The only way to really get to know a place is to live there. That may sound very obvious, but sometimes is not. A lot of people go abroad to have a new cultural experience, to discover new places and to meet new people. However, when you are abroad, especially in a big study abroad city like Barcelona, you sometimes find yourself in the same circle of students from your own country. In that situation you are in Barcelona, but you are not really “living” in Barcelona. That is why is so important to interact with the locals. For me, one way of doing it was to go for dinners with a Catalan family every now and then. Mireia, the mother, wanted me to speak in English with Elias, the son, so that he could get some exposure to the language and in return she would cook dinner for us. It was an excellent deal for me. I ended up going to their house quite a few times and for me it was a great experience. I got to know a less academic and “student-like” part of Barcelona. We talked about movies, education, etc. I got the chance to know what the daily life of a Catalan family looked like.
I would encourage everybody that can to have a host family or some interaction with the locals the same way I did. It will help you get to know new unexpected things about the place you are living in crowd. In fact, there are many things that you are not aware of about the city, many events that are happening that you never get to know and that’s because you don’t have the same sources of information that the locals do. For instance, because of my interaction with them, I got to know about La Nit dels Museus (“The Night of the Museums”), a cultural day in which all musuems in Barcelona have free entrance. Occasionally interacting with the locals will also serve you as an oasis from the “study abroad crowd”. Sometimes all you need is to fully immerse into a completely different environment and go out of your comfort zone. I believe a host family and that whole interaction with the locals makes you “live” in the place you are.