Category Archives: Barcelona

The Final Chapter

When I signed up for this program, one of the first questions my parents asked me was “Why does it have to be in Spain?  What are you doing there that you can’t do at Michigan State?”  It seemed like a valid question at the time — both of our professors are from MSU, and we can learn to draw anywhere, right?  I figured that it was basically an excuse to travel abroad and see some amazing things, and I was right — but in the last two days I’ve realized that there is one great reason for a group of budding designers to study in Spain — the newspapers here are on an entirely different level than the ones back home.

Today in class we heard from a former MSU student, Nick Mrozowski, now creative director for the Portuguese newspaper “i.”  His presentation was informative and fascinating — several students said that this was by far their favorite day in the classroom here — and seeing his work made me wish I spoke Portuguese well enough to get a job there as well.  “i” is published in full color and designed to look like a magazine even though there is a new issue every day.  Vibrant, interesting, and full of illustrations and graphics, a publication like “i” is a dream job for up-and-coming designers like us. In fact, Nick said that they use more illustrations than any other current newspapers except the New York Times.

We also heard from Krissi Xenakis, another MSU alumni who talked to us about how to find inspiration and get out of creative blocks. She presented some really cool typography she had created using tweets by people like Britney Spears. As someone who is very interested in typography in design, I soaked up everything both Krissy and Nick had to say, and I could tell my classmates did too.  Thanks again to both of them for making the trip. We appreciate it!

After class, everyone split off into groups and went their own ways — some to the beach, some to the market, some to the hostel, and some the the Olympic Museum.  My colleague John had this to say about the museum:

The real selling points were the poor Spanish to English translations that resulted in hilarious picture captions and the fact that we could touch the objects in just about all of the exhibits.

I’ll let him fill you in on the rest of the Olympic complex experience.

Last, but certainly not least, I just want to say that everyone has been doing a great job with putting great photos and videos on the blog!  You’ve all inspired John and me to put together a short video of our own – we hope you enjoy it!
~ Adam



Filed under Barcelona

The End of an Era

John and Adam visit the tobacco store in search of stamps.

Today marked a monumental day during our stay in Barcelona: it was the last time that Adam and I would be able to wear our FC Barcelona jerseys simultaneously in Spain and work together as “the jersey boys.” Because of the intense rivalry between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, and due partially to the fact that “the jersey boys” don’t feel like getting beat up or verbally accosted by crazed soccer fans, we’re hanging up our jerseys and packing them in the deep, dark depths of our suitcases for the next three weeks that we’ll be in Madrid.

This Thursday also marked another milestone: it was our second to last classroom session in Barcelona. Today’s class was highlighted by former Spartans Nick Mrozowski and Krissi Xenakis. Nick, a former editor of The State News during his days at MSU, is now the creative director for the Portuguese newspaper “i.” Krissi, a fellow former State Newser, is currently in grad school working on her MFA in graphic design. Both Nick and Krissi gave insightful and interesting presentations that covered newspaper and graphic design. I could sit here and blog about it all day, but I think I’ll toss it over to my partner in crime, Mr. Adam Rossi, who will take it from here. Here’s a little sampling of his take of one of Nick’s presentation:

His presentation was informative and fascinating – several students said that this was by far their favorite day in the classroom here – and seeing his work made me wish I spoke Portuguese well enough to get a job there as well.

Click here to read Adam’s account of Nick and Krissi’s presentations.

After class, most of the group headed over to La Boqueria to grab some quick lunch before departing for some fun in the sun at the beach. Adam, Laura F. and I weaved our way down La Rambla to partake in some people watching and window shopping at NikeBarcelona before heading back to the Marina District. When we arrived at the metro, we were surprised to see Alanna and Catherine directly behind us. They previously were at La Boqueria and caught up to us after we made a few stops on La Rambla. We all boarded the metro together and were then even more surprised to see that Laura E. was already on the same metro! It’s as if the stars aligned and we were destined to meet on that particular metro at that specific time. Or maybe it was just a very weird coincidence. I’d like to think it was a little bit of both.

