Expectations vs. Reality of Living in Barcelona: Candidate Blog


Meet Lily A., our Adelante Official Blogger, as she begins her Digital Content Creator internship in Barcelona, Spain! As a gap-year student, Lily is learning what it’s all about to be independent, before starting university in the Fall. Hear what she has to say about her first month of exploring and living like a local in Barcelona.  

Lily A., 2021 Digital Marketing Intern in Barcelona, Spain 

Hi future interns! My name’s Lily and I’m a gap-year student who recently moved from tranquil Devon in the UK to the bustling hubbub of Barcelona. I’m working as a Digital Content Creator for Kingsbrook Language School, mainly writing articles in English and Spanish about the history and culture of the city. 

This program is the perfect preparation for starting my History and Spanish degree at the University of Cambridge in Autumn: a chance to bring my speaking skills up to scratch and have a first-hand understanding of the architecture and artwork left behind by those I’ll soon be reading about in textbooks.

Before I moved here, I must admit I felt a little unsure about what to expect. It seemed everyone I knew had been to Barcelona apart from me, as they listed tourist hotspots to visit and the ensuing nightmares with pickpockets to avoid. I knew that I would be meeting people from all over the world in the two weeks of intensive classes and hoped I’d make friends. However, I was more focused on the abundance of paperwork I had to get through in times of COVID and Brexit than whether I’d need a raincoat. (Spoiler: I did)

intern in Barcelona la sagrada

Lily in front of La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Either way, I had little time to fret upon my arrival- I was immediately thrown into the reality of the Spanish lifestyle. As I dragged my suitcase up to my new flat, exhausted from a day of travelling, I realised that I didn’t have any dinner. It was 5 pm on a Sunday, on Mother’s Day no less, in a country infamous for its short opening hours even without curfew restrictions, and I had to do a food shop.

That first week was largely spent wrangling with this fresh independence- taking phone calls from a new gym, testing out the café and croissant combos on my morning commute (Vivari is currently at the top of the league table), throwing out rotten fruit that I’d overbought and, on one occasion, tripping through the metro doors into a full carriage.

Barcelona museum of national arts of catalunya
night time views from the bunkers in barcelona

Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (left), Views from the Bunkers (right)

I discovered that, while I could conjugate an imperfect subjunctive or third conditional, my grammar-led education struggled to keep up with an easy conversation in a social setting. Especially when there’s Catalan in the mix. 

However, rather poetically, it all soon came together. When I stood on a balcony in central Barcelona at midnight on Sunday morning to hear the cheers, bangs, and whistles of a community who had been liberated from a months-long curfew, I, too, had a taste of freedom.

My first month has flown by in a barrage of museum exhibits, tapas trials, and cans of clara. I still have so much to see here in Barcelona, a vibrant city with history around every corner, with increasingly less time to do so. 

I am constantly learning; whether it be new vocabulary in my morning lessons, a new strand of Modernism in my afternoon internship, or quicker routes to make city life more seamless. I feel more confident speaking, walking, living with every encounter. My time is short, but I plan to make the absolute most of it. With restrictions easing here in Catalonia, weekend city-breaks are also on the horizon as well as greater freedom to take in this extraordinary city.

-Lily Alford

2021 Journalism Intern in Barcelona, Spain

Stay tuned for Lily’s next blog as she continues her journey in Barcelona and share her internship experience for the next three months!

You can also follow us on Tiktok @AdelanteAbroad to see more of Lily’s adventures (@britinbarca) in Barcelona!

Ready to embark on an internship abroad? Apply today!

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