lucky to have met Jake. I promised I’d watch out for him as the next soccer star in a couple years!

Photo of the Week

¡Hola chicos!

Or in this case, bonjour! I was lucky enough to go to Paris last weekend and catch the last bit of the fall colors all over the city.


It was perfect timing just before Thanksgiving, and reminded me of Portland with all the colors. Do the leaves still look like this there?

I hope you all got some good food and better company!

Un Día en la Vida

Hey guys!

A lot of you said you wanted to see a day in my life here when I asked last week. Right now I’m writing to you at 5 am from an airport in Paris where I got to spend my weekend, but a 4 hour delay on my flight has me especially missing Barcelona so this post is well timed for me and you. Of course every day is something new and a little different, but here ya go!

To start us off, here’s the view I wake up to every day. I definitely can’t complain about my mornings. I only have one 9:30 am class once a week; the rest of the days I don’t go to school until either 12:30 or 4 pm!

My balcony is easily my favorite part of my apartment, and my mornings in general. A lot of you have been asking what I think I’ll miss the most, and eating breakfast out here is definitely high up on my list.

I can’t help but get a coffee here most days. Although my wallet doesn’t love it, it’s a whole lot cheaper than Stumptown coffee in Portland so I don’t feel quite as bad. Ignore the coffee stain in the top right corner, I’m always on the go and running late!

Up until a couple weeks ago I was saying “Puedo tener un café con leche” to order, then my favorite barise me from speaking what I found out was essentially Spanglish and corrected me to saying “Me pones un café con leche.” My Spanish has definitely improved, but the indirect translations still throw me off. Plus, the common sayings vary between Spanish speaking countries. You guys speak far better Spanish than I do, does my “puedo tener” order make sense to you or does it make my American-ness obvious? Let me know!

My walk to class is something pretty special here as well. My neighborhood is called Sant Antoni, and is right on the border of the old and new town of Barcelona. Lucky for me, it means I get a little bit of both.

This is on my favorite street heading into the old town, where my classes are. My whole walk to class is only about 15 minutes, but the most “Barcelonian” part is the walk past the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA), which is a walk through a make-shift skate park.

Take a second look at the picture, it’s funny every time to see the contrast of people living their daily lives and going through the middle of music videos being filmed and skating on their way to work. This part reminds me of Portland a little, mixing the museum with the urban.

I wish I had pictures of my school, but it’s right downtown in the touristy part of the city and there’s only 40 kids, a new experience for me coming from Portland State with 27,000. For my classes, I’ve talked about my art and architecture class a little, but I had to share a little more now that we visited La Sagrada Familia!

Under construction since 1882, architect Gaudí’s masterpiece is still in the works today but it really is something special. It looks like nothing I’ve ever seen, with nature as the big influencer.

The inside is just as good. Depending on the time of day you’re there, the light either comes through the warmer or cooler stained glass. Personally I have a soft spot for the warm.

After class, I’ll usually hang out with friends or get some homework done. This day we went to the Ciutadella Park, and you already know how much I love a good picnic.

If I’m lucky, I’ll catch the end of the light as I walk home. The hour that the sun turns everything golden is easily my favorite, especially here.

Looks a little different than Portland, but it’s funny to think I’m still a student just studying and living like I would be at home, just in a bit of a different setting.

I also have a special post coming up next week that I wanted to get your help with. I’m interviewing a Spanish middle schooler named Jake, and wondering if you have any questions or things you’d like to know? Leave me some ideas in the comments, and I’ll talk to you all soon!

A House Full of Wishes

Hi again!

As I’m sure you guys have been able to tell, I’ve really been loving getting out of the craziness of the city on the weekends and exploring some of the coastal towns. This one’s called Costa Brava, which means “wild” or “rough” coast. It’s a part of the Northern Spanish coast that stretches from a town called Blanes, about an hour by car outside of Barcelona, all the way to the French border.

For me, this coastline was something extra special because it looks much more like the Northern Californian and Oregonian beaches at home. While the long, flat, tree-less beaches in Barcelona are beautiful, I didn’t even realize how much I had missed the green that we are so lucky to have in Oregon. What’s your favorite beach or place you’ve visited there? Personally, I love Cannon Beach and some places in Florence for all the nature near by.


