John Pfeifer, a junior finance major from Grand Island, Nebraska, is studying abroad June 3-July 16 in Barcelona, Spain, as part of the College of Business Global Immersion program Husker Race of Spain. He and his classmates will learn the culture, language and business practices that make Barcelona a truly unique city. The program features creative city explorations where, instead of having regular tours with tour guides, students will be given maps and quests to discover the city similar to the TV show, “The Amazing Race.” He looks forward to learning more about the customs and culture of Spain, making new friends, enjoying the night life and trying all of the local cuisine.
6/20/17 – A Weekend in Amsterdam
One of the coolest parts about being in Europe is having the opportunity to travel anywhere in the Union for relatively cheap. This past weekend, I made the impulse decision to head north to Amsterdam, Netherlands, with a small group of my classmates. I didn’t know a whole lot about Amsterdam before arriving, but after my first night, I immediately knew it will forever be one of my favorite cities I’ll ever visit.
Upon our arrival, we were greeted by friendly locals, a refreshing use of English and significantly cooler temperatures than what we experienced in hot, humid Barcelona. Amsterdam is a city packed with attractions, and we didn’t hesitate to make the most of our time there. We began with a tour of the Heineken Brewery, a highly interactive experience where we learned how the beer is brewed, bottled and shipped. Being founded in Amsterdam, Heineken is “repped” proudly by all of the local bars and restaurants, and you can find their classic logo multiple times as you walk down any street.
After the tour, our next stop was a private boat ride through the city’s canals. We had an awesome local guide who showed us all of the major attractions via the river and gave us many history lessons about the great city. After some dinner, we finished the night with a quick trip to see the city’s famous Red Light District.
The next day’s adventures began with a visit to Bloemenmarkt, a beautiful tulip market in the center of town that is surrounded by many other fun stores. Among these were a couple of famous cheese shops, where they offered unlimited free samples of tons of different types of cheese. Being a cheese enthusiast, I highly enjoyed this part of the trip!
Following the market, we waited in line for quite a while to tour the famous Anne Frank House. The house is visited by over 3,300 people every single day, and the line to get in was one of the longest I’ve ever seen. Being inside the house was a very intense, surreal experience that I’ll never forget.
Having worked up an appetite after a long day, we grabbed a good dinner and then headed to Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s most popular green space. Vondelpark is a huge, gorgeous park that sits just outside the city’s center. Here you can find hundreds of bikers, people walking their dogs, and groups of friends sitting together, listening to music and enjoying each other’s company. We grabbed a blanket watched the sunset in the park and had a perfect, relaxing end to our little weekend Amsterdam adventure.
This weekend we packed our bags for a quick trip up to Costa Brava, a string of smaller cities along the northeastern coast of Spain. Our first stop was in the small city of Figueres, home to the famous contemporary artist, Salvador Dali. We received a private tour of his museum which was a truly mesmerizing experience. Dali was a very interesting, abstract person and his artwork shows it. You know of him due to his crazy mustache he would style in silly, funky ways. After the museum, we had a short bus ride to Ginora, a town with a historic medieval infrastructure that is a popular filming location for movies and TV shows. Most recently, Game of Thrones used it as a shooting location. I enjoyed this stop on our tour because I love the series! (Seriously though, who doesn’t?) I checked out where some of the most famous scenes were shot and ate a patio lunch before getting back on the bus to head to Calella for our final stop of the day. There, we checked out the beach, had a nice dinner and experienced the local night life.
We left early the next morning to make the most of our time at Tossa de Mar, which was by far my favorite place we visited. Tossa de Mar is a small coastal town that has one of the most breathtaking views I’ve ever seen. It’s a quiet, traditional Spanish town and served as a fresh alternative from the busy, big-city feel that Barcelona offers. We had a delicious lunch at a local restaurant where we were served paella, a popular Spanish rice and seafood dish. I would say it’s probably the best food I’ve had in my time here so far. Once lunch was over, we had a few hours to lay on the beach, soak up the sun and grab some gelato before our bus ride home. Overall, it was an incredible weekend and refreshing to see a more native area of Spain.