What a pleasant stop in that little tobacco shop

We hopped off the metro, and Adam and I stopped at a local tobacco shop to purchase some stamps. We expected it to be a quick, in and out stamp purchasing experience, but it turned into a delightful conversation with a woman who worked there. She asked us where in America we were from and what we were studying in Madrid. She told us that her daughter had lived in New York and had also spent time studying in Miami. She was very patient with me as we had a nice conversation in Spanish at the front counter. It was also during this conversation that we discovered the reason why we shouldn’t wear our FC Barcelona jerseys in Madrid. We envisioned that the rivalry between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid was similar to that of Michigan-Michigan State, but oh how we were wrong! She and another worker told us of the soccer fanatics in Madrid who would undoubtedly give us more than a hard time for wearing FC Barcelona crimson and blue. Before we left we told her that we were spending the next three weeks in Madrid, which prompted her to scoff and reply with a wink and a smile that Barcelona was much better. These people were some of the nicest we have encountered during our short stay in this amazing city. If you make the attempt to speak in Spanish to anybody here, I’ve found that they are more apt to converse with you and will respond in English if you’re having a hard time finding the right words in Spanish. That stop in the tobacco store wasn’t just one of the highlights of the day; it was one of the highlights of this entire trip for me.

The Museu Olimpic was everything I had hoped for and more

After grabbing a bite to eat at the Marina District, Adam, Alanna, Catherine, Laura F. and I headed out to el Museu Olimpic i de l’Esport de Barcelona, also known as the Olympic Sport Museum. It was located next to the Olympic Stadium and literally down the road from the Joan Miro Museum we visited the day before. I heard about this little gem from my book on Spain by the renowned travel author Rick Steves. He listed attractions such as the “play-by-play rehash of the ’92 Barcelona Olympiad” and “a schmaltzy movie collage” as the highlights of the museum that we should check out. But the real selling points were the poor Spanish to English translations that resulted in hilarious picture captions and the fact that we could touch the objects in just about all of the exhibits. It was an interesting experience. From there we walked to the Olympic Stadium and wandered back through a beautiful park to reach the funicular train and then head back home. To check out pictures from our trip to the Olympic Stadium as well as our impromptu Messi photo shoot, click here.

Since Friday is our last day of class, it’s been crunch time for all 11 of us. Our evenings are filled with group meals and homework in A4 kitchen and more recently B3 kitchen, which is affectionately known as “the cottage.” Everyone has been working hard to finish up their visual profiles, picture book and museum projects before tomorrow’s deadline. It’s been a whirlwind two weeks in Barcelona, but we’ve all loved every minute of it and cannot wait to see what Madrid has in store for the coming weeks.

On one final note, in commemoration of our final day as “the jersey boys,” here’s a little video presentation Adam and I created and perfected with all of our abundant free time.




Filed under Barcelona


We have less than four weeks left in Spain. We’ve been here 11 days. We have homework due tomorrow (don’t worry, it’s not much) and we leave for Madrid on Saturday. Some of us only have two more years left at MSU and for some of us, this is our last summer vacation before having to be what I call a “real person.”

What will we do when we get back? Who will we see first? What things will be put on our to-do list? I may just be speaking for myself, but these are all questions that are buzzing around my head day after day. However, as I sit on my twin bed after spending a day of seeing amazing art and beauty I can’t help wonder if maybe none of those worries are really that important right now.

We are in Spain. We’ve had 11 days of adventures and are fortunate enough to have over three weeks left of our trip. None of that matters either. What matters is today. The moments that we are experiencing right now. The breathing in and out of the Mediterranean air and the joy of being surrounded by such unique individuals. I’ve realized (with the help of others, I’m not a genius!) that this experience is one that I will never have again, and one that I need to fully treasure. I need to enjoy every second of the day.

