Tag Archives: Barcelona

A student guide – Preparation for a sojourn in Barcelona (Part 2 – NIE)

For foreign students staying in Spain for more than six months, they need to apply for an NIE (Número de Identificación de Extranjero), which is, in your case, a student residence authorisation card for identification purposes. One must hand in all application documents within the first month (appointment is obligatory) after one’s arrival in Barcelona / Schengen Area.

Here is a list of documents you need:

  • Application form EX-17 (original and copy)
  • Passport, with your student visa and EU entry stamp (original and copy)
  • Acceptance letter from your host university (in Spanish or Catalan)
  • Enrolment certificate of your academic exchange year
  • Certificate of Census Registration
  • Passport-size photos

Application form EX-17

Please note that in order to obtain the residence card, one must use the application form EX-17 titled “Solicitud de Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero (TIE)”, instead of the form EX-15 (“Solicitud de Número de Identidad de Extranjero (NIE) y Certificados”).

Most of the exchange students only need to fill in Section 1 (“Datos del extranjero/a”), Section 3 (“Domicilio a efectos de notificaciones”), and Section 4 (“Datos relativos a la tarjeta”).

If you are applying for the card the first time, select “Inicial” under Part 4.1. For exchange students, please select “Estancia por estudios, investigación-formación, intercambio, prácticas o voluntariado” under Part 4.2.

Certificate of Census Registration

This certificate is called “padró” or “empadronament”, which contains one’s personal particulars and one’s corresponding address. Each and every resident in Spain must be registered officially.

Before you visit the Oficina d’atenció ciutadana (OAC) of your district, you have to have already found a place to live in (click here to understand more). When you pay your visit to the OAC, you need to be accompanied by a person who is also registered at your address (e.g. your landlord or your flatmates). For those who are living in a student hall of residence, please contact your host university for more information.

Making an appointment

In order to make sure you are able to submit all relevant documents to the police station within a month after your arrival, I recommend that you should make an online appointment as soon as you settle in at your new home. Then, you can go to the OAC of your district any time you want prior to your appointment. Click here to make an appointment (in Spanish and Catalan only). Upon completion, the system will generate an “Expedición de tarjeta de identidad de extranjero”, where a “Nº de Justificante de cita” is included. It is necessary for you to mark down this appointment number.

After your appointment

On the day you bring all the documents (without any error) to the police station, you will be given this form by the administrative officer:

TASA:           Reconocimientos, autorizaciones y concursos
CÓDIGO:    012
MODELO:   790

You have to bring this form with you to any bank in the city so that the teller can stamp on it as the proof of payment of administration fees.

You will also be given a receipt titled “Resguado de solicitud o renovación de tarjeta de extranjero”. On this document, you can find all information regarding your student residence card.

Collection of student residence card

You will be able to collect your card in one-month’s time. Don’t forget to bring along with you your passport, the payment receipt, and the “Resguado de solicitud”!

Disclaimer:

Any views or opinions expressed in this blog post do not necessarily reflect the policies of Ajuntament de Barcelona. This blog post has been prepared for general information purposes only. The information presented is not legal advice, is not to be acted on as such, may not be current and is subject to change without notice. For the latest information and arrangement, please consult the Spanish Embassy and Consulates General in your area, your home/host university, or the government of Barcelona (or of other cities in Spain).

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A student guide – Preparation for a sojourn in Barcelona (Part 1 – Accommodation)

 

“¡Vamos a jugar en el sol! ¡Todos los días son días de fiesta! (Let’s play in the sun! Every day is a party day!)” – “Vamos a jugar en el sol” by Miranda.

For those who are/fancy going to Barcelona for an academic exchange programme, this is perhaps what you are going to do (almost everyday)! ;-)

Anyway, prior to your Barcelona bound, I’m sure there are a fair number of items on your pre-departure to-do list. In this “A student guide” series, I’m going to talk briefly about some of them, and to provide you with examples from my experience, as well as with selected tips from official student guides.

1. I’m looking for accommodation

Not all universities in Barcelona offer their own private halls of residence. What they usually do is to allocate students to various interuniversity halls, of which the majority is operated by Resa Housing. Resa’s properties are located very close to campuses of different universities, where en-suite studios and catered rooms (single & double) are available.

