Constanza – Exchange, Barcelona

Constanza is one of our Arts Global Scholars, a scholarship program available for Bachelor of Global Studies students. Constanza went on Exchange to Barcelona and tells us about how locals are making a difference in their local and/or the global community.

One of the first things I noticed when I arrived to Barcelona, was that it is a very active city. There is always something going on. People are in constant movement. Though this might sound normal for a big city like Barcelona, I’m talking about a different kind of movement. Generally, big cities are very stressful and demanding, people usually walk in one direction, being unaware of what is surrounding them. From my perspective, things in Barcelona were a bit different. In this city people are aware, they act consciously. It seems like their movements have a meaning, a thought, a goal; not only on an individual level, but also collectively as a community.

During my stay, I noticed that people in Barcelona have a higher level of social and political consciousness. There is a strong political discourse that does not remain in mere words, but it is transformed into real actions. And here, I am talking about people’s actions, not government actions. I could give many examples of this, but one subject that particularly caught my attention was the way locals respond to the so-called “refugee crisis”.

Not only in the city, but in all of Catalunya you can find street art, fundraising events, massive protests, volunteering opportunities and many other amazing things in support of refugees.

I was impressed by the huge amount of social support for this cause; the overall openness and willingness of people to actually get involved and raise their voices against injustices and in favor of constructing a more diverse and inclusive society.

I also wanted to be involved, so I signed up in the Programa d’Acollida, a volunteering program offered by Fundació Autònoma Solidària, the institution in charge of the volunteering and other diverse social projects of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. The Programa d’Acollida consisted of “mentoring” refugees living in the residential facilities of the University, and helping them to feel part of the community.

This opportunity allowed me to get to know a bit of their reality and some of the challenges refugees face when arriving to the country. As I was also a foreigner, I like to think that instead of me helping them, we actually helped each other.

In a continent where we constantly see states closing their borders and the emergence of politicians with a very close-minded and fascist discourse, it was very comforting to see how people created and signed up to programs like this.

As I said before, Barcelona showed me that words are not enough and that we need actions if we want to see real change… change that people like those in the Programa d’Acollida are making.

Merci per tot Barcelona, ciutat refugi…