The four months I spent in Barcelona with AIFS were the best of my life, and the most valuable of my college career. The world was my classroom, and I learned more than I have in any class in my life. I chose AIFS initially because it was the cheapest option I looked at, but it also turned out to be the best! The accommodations, activities and staff were all exceptional. My apartment was newly renovated, and was located along the pedestrian avenue that connected La Sagrada Familia to the historic San Pau hospital. The onsite staff arranged activities- from walking tours, to visits to neighboring towns, to cooking classes, to dance lessons- each weekend so that anyone who stayed in the city had something to do. All of these were already included in the program costs, so we never had to pay more to participate. The onsite staff were so incredible. They truly made me feel like I was at home in Barcelona. They went above and beyond to take care of us. When I woke up with pinkeye, I emailed them saying I thought I needed to go to the doctor, and in less than an hour they had made me an appointment for that very morning. They met me at the metro and accompanied me the whole way. I really feel like AIFS cares about me. They made me feel safe and cared for despite being more than 5000 miles from home. They create such a great environment among all of the students. I credit AIFS for a lifetime of memories and friendship. Not only did they make my time abroad spectacular, but they have continued to provide me with opportunities to grow even after I have returned.
If you're looking to go to Barcelona, here are some of my insights into the city: The weather is amazing. I arrived in January, and the temperature never dropped below 45. It was sunny nearly every day, and I was in the ocean in February. The physical location of Barcelona is perfect, because it sits between the mountains and the beach. Some days I would wake up and hike up in the hills on the edge of the city, then walk down to relax on the beach in the afternoon. If you go to Barcelona, make sure you make the day trip up Montserrat. Montserrat is an incredible mountain, maybe an hour outside of the city, offering some of the most breathtaking views I have ever experienced. Barcelona offers a vast range of activities, from shopping, to hiking, to clubbing. It really does have something for everyone. The architecture is incredible. Parc Guell and La Sagrada Familia are my favorites because of the sheer amount of detail that Gaudi put into them.
I really would highly recommend studying abroad to every student. I truly feel like it makes people into more empathetic and understanding global citizens. It is also the most valuable learning experience you can take advantage of. It helped me to develop an abundance of skills, both personal and professional, and also to gain a deeper understanding of who I am and what I want in life.