Alternatively, you might want to consider rooms run by Melon District and Residencia Onix. Walkable distance from their residence buildings to universities is guaranteed. Apart from them, you can check the following sites out for a wider range of types of rooms and for comparison:

Reserving a room from these private providers might save you a bit of faff time and make your life easier. However, one might want to find somewhere that is more affordable to live in. In this case, I recommend that you should pick the option of shared flats.

When I arrived in Barcelona, I stayed at a hostel for around two weeks so that I could take my time and pick the best place after days of flat hunting. The websites I visited for ads browsing were Craigslist Barcelona (in Spanish/Catalan/English) and Loquo (mainly in Spanish). All you have to do is to send the landlord/representative an email (quoting the ad number) or phone them directly (you might need to talk to them in Spanish!), in order to arrange an appointment for a site visit. Don’t forget to send them a thank you note afterwards, and reply to them as soon as possible your decision! :-)

Here are some important questions to ask/info to mention prior to an appointment:

  1. Any heater available? (Winter in Barcelona is fairly chilly!)
  2. Any washing machine at home? (Otherwise, you’ll have to go to a launderette somewhere in your neighbourhood… Faff-alert!)
  3. Exterior/Interior room? (Exterior rooms are usually brighter and with better ventilation, as they are either facing the streets or a very spacious patio; meanwhile, interior ones are usually damper and darker with no/small windows. Very often, there’s no view at all!)
  4. (If utility bills are not included) Expected monthly bills? (Try to look for somewhere with water, electricity, gas, and Wi-Fi included!)
  5. Provide with them a short description of yourself. For instance, your nationality, your school, your major studies, your habits (e.g. Do you smoke? Do you party a lot? Are you a nighter?), etc.

Barcelona is a multilingual metropolis. However, you might need to talk with your potential landlord/flatmate(s) in Spanish (or in Catalan, if you know the language), as not everyone in the city masters considerable English proficiency. Let’s give love. Respect the people, the culture, and, of course, the place you’re going to live in!

Next time, I’ll talk about the identification number for foreigners – NIE (Número de Identificación de Extranjero). Stay tuned!

Getaways: Girona & Figueres (Part 1)

Part 2: Attractions in Girona

Happy New Year! I trust you all had a relaxing holiday with lots of good food :) Still in holiday mood? Let’s go for a weekend getaway in these two culturally rich gems in Catalonia, shall we?

Itinerary:

  • Day 1: FIGUERES
    • (Morning) Barcelona – Figueres
    • (Day) Figueres
    • (Night) Figueres – Girona
  • Day 2: GIRONA
    • (Day) Girona
    • (Night) Girona – Barcelona

Girona is located 99km (62 miles) northeast of Barcelona while Figueres is located 40km (25 miles) north of Girona. They are both within the Province of Girona (one of the four Catalan provinces).

When I went to Figueres from Barcelona, I rode line R11 of the Rodalies de Catalunya, which terminates at Portbou/Cerbère. Same route for Figueres-Girona and Girona-Barcelona so you don’t need to worry about transportation at all :)

termo-R11

Attractions in Figueres

  1. Teatre-Museu Dalí (Dalí Theatre and Museum)

Salvador Dalí from Figueres was the most prominent Catalan representative of surrealism. He was a talented painter, sculptor, director, writer, scenographer (,and more), whose work is absolutely mind-blowing and is still influential to art creation nowadays. This Dalí Theatre and Museum holds the largest and some of the most important collection of his works among all other Dalí museums in Europe and in the States.

The facade of the museum is already an attraction itself: an enormous crimson wall decorated with golden bread, huge white eggs standing on the roof parapet, gold Dionysian figurines posing freely on the roof, and frontiers of cypress being the guardian of the museum. How impressive!

IMG_6439
Exterior of the museum

As he once saidQuiero que las personas que visiten este museo tengan la sensación de que están viviendo un sueño (I want visitors to leave with the sensation of living a dream)”. The museum is just like a labyrinth, leading you to the heart of the museum – the theatre.

