After numerous PCR tests, health forms, and QR codes, students from track A to D arrived in Barcelona.
A part of us decided to stay in the home countries until the you-know-what situation will get better or should Universitat de Barcelona announce the face-to-face teaching. Nevertheless, the majority of us made it to the cultural and educational hub of Catalunya. Needless to say that the arrival was harder for those who did not know Spanish, so make sure to break your language barrier for some “gracias, hola, and lo siento”. A tip for people who did not take Spanish class, download Google Translate’s offline Spanish pack. The app will help you even with words from pictures.
First things first, as an international student, you need to get the stamp on the visa page for your entrance and time in Spain to be as smooth as possible. The next step is getting from the airport to your accommodation. The easiest way is to get the taxi right at the parking lot of the airport, but downloading the local uber – Cabify – might save you a couple of euros. Another option is to use the Aerobus express bus.
Spanish COVID cases are ahead of most countries in the EU, that is why masks and sanitizing are obligatory not only in cafes and shops but in any public place.
In case if you are coming on weekends (my case), be aware that nothing works except local shops and delivery, God bless their existence. Once I settled in, we could have a small tour around the John M. Keynes building, the UB Faculty of Economics and Business, and the Rectorate (UB historic building). Also in the historic building, I could get the library card which not only gives you access to amazing book archives (I rushed to get myself the Arab Women Writers by Dalya Cohen-Mor), but you can access several tourist spots like Park Guell for example, for free.
In Covid times it’s better to book a flight directly with the airline company and not through a third party/agency. Why? Even when agencies offer you cheaper options, the smart option is to do it with the airline company to have customer support directly and immediate response. My original flight was from Glasgow through Amsterdam to Spain. A travel ban was in place from flights directly from the UK to Spain, so six students opted to book their flights through a European Union country (The Netherlands in this case). However, the variant of Covid was hitting harder the UK and more countries decided to put travel bans. The Netherlands started the travel ban just 3 days before my flight that was originally on Tuesday, January 26th. Flight Cancelled, yes. After one hour of wait with the airline customer support, my flight was rescheduled for the 28th since The Netherlands announced the ban until the 27th with a possible extension until mid-February (yes, frustration at its highest level).
NEVER GIVE UP & ALWAYS LOOK FOR SOLUTIONS! I called the airline every day for updates and while explaining my situation to a kind woman she suggested if cancellation occurs again they could try to re-book through alternative routes such as France. Indeed, the flight got canceled again on January 26th.
I immediately contacted the airline, they offered to reschedule the flight again however that was not a viable option. Apparently, there was not available in the alternative option they suggested, it was a long call with them trying to see other routes as well but no luck. That same day in the evening the airline sent me a new flight scheduled for the 28th with the following route: Glasgow-London-Paris-Barcelona. Perks: One Baggage checked for free! Cons: 2 stops for a 5hr flight; Flight to London delayed and almost missed the flight from Paris to Barcelona (the last one to board); full flight and short layovers 🙂 but finally DID IT! My classmates that were already in Barcelona were crossing
their fingers and all glad that I was able to enter without any problem at the border. Two students (one from Uppsala & the other from Barcelona) also did the same thing and arrived safely.
Due to the uncertainty of what would have happened at the border, I did not book accommodation until I was in Paris. Facebook groups such as Barcelona Rentals/Accommodation made it easy to find the perfect room for two weeks with 2 amazing local girls that were angels during my stay with them. Please research your accommodation in advance and make a list of what you need and want in a room or apartment because that would be helpful in your search. The first thing on your arrival to Spain must be TAPAS & PAELLA WITH CAVA Barceloneta Beach and a visit to art museums since they are free on Sundays if you booked them 3 days in advance!
Photo Credits: Maytee, Irina