Whether it’s watching a boy finish a rubics cube in the time span of one metro stop to the next (yes, this DID happen this morning and yes, we did all applaud), or listening to the 4,000 pipes of the organ that sit in the historic and breathtaking Palau de la Música. Every moment is just as important as the next and it would be disappointing to think that I spent my time sitting in the balcony of the Palau de la Música pondering what job I will search for after graduation.

That being said, today was full of beautiful moments. One of my favorites was walking into the Fundació de Joan Miró (the museum of Joan Miró, a Spanish artist) and seeing the unbelievably large piece of artwork that reached from the ceiling to the floor and was intricately sewn to create the largest blanket I have ever seen.

Another moment that I treasure would be stepping out of the metro station in search of a good cafe and finding the cutest restaurant, Buenos Migas. We all agreed that they had the best pasta salad, pizza and quiches that we’ve had since arriving in Spain. We even had enough money left over for gelato!

Another moment that is worth remembering would be the tour of the Palau de la Música, a concert hall designed in the Catalan modernista style by the architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner. The site is declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and today over 300 concerts are held in a year that range from symphonic and chamber music to traditional catalan music. The acoustics are impeccable from the marble floors to the ventilated ceiling and is known as the garden of stone. With the carved muses and roses and giant stained glass ceiling, it was truly one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in Barcelona. (I’m still mad that I couldn’t take any photos).

And lastly, I’d have to say the most satisfying moment of the day would be when I walked into the B-3 kitchen at 9:30 tonight to find all of the MSU Spain “gang” eating together at a large table (except Laura E. who is trying her best to beat her cold, you can do it Laura!). There were two plates of noodles, a delicious salad, bread and oil and a multitude of other snacks filling every inch of the table. Everyone pitched in to create a collaborative and delicious dinner before beginning our homework.

Our group is truly special and they are constantly inspiring me to enjoy every moment that I am here. I am not going to worry about what happens when I go home, and in fact, I am not even going to worry about what I will do tomorrow. I am going to be present in the now and soak it all in as if this moment is the only moment I have.

Here is a video to showcase the moments visually. Enjoy!

VIDEO – moments

Ciao, Abbey M.


Filed under Barcelona

News Junkies

¡Hola otra vez de España!

As you can tell from previous blog posts, we have all been clearly enjoying ourselves in this beautiful city. Not only are we learning a lot about each other, but we’ve also been learning a lot about design.

In that vein, today was the day we visited El Periódico, one of Barcelona’s most circulated newspapers. We all met up as a group outside of the building, which we were able to successfully find without getting lost (which now puts us at; MSU Spain: 1 Barcelona: 2). Cheryl had arranged for us to take a tour

Students outside of El Periódico.

with Ricard Grácia Ferrer, the head of the infographics department.

Ricard spoke English quite well, so he was able to tell us a lot about the paper. It’s published daily, with two identical editions in Spanish and Catalan. The Spanish versions are recognizable by their red flags — the Catalan in blue. He explained to us the difficulties of designing a paper that has to have identical content, both in the text and in the design elements, in two separate languages. One headline in Spanish might be longer than a similar one in Catalan, which means that images get moved around and text gets bumped. Knowing the time and effort put into designing a newspaper page, we all understood how big of a challenge that is!

The newsroom.

Ricard showed us around the entire building. He explained that they had moved into this building with the intent of finding an open, airy space — and they achieved just that. A lot of us were impressed with the size of the newsroom and how, despite the number of desks and people in it, it didn’t feel cramped at all. All of the different departments were located in the same room, just at separate desk clusters. We toured the design department, where he talked to us about how their website is finally moving to flash; the photography department, where he told us that photographers have much more control over which pictures run in the paper and how they appear; and even “la mesa”, the table, where it is ensured that reporters aren’t covering the same events.

