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For many students studying abroad, the first few weeks are an exciting blend of activities, culture shock, rules, and exploration.

Despite being placed in an entirely different environment, Ellen Fuerst, CU international relations major currently studying abroad in Barcelona, has enjoyed the last few weeks’ worth of adventures and adjusting to life in Spanish Catalonia.

Fuerst has been in Barcelona since the beginning of September, and she will be there until mid-December. Following an internship this winter in her home state of Florida, Fuerst will then be off to Argentina for the second semester. The first weeks of her “world tour,” starting in Barcelona, have been “unbelievable,” Fuerst says.

Attending a major public university opens the world to international students. “I am studying at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona,” explained Fuerst. UAB attracts a lot of international students, she says. “I love the diversity that brings — it’s different from CU-Boulder.”

In addition to meeting new friends from around the world, Fuerst says she has also had the opportunity to meet fellow Buffs who are in Barcelona. “There are a lot of CU-Boulder students here, so it is fun trying to figure out where I recognize them from.”

Fuerst adores her courses at UAB, which are mostly business- and international relations-based. “The teachers are wonderful and exciting,” she says. She prefers her Spanish professors’ teaching methods to those she has experienced in the US. “They relate worldly experiences rather than monotonous facts. The teaching style requires the student to be a global learner rather than merely passing by with cramming the night before.”

Located on the northeast coast of Spain, Barcelona is a great place for students and young people in general. “I absolutely love the food, the nightlife, the beaches, the history and the culture,” says Fuerst. “I enjoy the relaxation of daily life.”

In addition to sightseeing in Barcelona, Fuerst has also traveled to different parts of Spain, including a trip to Sitges and “many other major touristy spots.”

Regional languages and dialects in Spain can sometimes create a challenge for students who learned Spanish in the US. “It’s difficult to understand the Catalan language,” says Fuerst, “and even though I’m fluent in Spanish, people assume I only speak English.”

Knowing someone who has lived in Spain for a long amount of time can be very helpful. “I live with a host family, and it is very easy to communicate,” says Fuerst. “They’re Colombian, and there are many cultural similarities between us.”

The local food is often a favorite for students abroad. “My host mom is the best cook in the world,” she says. “I get three meals a day and they are all delicious with no preservatives, artificial flavors or greasy foods.”

Though her year abroad has only just begun, Fuerst has loved the last few weeks and is looking forward to the next few months.

Jessica Ryan is a junior media studies major at CU-Boulder. She writes about study abroad experiences once a week for the Colorado Daily. On Twitter: @JessicaLRyan.

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