After passing through the entrance, which is opposite Església parroquial de Sant Pere (St. Peter’s Church; somewhere around Plaça Gala i Salvador Dalí), you will first be led to the courtyard, where Cadillac plujós and la barca de Gala are installed. From there, you can see the signature glass geodesic dome above the stage of the old town’s theatre, which is the heart of the museum where Dalí is buried underneath.

Dalí created some stunning exhibited works tailored for the museum, for example, la sala Mae West and la sala Palau del Vent. A selection of his most renowned works is also kept inside this gigantic art palace.

There are lot more for you to explore at the museum. Tickets sold probably include entrance of Dalí·Joies (Dalí·Jewels) next door. Have a brilliant time appreciating the glamorous pieces of collection, and don’t forget to take some photos (without flash)!

  1. Castell de Sant Ferran (St. Ferdinand Castle)

The gigantic fortress was built with stone and brick in the 18th century (1753), which is now the biggest monument in Catalonia. In Spanish, it was named after King Fernando VI as the first stone was placed during his reign (1746-1759). The castle was constructed because of the loss of Castell de Bellaguarda on a territory passed to France due to Tractat dels Pirineus (Treaty of the Pyrenees; King Felipe IV, 1621-1665). During the Spanish Civil War, Francisco Franco took over the castle.

IMG_6447.JPG
On my way to the castle

Castell de Sant Ferran is renowned for its size and its engineering back then. 32 hectares of land within the exterior perimeter of 3,125 metres is bounded by walls of 2,100 metres, with eight main water tanks built under the main courtyard, which can hold up to 9 million litres of water in total. Guided tours for visitors older than 10 years old are available upon reservation.

IMG_6451.JPG
A close-up

Visit to the castle is free of charge and without reservation for individual travellers. Situated at the end of Pujada del Castell, where Teatre-Museu Dalí is right around the corner on the other end, the castle is easily assessable. It was a December when I visited there so it was very windy yet the weather was gorgeous. From the top of the hill, you may enjoy the spectacular panoramic view of the east end of the Pyrenees mountain range.

  1. Other museums/shops

There are other smaller museums in the town, such as Museu del Joguet de Catalunya (Toy Museum of Catalonia) and Museu Empordà (an archaeology museum). You may eve visit Església parroquial de Sant Pere (St. Peter’s Church), which is opposite the entrance of Teatre-Museu Dalí. Shops of all kinds can be found easily in streets around Plaça Ajuntament (the main square). Immerse in tranquility of the town and people-watch when you fancy sitting in the sun at a café terrace.

Useful links

*Words in italic are in Catalan (except: Fernando VI and Felipe IV (Spanish))

photo: “Labyrinth” in sunlight at the stage area of the museum (Dalí’s creation for Léonide Massine’s ballet as backdrop in 1941; Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, New York; 8.8x13m; more info regarding conservation and maintenance work for this masterpiece can be viewed here)

Swimming in Barcelona

Barcelona has nine beaches in total. However, have you ever struggled where to go when you really want to do proper lanes while almost all the beaches are full of sunbathers and swimmers? Or, have you ever got a little bit frustrated that you have to rub yourself with an incredible amount of sunscreen before allowing yourself to swim in the baking sun? Here are two amazing sites with convenient access where you can do what you want and perhaps something more…

Saint George Swimming Pool (Piscina Sant Jordi)

Address:         Carrer de París, 114, 08029 Barcelona
M5 (blue):     Hospital Clínic

Located in Eixample district, Piscina Sant Jordi is a complex consists of an Olympic-size swimming pool, a sunbathing area, and various fitness and wellness zones.

The entrance fee was very reasonable when I visited there. It cost me 5€ only while I could easily spend an hour there doing lanes and chilling in the water. Usually, it is not very crowded even though three or four lanes might be occupied by numerous swimming schools or fitness teams sometimes.

Before you go, don’t forget to take a swimming cap with you for the sake of maintaining good hygiene. Besides, I strongly recommend that you should check out their official webpage to get to know the opening and entrance times.

