Europe · 71 Days · 18 Moments · January 2018

Gabriela's voyage in Spain

20 March 2018

Today was my last class day at ESADE. I’ll definitely miss this university, which gave me new friendships, opportunities, skills and memorable moments. In terms of career opportunities, I would like to mention the ESADE Recruitment Fair. Whether you look for a job in Europe or the States, I highly recommend attendance. I came across two large companies, Tech Data (large European IT company) and Grifols (pharma company with 70% of its employees based in the US) that attracted my attention. I interviewed with both to get an idea of what they offer. Swipe to the right to see a list of the companies from this year’s fair. Also, depending on what classes you take, some established start ups and even big companies come give presentations in class and often recruit. The professors are extremely helpful as well. Use them as a resource when looking for a job.

14 March 2018

Nostalgia. My parents and nephew visited me in Barcelona back in February. My nephew cried so much when they left. He was calling me every day asking when we’ll see each other again. If you knew his situation you would understand why the two of us are so close regardless of the physical distance that constantly tries to separate us. So...I decided to surprise my dad for his birthday and went back home last week. I basically popped at the front door at noon on his bday, rang the door bell and sang Happy Birthday. I’d dreamt about this moment for years - to surprise one of my parents on their bday. Spain is only 2.5 hours by flight from Bulgaria. I still wonder why I moved all the way to the US, so far away from my family. My nephew always asks me that and I tell him: “I didn’t know you’d be born.” And it’s true. Who would have thought it’d be so darn hard??!! I can’t believe I’m leaving Spain in 2 days. Some are eager to go back, others are just about ready. I am not.

7 March 2018

These pics are from Madrid, Spain’s capital. I can’t say enough about my pure admiration of Spain’s architecture. At day and night, the majestic buildings, royal palace, old monuments and sky high cathedrals fulfill the eye. They are also the parks, cute cafes, welcoming people, and live concerts that invite warmth and joy. I also had the pleasure to visit Toledo, 30 mins by train from Madrid. Toledo is known for the medieval Arab, Jewish and Christian monuments. Definitely worth a visit. Plan at least a day.

5 March 2018

I wanted to mention that in terms of top full time MBAs for women, ESADE scored #11 worldwide and #1 in Europe. There is a pretty equal ratio between men and women in MY classes but the profile of the class shows 31% women. I hope 50/50 becomes the norm in every university in the world. Let all women have the same opportunities and be able to take advantage of them! Other notes / FAQs: Do I need to know Spanish? No. The program is taught in English as it is very international. You could take Spanish classes on campus if you wish. I advise that you buy a phrase book in advance. Are all neighborhoods safe? Yes. They say the only crime in Barcelona is theft. Other than that, it’s very safe. What’s the best area to live? Most choose Gracia or the Gothic Quarter. How diverse is the program? It’s very diverse with 50 nationalities doing the MBA, 96% international. See pic for class of 2019 profile.

24 February 2018

Past weekend I visited Northern Spain (Bilbao and San Sebastián) and Southern France (Biarritz and Bordeaux). The North is known for its beaches and good cuisine. There are 5 restaurants with Michelin stars near San Sebastián. They book very quickly. Akelarre has 3 Michelin Stars and you can take the bus to get there. Beautiful views. The others are a bit out. Bilbao was very beautiful (10th largest city in Spain) - definitely worth a day visit. Southern France is about elegance, finesse, sophistication, wine, and food. I visited Biarritz, a picturesque beach town and Bordeaux, the world’s major wine city capital. Culture (confirmed by a French): The French are pretentious and proud, not very accepting of foreigners. If you live here it will take 10-15 years if not more to feel a bit more integrated but you’ll never be one of them. They think Paris is the center of the world. After Paris, their favorite city is San Francisco (YEAH). Lots of Parisians have been moving to Bordeaux.

21 February 2018

Folks, I wanted to spend a few minutes on the ESADE exchange program. I heard the Fall semester is a month longer than the Spring one, which is only 2.5 months. Most exchange students pick convenient classes and block only 2 days a week for school. I go 4 days a week because I was interested in taking specific classes but no judgement - do what you desire. Overall, you learn in class so don’t block much time to study outside the classroom. Expect slower pace and less homework load. I like my professors and classes. In my E-Commerce class we have guest speakers every week - CEOs and executives of successful local startups. I find it very informative and unique. The Leader as Coach class is taught by an American professor from Walnut Creek 😀 (where I lived). He supports his lecture with lots of research. The Market Analytics class is very practical, hands on. The last class, Brand-driven Strategic Management is also very good. The professor is quite enthusiastic and knowledgeable.