We even ventured into the depths of the building and into the archives, where very few journalists even are allowed. Cheryl continued to refer to it as the morgue: “Where old papers go to die.” Ricard seemed puzzled by this reference to the great space where all of the old versions of the paper are

The archive, or "morgue", for the paper.

kept. We young journalists were enthralled by it, of course. I imagine it was a place that strongly resembled my own personal heaven.

In the conference room, we spoke with Ricard about Karl Gude (he was really excited when he heard the name), how he feels about Barcelona, and his time covering the ’92 Olympics when they were located in the city. He told us that he usually comes into work about 10am but doesn’t leave until 11 at night. Those kind of hours are crazy to us Americans!

As we were leaving, Ricard gifted each one of us with a free copy of El Periódico. Giving journalism students a free newspaper is like giving puppies to three-year-olds. We were ecstatic. Many of us have already sliced ‘n diced the papers up to use as collages in our visual journals.

The moral of the story: we are learning a lot about serious journalism, despite our many field trips. But we still know how to have fun.

Laura F.


Filed under Barcelona, El Periodico

We Really are Learning.

Sometimes this study abroad seems to be more of an extremely long field trip than a studious adventure. Either way, we all are learning every minute about this country, design, each other and ourselves.

We’ve learned that…

Hoarding is OK sometimes. For example, when you take a pamphlet in six languages from a museum because you’ll never know what will look best in your journal.

It is indeed possible to know more than you ever need to about people you hadn’t even seen until a week ago.

Arts and crafts are still fun.

Cheryl can never be mad at us as long as we continue to look “so cute” in the pictures she snaps.

You can’t be sad when you have Nutella.

Sometimes you just need to lie down on the pigeon poop-covered square with your friends to have a special moment together.

Catalan is very different than Spanish and can turn ordering lunch into a game of charades.

We should take advantage of free drink refills in the US. They don’t exist here and therefore we walk around with 2 liter bottles of water.

Skype is one of the most useful inventions of the decade. Almost all of us use it to keep in touch with people back home.

We have an amazing amount of mutual friends and many people will be living close by next fall. Everyone is hoping to capitalize on this to have many reunions.

There is a milk and sanchichon thief in our hostel. The boys have fallen victim.

Katie D. can become very “weary” after a long day of activity. She uses the word hourly. It has caught on within the group.

Even though you’re supposed to share community kitchens, it’s acceptable to turn off all the lights to watch a movie together.

John and Adam are master barter-ers. Just ask John about how they accidentally got a Messi jersey for more than 50 percent less than they should have. He’s told the story at least 26 times.

Also, they bought matching jerseys and wore them for 24 hours together. Only in Spain.

We all have many mutual friends and endless commonalities. Especially when it comes to childhood TV shows. Talk to Laura E. about “Sailor Moon.”

That game you play when you tell yourself you have to be somewhere 15 minutes before you actually do so that you make it on time. It works.

Our group’s theme song is “Flashdance… what a feeling.” We heard it three times in 24 hours and sang it annoyingly loud every time.

…and we’re learning more every second.



Filed under Barcelona

Working Seriously Hard

The group waiting for Cheryl by the metro, about to go have a delicious meal

With three red heads, two boys in matching soccer jerseys, and a teacher leading us that is just south of 5 feet, we’re an easy group to spot in a crowd. But after a solid week, I’d like to think that we’re slowly learning the lay of the land here in the amazing city of Barcelona and have moved up the ranks from tourists, to locals in training.

Abbey and Katy W. analyzing a magazine's ability to "keep voice" in class on Monday

We can all finally navigate our way safely, in and out of the metro without losing any valuable limbs in closing doors or escalators. And we’ve been able to discover a lot of the hidden perks Spain’s public transportation has to offer. “I don’t need a blow dryer, I have the metro.” – Alanna.

Everyone has made a valuable effort to fit in style-wise, and have purchased clothing from some of the local shops. “You guys we have to stop at this store. It says it has the freshest s*** in Barcelona!” – John K.