Useful links:
> (Spanish) http://www.piscinasantjordi.cat/es/principal/inici
> (Spanish) http://www.facebook.com/piscinasantjordi

> (Catalan) http://www.piscinasantjordi.cat/es/archivo/ver/745

  • On this page, look for a PDF file named (e.g.)“Abonados y entradas puntuales 2015”. There, look for the corresponding page entitled “Piscina Olímpica”.
  • There are a few tables. The first one – ABONATS PISCINA – shows the opening hours of the pool;
  • The second one – ENTRADES: Puntuals (14+), Familiars (3-13 accompanied by an adult), and Reduït (65+) – lists out the entrance time to the pool.
Piscina Sant Jordi
Main entrance of Piscina Sant Jordi (Source: Yelp.com)

Fòrum bathing área (Zona de banys del Fòrum)

Address:          Plaça del Fòrum, 1, 08019 Barcelona
M4 (yellow):  El Maresme/Fòrum
Tram:               Maresme i Fòrum

This is a precious natural pool, as in the pool itself is in the Mediterranean. The Barcelona government has invested a lot to create green space and a seawater pool (El Parc del Fòrum) in Sant Martí district, which is as well suitable for the disabled.

It is a very spacious and enclosed area where there is no sand but a paved ground where you can sunbathe. You can therefore experience the Mediterranean in a different and safe way – the swimming areas are all very shallow, which is around the lower-waist of an average man.

The most interesting feature of this place is that there are two sets of electric cable ski towers. They allow amateur skiers to “do lanes” as well, i.e. skiing hither and thither while one of them is responsible for using the remote control panel.

It might be a faff smearing sunscreen all over your body yet this place is open daily, free of charge! :)

Useful link:
http://w110.bcn.cat/portal/site/MediAmbient/menuitem.37ea1e76b6660e13e9c5e9c5a2ef8a0c/?vgnextoid=77bac1eb49f7a210VgnVCM10000074fea8c0RCRD&vgnextchannel=77bac1eb49f7a210VgnVCM10000074fea8c0RCRD&lang=en_GB

Cover photo: Zona de banys del Fòrum

Spain? Catalonia?

Sorry, peeps! I have been too busy engaging myself in my course work and in a bit of Spanish writing and translation as well so here comes the very belated blog post. During this “down time”, a lot of my mates asked me what exactly Catalonia and Catalan are. Hmm… Interesting!

Let’s start with textbook knowledge. First of all, we need to know there are 17 autonomous communities and 2 autonomous cities in Spain. For example, Andalusia and Balearic Islands. Secondly, each autonomous communities is subdivided into provinces. There are 50 provinces in Spain. Barcelona is one of the provinces of Catalonia, similarly, Granada is one of the Andalusian provinces. It might worth mentioning that there are 7 autonomous communities formed by a single province, for instance, Madrid.

Secondly, some regional identities were strengthened after being granted a autonomous government. These members are Catalonia, Basque Country, and Galicia. Interestingly, historical nationalities are designated to these three autonomous communities by the Statute of Autonomy under the Spanish Constitution of 1978. Moreover, you might have noticed that these three regions have their own language – Catalan, Basque, and Galician – which are three of the four official languages in Spain.

Here, we start focusing on Catalonia. Catalonia is an autonomous community consisting of 4 provinces: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona. The capital of Catalonia is Barcelona and the people from this region are regarded as Catalans. Almost every Catalan would prefer being called as Catalan instead of Spanish, because of their strong Catalan nationalist mindset where they emphasise that Catalonia is a nation and they are keen on claiming independence. Similar situation can be observed in Hong Kong where most of the people there would regard themselves as Hongkongers or Hong Kong Chinese rather than Chinese.

