One of the the most valuable aspects of the Erasmus year abroad placement is the opportunity to be immersed in the country’s culture. At least this was the case for the Hispanic Studies finalist Marie Boon, who with an interest in all things artistic and underground, frequently exploited  Barcelona’s rich offerings of jam sessions, vintage markets, gigs and galleries.

Marie showcases her creations, a Catalan beretina hat and a homemade ensaïmada (Mallorcan pastry), for the exhibition

In November 2011, the photographer and designer Olimax, together with Eat Meat Raw gallery, organised an event in which members of the public were invited to attend a photo shoot demonstrating an item that represented their personal experience of Catalonia. Admiring the rustic bakeries that line the streets of Barcelona, Marie decided to create her own version of the Catalan beretina hat, featuring a homemade ensaïmada, a Mallorcan pastry delicacy. The resulting photographs later formed part of an exhibition, a book and a short film named All i Oli: an Homage to Catalunya.

While attending various free workshops during one of the city’s many film festivals, Marie was also invited to take part in a community radio project, Ràdio Alòs, which would meet weekly in a young people’s support centre in central Barcelona. Participants were taught how to use recording equipment and editing software that enabled them to record news reports and radio-theatres and then edit them into short podcasts which they published online via a blog that they collectively created. The group, which comprised an ethnically diverse range of young people from the neighborhood, attended local events to hear from the organisers and contributers or interviewed the public in the street on local issues. As the only foreigner, the project was a fantastic way for Marie get to know the locals. Marie reports that they gave her a warm welcome into their community and they remain her close friends.

On her return to the UK, Marie interviewed Catalan Paralympic swimmer Julia Castelló during the Olympic Games, and continues to work on other mini radio podcasts that combine British and Catalan current affairs. All in all, Marie describes her year abroad as an invaluable experience, during which she dramatically improved her Spanish and Catalan language and acquired a love for the culture, the people and the city of Barcelona.

You can hear Marie’s radio interview made during the Olympics here!