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Exchange Chronicles: Barcelona: 1, Me: 0

BY GEORGIA SEXTON

There’s nothing quite like being on the verge of homelessness in a country on the opposite side of the world to get your cortisol pumping

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6 NOV - 2023

Spain is not known for her efficiency, but I must admit I didn’t think it would be this hard.

Okay, they were right about the fun part but what they failed to mention was the all-consuming and endless admin that comes with it. It turns out moving to the other side of the world IS as hard as it sounds. From visas, passports, booking embassy appointments months in advance, criminal records, notarising documents, having your exchange location change 3+ times, dealing with government officials who’s favourite thing to do is not reply to emails, all whilst having extremely limited funds in the bank account. Spain is not known for her efficiency, but I must admit I didn’t think it would be this hard.

Thinking that all of the excruciating admin was behind me (spoiler: it wasn’t), I left Auckland to spend a year finishing off my degrees on two exchanges abroad. Of course, the only appropriate way to kickstart a University exchange to Barcelona is with a jam-packed Euro summer. Two months of travelling to 6 different countries with some of my best friends and my boyfriend was everything and more. All we did was laugh, be tourists, lie on the beach, eat, shop, and drink. We cooked at our Air BnBs so we could then splash out on a flash dinner or a cocktail, walked 15,000+ steps a day, and viewed expensive tourist attractions from afar. I saw incredible sights and experienced new cultures with some of my favourite people in the world. It was even more magic than we could have hoped.

But alongside this fun was the reality that I’d left my family and friends behind for a year, we were absolutely exhausted, hyper-aware of our dwindling funds, and increasingly concerned about the meagre 9 days we had given ourselves upon arriving in Barcelona to find somewhere to live.

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Upon touchdown, it was go time. The hunt for a 3 bedroom apartment for my boyfriend and two of my best friends and I, was on. We were frantically calling real estate agencies, private sellers, signing up to every leasing website on offer, all whilst trying to get by with our very beginner level Spanish.

There’s nothing quite like being on the verge of homelessness in a country on the opposite side of the world to get your cortisol pumping… can’t say I would recommend. Apartments are posted in the morning and then gone by midday. People are signing onto leases without even seeing the apartment, it’s ruthless out here. But of course, as fate would have it, on the 9th and final day of our hunt we secured a gorgeous flat in a primo location. We were absolutely cheering.

All too quickly the need to actually attend uni was upon me, and I had my first day studying law at Esade. Luckily the English classes were filled with exchange students, everyone as desperate as the next person to make friends. On my first day, I met so many lovely people from all over the world, all of them saying “Wow, New Zealand is so cool! But so far away!” As nice as everyone was, home did feel very far away that day. I actually went and sat in a Starbucks for a bit of normalcy (I literally never go to Starbucks at home) and had a mini crisis, wondering if I had made a massive mistake by coming here.

I actually went and sat in a Starbucks for a bit of normalcy and had a mini crisis, wondering if I had made a massive mistake by coming here.

I love my life at home! I have literally the BEST friends, I’m so close with my family, I get to see everyone all the time, what am I doing here?! Safe to say my social battery was through the floor and the stress of everything had well and truly caught up with me. That first day was tough, but since then I’ve made some great friends, and I feel so lucky to be able to go home to my gorgeous apartment with my super close people from home waiting for me <3.

Luckily, amongst all this chaos, I have fallen absolutely head over heels for Barcelona. She seriously has everything. From the architecture to the shopping (!!!), the nightlife to the beach, the fusion of history and modernity, the atmosphere here is seriously unmatched. Although this love is feeling rather unrequited at the moment I must admit, she’s a tough nut to crack, but hopefully, as the months go on, the feeling will become more mutual.

And that’s that! We are already almost one month into my exchange. Despite the trials and tribulations this month has brought, it still feels like such a dream. We’re still definitely settling in, what with being jobless and all, but being broke in Barcelona does have a good ring to it. I’ll be sure to fill you Chums in on what the next month brings!

¡Besos! Georgia x

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