Catalonia vs. Spain

For the 2 months that I have lived in Alicante, Spain all I have heard about on the local news channels is Catalonia. For those who may not know, Catalonia is a northeastern area of Spain that is known for being the most prosperous region and it’s Capital is Barcelona. Catalonia has motioned for independence from Spain, and has been fighting hard for that independence.

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Catalonian Citizens Protesting at the Police Station

On the 1st of October, Catalonians went out to vote for their Independence, but Spain deemed it illegal. In an effort to inhibit Catalonian citizens, Spanish police forces, known as Guardia Civil, became violent and were handing the situation very brutally. Citizens of Catalonia were beaten and billy clubbed solely for trying to vote.

From this situation, things escalated greatly, and the media continues discussing how violent Barcelona and Catalonia is. This past weekend, I was visiting Barcelona. The Catalonian government officials voted for independence, and the vote passed. However, once again, Spain deemed this action illegal and discredited it.

DSC01611.jpgBeing in Barcelona, I thought that things were going to become quite unsafe and riots would ensue due to the media’s portrayal of the events. However, things were surprisingly peaceful; there were massive protests in favor of remaining a part of Spain.

I ventured into the heart of these protests due to a growing curiosity of what they were truly like. I found that there were some violent and irrational people, but the majority of individuals were friendly, passionate, and peaceful. However, if you watch the news, it shows pictures and videos of the few violent individuals, making the protesters seem out of hand.

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Individuals Obnoxiously Blocking Vehicles

Yes, there were hostile individuals who seemed as if they might get into fights, and a group of extremist protestors were blocking cars and yelling at other citizens. However, I never felt unsafe at any point and saw more collective passion of a community than I did violence.

It was an eye opening experience to see one of these rallies firsthand rather than on the news channel of my household television in Alicante. Catalonia is in a torn state of individuals who seemingly cannot agree. They have a lot of things to figure out before moving forward seeing as many individuals are still fighting for separation. Perhaps the main streams of media in Spain and America should focus on the collective groups as a whole rather than the small groups of extremists who are acting violent and irrational.

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Tragedy from the Homefront and All Around the World

I’m sitting in the third floor study room of Simard Hall, the primary ‘pavillon,’ or academic hall for all my classes. I am working simultaneously on a presentation outline and setting up software for wireless printing (finally!) when I receive a buzz from my iPhone.

I have CNN updates sent to my phone, mostly with U.S. political and breaking news, to keep in touch with what’s happening in America. It would be nice to completely isolate oneself from their home country’s news and be completely and utterly immersed in their country’s news, for me it would be the CBC, or Canadian Broadcasting Network. However, with Trump in office, major climate catastrophes, and terror incidents all around the world, I feel obligated to know what is happening back in the states. I say all this because this morning, October 2nd, I woke up to several news alerts about a mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip. It happened yesterday while I was sleeping (Las Vegas is in Pacific Standard Time and I’m in Eastern Standard time, so it was midnight when the shooting occurred at approximately 10:00pm). It was a surreal experience, similar to those with the Pulse Nightclub and Manchester tragedies. This shooting also occurred after the terror attack in Edmonton, Alberta, which is in a province of Canada not close to where I’m staying in Ontario. Canadians are rightfully still mourning that incident.

One of things about study abroad that they, as in the International Office or OIE at DU, don’t tell you at these orientations and meet-ups is that there is a huge possibility of terror (either domestic or foreign) attacks. They are not necessarily in your specific destination, but perhaps near where you may be staying or back at home in America. This is most likely done to not frighten the students out of studying abroad. Studying abroad does present a risk of potentially being in a dangerous situation.

However, studying abroad is a worthwhile experience. That’s why the OIE creates several modules on safety abroad and gives it a great amount of time in orientations to discuss safety and security. Just some things I do to stay safe abroad include just being aware of my surroundings at all times, keeping in touch with my family/friends, and being aware of the news in my country of potential dangerous situations. Being aware in general is the most important things to do everyday in order to be safe.

As we mourn the victims of tragedies around the world, your ambitions to live abroad shouldn’t die either. Trying not to live in fear is easier said than done sometimes, but the effort that is being put into the journey from the day you apply to the day you leave for your destination will be worth it in the end. Follow your gut feelings and the ideas from the OIE on maintaining safety. Communicate with them if there is an incident! It will only help at the end of the journey!

Till next time! Stay safe.