I must admit that Barcelona has by far exceeded my expectations. I also have to admit that my expectations for Barcelona were extremely high! Basically, living in Barcelona is everything I could have asked for and more. Upon arriving to Barcelona at 9:00 AM on Saturday morning, on the verge of exhaustion, I was excited to be submerged in a world unfamiliar to my own. My first experience in Barcelona was the cab ride from the BCN airport to Vila Universitaria with a stubborn cab driver that refused to look at my directions, insisting he knew the way. Unfortunately, he did not know the way and I ended up being stuck with a $75 Euro cab ride. Nevertheless, nothing was going to ruin my day! The first person I was greeted by on the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona campus was Greg Lochtefeld. Greg easily knew that I was with his program as I stepped out of the cab looking around campus with a clueless expression on my face, hinting to him that I was new to Barcelona.
Later that day after checking into my new room and unpacking I was ready to explore the city. I bumped into a few familiar faces from the U of A campus and we all decided to explore the city. Some of the other students had arrived a day prior and were able to show us how to use the train to get to downtown Barcelona at the Plaza Catalunya. The Plaza Catalunya exit is home of the famous La Rambla, La Rambla is one of my favorite places to hang out in Barcelona for several reasons. Probably the biggest appeal is that you never know what to expect on any given day. One day you might encounter a group of gitanos (gypsys) trying to trick an unexpected traveler into a Euro or two, or another day you might encounter a breakdancing competition in the middle of the walkway. The element of surprise is what draws me to La Rambla because I believe that it adds to the identity of the city. Being from a big city like San Francisco, I love Barcelona because of that weirdness factor.
To describe La Rambla in terms of how it looks physically, it is essentially two one-way streets separated by a 30-yard brick floor center divide that extends nearly ¾ of a mile to the ocean. Think: the weirdness of Telegraph Ave., Berkeley meets the beauty of Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco, but with the elegance of Time’s Square New York. To put it in simple terms, Barcelona is a city, and I love it. Once one walks down to La Rambla and reaches the Ocean, therein lies the famous Columbus Monument that marks where Columbus returned to Spain following his discovery of the Americas. When standing at or on the monument, the view is AMAZING, even though it is at a street level. You can see where the mountains reach the ocean, the entire La Rambla behind you, and ocean with docked boats in front of you. One thing that I got myself to do in Spain was walk all the way from the top of la Rambla to the beach. The Columbus status is roughly a halfway point (because it lies on the docks and not the beach, which was man-made in 1992 during the summer Olympics).
The beach in Barcelona has its own identity without a doubt. It’s definitely a place where people release their stress, have a cerveza and soak up the sun. Anyone of any age will be at the beach at any given time. It’s a mix of locals, tourists and crazy balding men riding longboard skateboards blasting heavy metal from a portable stereo while holding miniature poodles (yes! I really did see this). Sometimes when you’re in Barcelona you forget that you even have a care in the world. I believe this is largely due to Barcelona’s personality of being relaxed, care-free and life being lived day-to-day. However, I recognize that I am here for a purpose other than just pleasure. I’m also here to better myself, and my understanding of business and the Spanish language, while submerging myself in a different culture, outside of my comfort zone. So far, work has been pretty amazing. I work for a start up website that’s beginning to make a name for itself with about 1,000,000 unique visitors monthly (iVoox.com). iVoox is essentially a podcasting directory in Spanish for people looking for audio on-the-go to fill their mobile phones or mp3 players with. The coolest part? They’re releasing an iPhone app Monday! I was given the task to research how to position the app in the iTunes app store, and already have learned a lot about about mobile marketing and the future of audio-on-demand. By already researching sites like Soundcloud, Pandora, Youtube, and Ustream, I feel as if I’m learning valuable things pertaining to my career in the future. Since I want to go into the music industry, learning about audio-on-demand is extremely valuable (and digital audio is the future). Keep in mind that podcasts and audio-on-demand encompasses the best elements of AM radio and FM radio and even a mix of the two.
Fast forward two-and-a-half weeks, I’m a lot more knowledgeable about podcasting, audio-on-demand, and internet marketing. However, this is only the beginning for me. I actually have a huge project to complete before my time is up here with iVoox. I actually will be selecting three countries for iVoox to expand into and will basically pitch to my boss why we should expand there. If he likes it then he will expand into the country and according to my internship coordinator at the point it might be worth asking for a job as a U.S. rep (or something along the lines), but even if he doesn’t expand into these countries, then I will still have the valuable experience of learning how to conduct market research and the new found knowledge of audio-on-demand. If anything, it’s a resume build, and a new skill set! I am very optimistic!
There are so many other great things that I can say about Barcelona other than what I detailed about La Rambla and my job, but I will save these for blog #2! In my next blog I hope to detail more of what I am doing in terms of sightseeing; but, until then, here is a picture of me at Gaudi’s famous Casa Batllo.