Some of my friends wanted to get in the water here but don’t let the sun fool you, it was still only 14 degrees Celsius using the metric system like they do here, which is 57 degrees in Fahrenheit!



The last picture even reminds me of tropical islands somewhere, and was at the highest point of our three mile hike.

When we got to this cove, there was a little beach hut with nine cats out front playing in the sand!



The inside of the house looked something like a fairytale, with a small fireplace, Indian prayer flags, books everywhere, framed pictures clearly much older than I am, and these notes paper clipped and hung in dream catchers.


As I was looking around and trying to guess what the notes were, an old man with the bluest eyes came up and asked me what my wish was. I had to think for a second, because this is quite a big question to be put on the spot. He laughed and explained that these were this year’s wishes from travelers and locals passing by. His name was Kito, and he went on to tell me about being raised in the area, living there on the beach for eight years, and some of the people he’d met. Last year in 2017 he had collected over 1,972 wishes, and made sure I knew he never read a single one because they were “ultra secreto.” Can you imagine what it would feel like to wake up and know you have that many people’s dreams in your house?


Here’s the view out of the beach hut, and Kito in the back.

When I had to say goodbye, the last thing Kito did was hold my hand, point at the sun, and tell me with a smile, “the moon and the sun are 50/50, you can’t be upset when there’s one without the other.” I’ve thought a lot about what he meant by this, but he said it was just a fact of life and being here that is up to our own interpretation.

This all reminded me of what I’ve learned about stereotypes about Catalonia, the region of Spain I’m in. The people are known for taking pride in being very straightforward and level headed, open to negotiation. On the other hand, Spanish people in general are looked at as passionate, emotional, and irrational. This is also a big part of the political problems between Catalonia and the rest of Spain I mentioned in my other post. I think Kito’s quote and demeanor is an example of how these two can interact, and how no national or regional stereotype is really a single truth about an individual. He was passionate about every word he said in a way that made me want him to keep talking, but at the same time very logical in that sometimes we get a moon and sometimes a sun and we can appreciate each in the moment.


There are some people who you can just feel are special. There was something so intriguing and wise about him, and the way he spoke sounded like older times. After my friend and I hung up our wishes, it was time to go, but I have no doubt I’ll remember Kito and his notes for the years to come. If you had one wish to hang up in his house, what would it be?


Photo of the Week

Hi guys!

While there’s tons of fresh food markets in Barcelona, we can’t forget about the flea markets too! This is the most well known one, Nou Mercat Dels Encants.


This was such a cool experience, because there’s everything from vintage watches and pins to baked sweet potatoes and fabric sold by the meter. Plus, bargaining is expected, so it was a fun way to test how quick I am with my Spanish (the answer is not that quick). I even got a new wallet for just three euros!

Sunday in the Sun

¡Hola chicos!

I’m just about half way through my time here, and so lucky to still be seeing this much sun in November! What’s the weather like in Portland right now?

Since it was so nice this weekend, my friends and I went to a town called Sitges, Southwest of Barcelona and only 45 minutes on the train! Plus, the ticket was only four euro. That’s a pretty good deal if you ask me.

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The town reminded me a lot of beach towns I’ve been to in Southern California or Greece with all the white washed buildings and laid back feel.

Backtracking a little, I wanted to show you what the train there looked like, and tell you about Manuela who I met along the way!

Sometimes the trains here get so crowded everyone crams into the aisles, even for some of the long six hour ones. The ride to Sitges was pretty packed, and I ended up standing next to a mom and her two daughters. They immediately started talking to me in rapid fire Spanish, but it didn’t take them long to realize she would have to slow it down for me a bit even though I really was trying! After finding out the mom’s name was Manuela and giving her mine, she pulled out the lunch they had packed consisting of the classic ham and brie sandwiches and juice boxes. She gave me a juice box, and said, “No podemos dejar que los turistas pasen hambre” with a wink. She even made me translate it right in front of her to make sure I got her joke, and started cracking up when I read it. I talked to her for the rest of the ride, and she recommended Platja de la Fragata, because it’s the beach with the best view of Iglesia de San Bartolomé y Santa Tecla which you can see below!