My first few days in Barcelona have already provided me with so many stories, activities and foods that I don’t even know where to begin! When my group arrived, we went to our apartment where we met our trip leaders, Dr. Laurie Miller and her husband, Nate. The apartments provided for us by the Institute for American Universities are clean, well-furnished and have a modern interior design. One significant detail we noticed right away is the lack of air conditioning. This is normal in Spain, but it’s definitely not for Americans. We live in the Sants Estacio neighborhood of Barcelona, which is about a 15-minute train ride to Plaza Catalunya. Catalunya is a central square (similar to Times Square in New York City) of downtown Barcelona, and it is also where we go to class every day inside the Seminari Conciliar de Barcelona or the Barcelona Conciliar Seminary. It is a retired seminary that was built in 1882 and is a beautiful place to have class. I’m enrolled in Multicultural Management taught by Laura Cervi, an Italian professor who has lived in Barcelona for the past 15 years. In this class, we will focus on considering the aspects of management within an international and culturally complex environment. Professor Cervi is a captivating speaker who is very passionate about what she teaches, which makes the class interesting and exciting. Additionally, I’m enrolled in an online course taught by Dr. J.K. Osiri, where the objective is to compare the Nebraska wine industry to the Spanish industry.
When not in class, I’ve been keeping myself plenty busy simply by exploring the city. As a group, we took a couple guided tours to get a feel for the area and provide us with some helpful tips and tricks to get around. The metro train is a huge tool I’ll be utilizing throughout my time here, as it can turn a 45-minute walk into a quick 10-minute ride. So far my favorite group-led expedition has been to Mercat de la Boquera, a fresh food market filled with fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses and seafood. We also ventured out on our own to hike the famous Monte Tibadabo, a fun, intermediate trail with a breathtaking view overlooking the city and the Mediterranean Sea. We also were presented the opportunity to go on a guided bike tour of the city, which allowed us to see many of the famous buildings in Barcelona designed by famous architect, Antoni Guadi. This was a super fun, easy way to see the city’s parks and gardens and cruise alongside the beach.
When I came to Nebraska, I always thought studying abroad was something that would be too good to be true for me. I instantly got a case of the “Hows?”. How am I going to decide where to go? How am I going to pay for it? How am I going to be able to be away from home for so long? All of these questions made it hard for me to ever truly consider studying abroad. Then, one fateful day in Dr. Laurie Miller’s economics class, there was a short information session about the upcoming abroad trips offered for this summer. I initially sat and listened, not thinking too much about it. But when the words, “Barcelona -- Husker Race of Spain” popped on the screen above a picture of the cityscape tucked between the mountains and the ocean, something triggered inside of me that I have to go to Barcelona.
These words echoed in my head not only for the rest of that class period, but for the rest of the day and throughout the next few weeks.
I battled these thoughts with all of the “Hows?” mentioned earlier as I thought it was still out of question. As the deadline to apply for the program approached, I continued this quarrel with my head and heart. It wasn’t until a deep discussion with one of my good friends, Griffin Mims (junior communication studies and global studies major), did I realize it was time to stop thinking, stop doubting and start doing. Our motto is to Start Something after all. This underlying urge finally got the best of me, and I made the call to my parents to discuss the possibility of making this a reality. After a very positive and supportive conversation, my mind and heart were finally on the same page. I filled out my application, booked my flights and the rest is history!
I’d like to consider myself an avid traveler and adventurer. I’ve been on camping and hiking excursions to Utah and Colorado, seen the lights in Times Square, and had my toes in the sand of various beaches. I have not, however, experienced a serious culture shock. I’ve never had to deal with the challenges that come with different currencies or language barriers. While I’m slightly nervous for these factors, I’m definitely more excited. I’m excited to experience a completely different world than what I’ve known in my short 20 years. I’m excited to make new friends, try new foods and learn local customs and traditions. Above all, I’m most excited to have an adventure, explore and make memories that will last a lifetime. I could not be more ecstatic for the six weeks I’m about to spend in Barcelona, and I thank all of you for tuning in!