Let’s move on to some of the most common flags you may see in the street:

Flag of Spain
Flag of Spain
Senyera, flag of Catalonia
Senyera, flag of Catalonia
Blue estelada, Catalan Independentist
Blue estelada, Catalan Independentist
Red estelada, Catalan Socialist Independentist
Red estelada, Catalan Socialist Independentist
Flag of Barcelona
Flag of Barcelona

For the flag of Barcelona, we can tell it is a combination of two senyeras in vertical and two St George’s crosses, which are exactly the same as the flag of England. The appearance of St George’s cross on the flag is due to the fact that Saint George (Sant Jordi in Catalan) is the patron saint of the city. (El día de Sant Jordi is one of the major festivals in Catalonia, read more in Spanish)

Cover photo: Barcelona City Hall

Today, we’re going to talk about love…

Spain is one of the countries with the richest homosexual history and demonstrates radical liberation of mind. In 1970, the country’s pioneering secret group, Movimiento Español de Liberación Homosexual (MELH; Spanish Homosexual Liberation Movement), was founded in Barcelona. It was a response to the draft bill for La Ley de Peligrosidad y Rehabilitación Social (the Law of Social Danger and Rehabilitation), through which the Franco dictatorship wanted to criminalise homosexuals.

From 1971 onwards, MELH held numerous secret meetings at different locations in Barcelona to avoid prosecution. When Francisco Franco died in 1975, MELH members and others homosexual activists established Front d’Alliberament Gay de Catalunya (FAGC; Catalonia Gay Liberation Front). This group worked extensively for the rights of homosexual individuals and had considerable impact to the LGBT community.

In 1976, when there was a hint of democracy, Armand de Fluvià (Catalan genealogist and heraldry) and a group of activists founded El Casal Lambda (the Lambda Institute), which acts as a hub for services targeting LGBT individuals. On 28 June 1977, the first LGBT demonstration was held in Barcelona and was subsequently held annually as what we call today – Barcelona Pride. There were lot more specialised groups created to, for example, fight against AIDS, open new horizons to general public through cultural activities, and organise LGBT film festivals, etc.

The radical and positive change and liberation of mind in recent years have granted opportunities to institutions to discuss openly LGBT issues during lectures. Related topics are included in the teaching materials so that students could speak freely and lecturers could make responds and moderate the discussions. For instance, in the Spanish class for exchange students at my university, one of the weekly themes was about love. In the handouts, there did not lack the homosexual elements, like same-sex partners, relationships, adoption, marriage, etc. Unlike in Hong Kong, we rarely talked about that in an academic context. During that week of lectures, we shared information about the general view to homosexuals and discrimination and protection to this particular community in different countries. There I realised how distant we are now to equality and a harmonious society.

I believe there are a considerable number of homosexuals, bisexuals, or transgender individuals in Hong Kong and in Spain. Obviously, not every household could be open-minded enough to accept their sons and daughters having different orientations. There is a video describing the difficulties faced by homosexuals in mainland China, which echoed a lot of painful and upsetting life stories there in some traditional Chinese contexts. In Spain, coming out to one’s family is also a challenging task to accomplish. However, the government has been updating various ordinances and providing extensive support to parents, youngsters, and all the members in the LGBT community over the years, of which they are arguably insufficient in Hong Kong.

It is believed that this is a long-lasting battle all over the world. Understanding the LGBT communities could aid liberation of our mind. There have been too many rumours deflecting a rational mind over decades or even centuries, yet, I firmly trust that there will be a day when acceptance is a trend and labelling is to be vanished.

Photo: Avenida Reina María Cristina, Barcelona (from Barcelona Pride)

Keep calm and “poop”!

Christmas is approaching. Few days ago, I talked a bit about the Spanish Christmas Lottery, one of the Spanish Christmas traditions. Now, let’s take a look at how Catalans celebrate Christmas.

I took the photo above at the Fira de Santa Llúcia in Barcelona. You can see there are a lot of figures pooping there (:-P). These figures are called Caganer. Traditionally, Caganer is a peasant wearing his barretina (a traditional red Catalan hat), showing his bottom and pooping.

Interestingly, not only the caganer shows us how he poops, but Tió de Nadal as well.

IMG_5975

Tió de Nadal is a mythological figure which is basically a log. It is a piece of log with a smiley face and a 3D nose. Also, it comes with two or four legs. Usually, people decorate the Tió with a small barretina and cover it with a blanket so as to keep it warm at night and prevent it from catching a cold. People at home will “feed” it from 8 December (the day of the Immaculate Conception) until Christmas Eve. Then, they put it into the fire to make it “poop”. However, nowadays, it’s more usual for them to “help” it poop by hitting it with a stick repeatedly and singing the song of the Tió. Which type of poo the Tió poops? Well… Haha, it’s very sweet as it poops presents and candies for the kids.