20 February 2018

“The architecture of Valencia makes this a unique city: home to cafés serving the world’s best paellas, its streets are a thrilling example of Spanish Modernista Architecture, which combines elements of Art Nouveau and Art Deco.” Swipe right to see pics. Valencia reminds me of Barcelona. The buildings are very beautiful with similar architecture and well maintained. To get to Valencia, you can fly or take the fast train Renfe from Barcelona (about $70 round trip). It takes about 3 hours and it stops in the city centre.

16 February 2018

Italy oh Italy! My visits are Venice, Florence (each require one day) and next month Rome (you need at least 2-3 days). Put your comfortable shoes on and start waking. You’ll walk A LOT anywhere you go in Europe. That’s part of the charm. Food: DELICIOUS! I can’t get enough pasta or tiramisu to fulfill my appetite. Sights: Cathedrals and palaces, narrows streets and canals, and tourists everywhere Cafes and restaurants: it reminds me of the old days in Bulgaria. It takes awhile to get served but nobody kicks you out once you are done to make room for the next customer. You can stay for hours on one cup of coffee or wine. Weather: it’s low season and unlike the summertime, you can book trips and buy “skip the line” tickets online to popular sights a day early (true for Spain as well). It does rain once in a while. Not as crowded as it could get. Fashion: I absolutely love European fashion and if they didn’t steal my wallet in Barca I was going to empty all my credit cards!

9 February 2018

Friends, I haven’t posted in awhile. I don’t even know where to start or stop. Every day is filled with pleasant surprises and you just need to experience for yourself to understand the beauty of the Spanish culture. I already know that this trip will be one of the best life experiences I’ll ever have. I’m in Southern Spain this weekend - Seville, Granada and Malaga. Flamenco is a “professionalized art-form based on the various folkloric music traditions of Southern Spain”. It’s so passionate, intense, beautiful, and emotional! You must see a show!!! A bit of history about Seville - it was the most important city in the 16th century because it was the only entrance to the new world, America. The Spanish Inquisition also starts here. Christopher Columbus remains are buried in the Catedral de Sevilla. By the way, Seville and Kansas City are considered twin cities, an idea after the 2nd world war - if a new conflict arose the hope was that the new sisters could avoid the conflict.

27 January 2018

I had one of the best birthday weekends. Portugal is a beautiful country that one must see. A friend and I rented a car (40€ a day for automatic) and visited these towns (you need at least 3 days): Lisbon and Belem: 1-2 days Estoril (beaches & castle), Cascais (beaches & fortress), Boca do Inferno (rocks & beaches), & Cabo da Roca (the most Western Point in Europe, go for the sunset): 1 day Sintra (inland: parks & palaces, highly recommend Park and Palace of Pena & Quinta da Regaleira): 1-2 days We walked for a total of 45 km 😱(28 miles). Can’t feel my legs! Slide right to see all pics. Portugal highlights: *many peacocks and roosters walking freely in parks * breathtaking beaches * nice roads, easy drive, roundabouts within roundabouts (?!!!) *similarly to Spain, lots of handsome men *Pastel de nata, the famous Portuguese egg tart pastry

21 January 2018

I am definitely in love with Barcelona! You can walk or bike for hours pretty much anywhere. Today was 20 degrees Celsius. The city was very lively. A friend and I rented bikes for 8€ each and biked for 3 hours down by the beach (Barceloneta). We stopped a few times to enjoy live music, beautiful art, street food, and good sangria. Barceloneta is definitely a favorite area that needs exploring. Just be aware of thieves!!! A couple of bikers yesterday evening tried to trick us and steal our bags.

15 January 2018

First dinner with few exchange students (at Vinitus - so popular that we waited over an hour to get seated on a Monday; tapas were delicious and the bill was only 128€ for 8 people, including alcohol)! Did I mention the program is 96% international? This is my 2nd week and I have already met people from Chile, Columbia, Brazil, Peru, South Africa, Norway, Austria, Italy, Japan, Turkey, India, China and various cities from the US (mostly Chicago and Texas). Exchange students this semester are about 40 but most of the regular full timers are also foreigners. There aren’t many Spanish people since the tuition is pretty expensive for them (from what I heard). In case you are wondering, the Esade MBA cost about 65,000€. As an exchange student you are required to take 12 units (4 classes) that translate into 10 units at Haas. Back to the topic, this is the Esade food map: I hope you find this info helpful.