The church is a 17th century Gothic style temple. Can you see the similarities to the ones I posted about in my architecture article?

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Here’s me at the beach she recommended, and the church in the back! Manuela was right, that beach had the best view and I found myself wishing she could come with us to walk around for the day. Having a local tell us where to go was a life saver in a town with 17 beaches and so many tourists on the weekend.

While the beach was lovely, the town itself was beautiful too. We wandered up and down the streets, and it was fun to see some different architecture styles than the narrow, laundry-lined streets of Barcelona.


I fell in love with Sitges a little bit, and will definitely be back before I leave. Though it’s pretty small with only 29,000 residents, I was curious to see how much tourism is a part of the town because it seemed like every building was either a restaurant, boutique, gelato shop, or supermarket. When I got home I did a little research and found out they have over one million tourists a year. That’s a lot for such a tiny town! I also discovered that 78% of the territory is protected national park land, which I think is pretty cool for some where that so many people come to every day. Hopefully this will help keep the beaches as nice as they were for me in the years to come.

I also wanted to give you guys some options for my next posts.

  1. The fresh food and open air markets
  2. Fun and (mostly) free activities and places to hang out
  3. A normal day in my life here

Let me know in the comments which one(s) you’d like to see!


Talk soon!


Photo of the Week

Happy Friday!

After my architecture post some of you have been asking which is my favorite building I’ve visited. This city makes that choice a tough one, but el Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau is a current top pick.


It’s only open to tourists now, but was a full functioning hospital after it was built in 1901-1930. With nine pavilions, it’s like a mini city! It was so pretty I didn’t even complain about the rain once.

Cathedrals, Churches, and Columns

¡Hola amigos!

This week we’re going to do a little bit of history and a little bit of architecture. One of my classes here is Art and Architecture, and it has helped me get a better feel for the city that I walk around in every day.

The Romans were looking to expand their territory, and created the old city of Barcino, which is now modern day Barcelona as we know it. The city was much smaller of course, and had walls around an area called Ciutat Vella, now the old part of Barcelona that is home to The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, also known as Barcelona Cathedral.


The Barcelona Cathedral is a Gothic style, as you can see with characteristic detailing and tall points. While that is the only Cathedral here in Barcelona, there are many beautiful churches. These next photos are of Santa Maria del Pi, or “Santa Mary of the Pine”. Here you can see the similarities to the style of that first picture as you go inside this one!


Next, the Romanesque style is a little bit different than the Gothic. It is much less ornate, and many of the works are made of stacked stone. In my class we focused on columns as signifiers of the time period because they’re literally what the city is built upon.


These columns here are at the Romanesque monastery Sant Pau de Camp, which was built all the way back in the 13th century! The name means “Saint Paul of the Countrside”, which makes sense when you look really closely at the farm animals and figures at the tops of the columns. The columns are the Corinthian style, which means all the detailing is at the top and they’re tall and slender.


This is el Universitat de Barcelona. Can you imagine if your school looked like that? We got to wander around and ask students what they thought of their school and what they imagined the States to be like. One girl I met named Valeria shared, “Creo que la escuela en los Estados Unidos se ve divertido y tan grande. pero aquí, mirar a su alrededor, podría ser un poco más bonito debido a su edad.”

My Spanish is getting better, but I definitely had to translate that one. I can’t say she’s wrong, there’s something special about knowing these places have been around so long. She also told me they aren’t allowed to eat in class or drink coffee because it’s considered rude, which is definitely a little different than my college at Portland State where I bring my coffee almost every day!

When we went to all these places, I couldn’t help but think about how they were once solely places of worship or study, but now mainly serve as tourist attractions.  Even when you think about Voodoo Donuts, though definitely different than a church, think about how many visitors stand in line for over an hour just for one donut! It’s more about the experience of going than the actual donut. Can you guys think of anywhere else in the United States that has changed from having one main meaning to becoming a visit for tourists?

I’m so lucky to be taking this class, because it’s important to try and understand the culture of an area rather than just taking it at a glance. Do you guys like studying history? It makes me want to understand more of Portland’s history too, which may be a little easier than here since there’s thousands more years of Spain to learn about.

Let me know in the comments what you think of history or tourism, and check out my last photo of the week for some options on what I should write about next!