Why do the Caganer and the Tió de Nadal gain so much popularity? It is because they bring everyone luck and it’s always fun to see them while celebrating Christmas! :-D

LGBT rights in Spain

Pew Research Centre in Washington did a research regarding the acceptance level of homosexuality in 2013. Spain, with the acceptance rate of 88%, topped the list of 39 countries in the world. However, homosexuality has not been accepted like how it is now in history due to the strong influence of Roman sexuality, the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), and the Francisco Franco’s regime (1936-1975). Anyway, there have been many changes and evolutions initiated thanks to the modernisation concepts. Homosexual is now being considered as one of the forms of sexuality (that is why we have the term ‘homosexuality’).

Nowadays in Spain, the LGBT (as in lesbians, gays, transgender, and bisexuals) situation has already improved a lot, especially many citizens now pay close attention to LGBT rights after the legalisation of homosexuality in 1979. For example, the annually organised Pride Parades can effectively raise the awareness in the community about the rights. The first parade in Spain took place in 1979, the same year of the legalisation of homosexuality. It is now a very grand and popular event among Spanish, Catalans, and, of course, tourists as well.

In Spain, there is a very sophisticated social system protecting the homosexuals. The anti-discrimination laws cover areas including employment, the provision of goods and services, and all other areas. Besides, same-sex marriage is legalized in 2005 where same-sex couples can be legally recognized. What’s more, homosexuals are allowed to serve in the military forces openly, and are allowed to participate in blood donation.

In Barcelona, there is an association called the Associació de famílies Lesbianes i Gais (Association of LGBT Families). It collaborates with the Department de Benestar Social i Família de la Generalitat de Catalunya (Department of Social and Family Welfare of the Autonomous Government of Catalonia). Its establishment is due to the equal access to in vitro fertilisation and surrogacy for all same-sex couples and homosexual individuals. It is also because of the legal joint and step adoption by same-sex couples.

The Barcelona local government (‘Ajuntament de Barcelona’ in Catalan) has implemented the Municipal Plan for the LGBT group. It is a five-year plan from 2010 to 2015 with different implementation period. The plan gathers up the public policies of the local government in order to promote, defend, and guarantee the rights of citizenship of LGBT members. It is coordinated with a lot of policies and regulations of many organisations and institutes. Thanks to the local government of Barcelona, the living quality of the homosexual can be considerably improved, and the equality in the society can be effectively and significantly upheld.

Photo: (http://www.pridebarcelona.org/) Avenida Reina María Cristina, Barcelona

El Raval & The Esco Foundation

El Raval is a central area located in Ciutat Vella, Barcelona. It’s one of the two historical neighbourhoods – Gothic Neighbourhood and Raval Neighbourhood. The Rambla separates the two zones. El Raval is knowns as China Town as there are lots of Chinese working and living here. It was famous for its nightlife and the live performances at nightclubs. That is why the problems of prostitution and crimes were pretty serious back then. However, Catalans have transformed this area into an international neighbourhood. There are lots of immigrants from different continents, for example, from South America, Africa, Pakistan, etc. Nowadays, there are many kebabs restaurant (Yum! :-P) and gadgets shops. If you want to buy some cheap electronic appliances, El Raval offers you a fair bargain.

The Salvador Seguí Square (Catalan: Plaça de Salvador Seguí) is in El Raval. There are quite often parties with great music and you may join in and dance together with all of them there. On 25 October 2014 (Saturday), there was a mini party organised by the Esco Foundation (Catalan: Fundació Escó). There were lots of kids and their parents dancing and having fun. The Esco Foundation is an organisation that offers community help to families with disadvantaged children in El Raval. It was founded in 1984 and in 1991, it was established as a foundation. One of their missions is to raise the awareness in the society regarding the reality of El Raval, and the difficulties that many families there are facing everyday. Here are some videos of the mini party :)