13 January 2018

It was my brother’s birthday yesterday and we got to spend it together for the 1st time in years! Very special day for me ❤️ Here are some ideas for Barcelona sightseeing: Day 1: Placa de Catalunya, take the street Passeig de Gracia and walk towards Casa Batllo (one of Gaudi’s very famous works), then Casa Mila (another of Gaudi’s astonishing buildings), next the most popular Sagrada de Familia! The tickets for each range from 15 to 25€. If you are in Barcelona during busy seasons, get your tickets online ahead of time. Show your student ID for a discount. Next, you can walk or take a taxi (no Uber here) to Barceloneta (the beach). Walk down the alleys and enjoy the beautiful views! That should be enough for one day. Day 2: Gothic Quarter, La Bouqueria (the famous market), La Rambla Street. Take a cab and go to Camp Nou Stadium (check opening times online). Take a cab and go to Montjuic Castle and fountains (also one of the most picturesque views of the city from Montjuic).

12 January 2018

Politics: I was initially worried to come to Barcelona because of the political situation. Every Friday Catalan independence supporters clog the Gothic streets but overall it’s very peaceful. If anyone plans to visit soon, there is nothing to worry about. Culture: From what I hear and witness Catalans are more distant and closed compared to the Spanish. Some of them who’ve traveled abroad are friendlier. Shops and restaurants work at random times 😊 I’m still trying to figure it out. Lunch is at 2-5pm and dinner at 9pm or later. Clubs start usually at 2-3am. When you meet or greet you kiss on both cheeks. I haven’t kissed so many people in the last year as I did in the last two weeks 😂 Food: Spanish/Catalonians eat croissants or baguettes with jamon and cheese for breakfast. In terms of lunch and dinner, there are some really good restaurants and some bad ones. Do your research.
When it comes to food, there are multiple small grocery shops walking distance. If you want a large store, similar to Safeway, you can go to Carrefour. Don’t forget you’ll need to carry all your bags on the way back. Forget the luxury of having a car 😃 For finding good restaurants, use Foursquare instead of Yelp. Last but not the least, you MUST try their popular JAMON (if you eat meat). This is a type of cured ham produced in Spain and Portugal. Delicious 😋Swipe right to see all pics.

11 January 2018

You can’t come to Barcelona and not shop at Desigual! Needless to say, this is one of my favorite stores (too bad they closed down the San Francisco store and as you can imagine I went on a crazy shopping spree today). Their clothes are very colorful with beautiful and unique designs - sometimes too colorful and crazy but give it a chance and you’ll spot the right item(s). Desigual stores are everywhere in Barcelona (their headquarters are here) - you won’t miss it. Keep in mind that when you spend over 93€ at any retail store, you get a tax refund at the airport on the way back to the States. Just ask at the store for the “tax free” stamp on your receipt.
To those thinking of doing the exchange here are some early tips: Most stay in the GRACIA neighborhood. We are two stops further south in the Gothic Quarter (see pic for train lines). It takes about 30-40 mins by train and then 20 mins walk (unless you take the bus) to campus. Placa de Catalunya is also a good area to stay. You can find a place on Airbnb. There is also a Facebook group where people rent rooms and share info. Make sure your place has central heat; I heard some people complaining. You don’t want to live on campus or near campus. It’s supposed to be boring there. Lunch on campus is ok. Cheap. See 2nd pic.

9 January 2018

I am beyond excited to explore what’s ahead of me in the upcoming 2 and a half months and share my adventures with friends! My Haas MBA friend, Thuria and I arrived in Barcelona this Monday. As you all know, we are here to study abroad at ESADE as exchange students! Dreams do come true! We are staying at the Gothic Quarter, the old town. Streets in this neighborhood are very narrow and twirl in different directions. It’s basically a maze here. Campus is smaller than Haas. The buildings are modern. We scan fingerprints at the beginning of each class 😮. Elective classes tend to accommodate 35-45 students (I love the smaller classes). So far most of the students I met are from Latin America and South Africa. The entire city is very walkable. Public transportation is the main type of transportation. Trains are new and cleaner compared to the Bay Area Bart 😬... People are well dressed.