Global Grant recipient, Kyrianna Krzystek, is currently studying in Barcelona through the CIEE Spain: Barcelona Liberal Arts Program. Krzystek is double majoring in International Affairs and History, minoring in Spanish, and planning to graduate in May 2025. After graduation, her long term education goal is to attend law school. Read how Kyrianna's first month in Spain has been!
My first month in Spain has been a busy one. I have been a part of many activities from day trips to the mountains of Montserrat to family gatherings for Dia de los Tres Reyes.
Shortly after meeting my new host family in Barcelona, they graciously invited me to join them in celebrating a famous holiday in Spain, Dia de los Tres Reyes. I quickly learned that this day is similar to our Christmas, each family spends it differently but the general principles are the same, the Kings bring everyone gifts and in the late afternoon everyone eats a big meal together. I was taken to my host mother's childhood apartment first, where the kids were sent to another room to eat by themselves. I joined the "kid's table," although everyone there was over the age of 18 but too young to join the mature adults. Immediately, all of the cousins burst into Catalan, a language I unfortunately do not know and for most of this meal I was trying to understand what juicy stories were being told about past years. A common tradition during this holiday is to eat a King's Cake at the end of the meal.
Similar to Mardi Gras in the U.S., this cake contains a porcelain king and a bean. If you happen to get the king, it is said you will have good luck for the next year, but if you eat the slice with the bean, you have to pay for the meal. I was fortunate enough to get the king during my first celebration of Dia de Tres Reyes!
Spain is known for its unique architecture due to the various influences of different cultures, including Islam, Roman, and Gothic styles. Barcelona in particular stands out because of one man, Gaudi. Many of his designs appear from around the city, including La Manzana de Discordia, La Sagrada Familia, and Parque Guell (see photo above). His style has been named modernist and neo-gothic for its unique combination of colors and organic shapes, alongside fortified buttresses, common during the Medieval era. One warm evening I accompanied a friend to Parque Guell where we were met with plenty of tourists alongside gorgeous landscaping and buildings. At the top we were greeted with a beautiful sunrise next to the city view of Barcelona.
One of the many perks of the CIEE program is their day trips to neighboring cities that are stunning and incredibly ancient. I joined a trip to Montserrat, Spain along with other CIEE students where we learned about the importance of this place, religiously and culturally. The Basilica of Montserrat houses the Black Madonna, a statue that was said not to move due to divine intervention. The mountains themselves also hold a special spiritual importance to the people of Catalonia as the jagged nature of these rocks were said to be sawed by the angels. I hiked to a nearby cathedral where pilgrims from the 1300s passed to see these mountains and appreciate their beauty.
My stay in this lovely country has already been an incredible experience and I cannot wait to learn more about the people of this country. Barcelona has an incredibly rich history which I hope to dive into more and more throughout my stay.
Thanks to Kyrianna for sharing her experiences with us! If you would like to help other IAFS students study abroad and enrich their CU education, you can learn about the Global Grants scholarship or donate here.