And, we’ve learned that huge fishes, are huge at L’aquarium de Barcelona. “Look at that huuuuge fish! It’s a fish, but it’s huuuuge!” – Laura E.

Yes, we’ve learned so much in the short time we’ve been here. Being serious students, and working seriously hard is what we strive for each and everyday! Some pictures from today can be seen here but I have a feeling everyone at home might want to know a little bit more about what we students have been up to when we’re not hitting those books…I thought so.
Since words could never possibly do us justice, here is a VIDEO to help me out. Hi to everyone back home! Don’t worry, Cheryl isn’t working us too hard 🙂


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Everything Reverberates

In one of our rare mornings spent in the actual classroom, we were fortunate enough to have a guest speaker (Lynn Strause, yearbook extraordinaire) speak to us about finding our voice and making an impression.  While we spent most of our time talking about yearbook and magazine designs, the presentation got me thinking about the city itself — what sort of voice does Barcelona have?  What impressions has it made on us so far?

As we pass the halfway point of our short stay in this amazing city, I think it’s time to provide a small taste of what we’ve experienced so far.


1. La Rambla

A stately man going for a stroll on La Rambla

La Rambla, a massive street in central Barcelona that we walk through multiple times each day, is the most lively, bustling hub of activity I have ever experienced.  Walking up and down it, one might see some street performers, a historic church or two, or the widest selection of hamster cages in the entire hemisphere spread out at their feet.  Night or day, rain or shine, there is always heavy foot traffic on La Rambla, and though it is primarily a tourist location, it provides an excellent cultural experience that no one should leave Spain without.

2. Siestas

Siesta on the beach with an umbrella

The very idea of closing up shop in the middle of the day and taking a nap is so mind-boggling to us Americans that we simply cannot comprehend it at first.  In Spain, however, it’s normal practice, and it’s part of a laid-back lifestyle that I think we could stand to learn something from.  Some stores open later or close earlier, people are more relaxed, and you can sit at a restaurant as long as you want after you finish eating without getting thrown out.  And yet, somehow, everything continues to function just fine — it’s a great atmosphere to be in, and one of the things I’ll miss most about this place.

3. The History

This is a castle. (photo by Katie Dalebout)

You can’t walk for two minutes here without seeing some kind of historical building or massive structure (i.e., La Sagrada Familia) towering over you.  Everything from the tiles at your feet to the sculptures and fountains that rise from the ground are steeped in history, and it’s part of what makes this city seem so unreal.  We heard a story about a fountain somewhere in the city where, if you drink the water, you will someday return to Barcelona — so far we’ve found something like ten fountains, and had water from each, so hopefully one of them was the right one and none of them were from the sewer or something.

4. Patatas Bravas


Words cannot describe patatas bravas (potatoes with a uniquely spicy dressing).  I will simply include a picture and hope our readers can grasp what a culinary miracle it is that such an exquisitely delicious dish was ever created.

5. Street Art

"All You Knit Is Love" storefront window

I’ve never seen a city with more graffiti, murals and other forms of art on the streets. It adds so much color and life to an already vibrant place, and it seems to be much more accepted here than it would be back in the states. Entire buildings or shop doors will just be covered in extravagantly painted trees or landscapes or people. I think it’s amazing.

6. Adam and John’s Blue and Red Authentic Professional Lionel Messi Number 10 Barcelona Futbol Jerseys

Dancing in the moonlight

I think they speak for themselves.

7. The Dream Worlds of Dali and Gaudi

Parc Guell - A Real-Life Wonderland

Visiting Dali’s museum in Figueres and Gaudi’s creations in Barcelona, such as La Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell, was like being in a real-life Wonderland. Walking up the steps at Parc Guell was the moment when I truly realized that I was in a completely different culture — it was like nothing I have ever seen before, and I’ll probably never see anything like it again. These are experiences I would never trade for anything and I think they’ll have a great impact on me as a designer too!

8. The Language Barrier

The street signs are all on the sides of buildings!

I took Spanish for multiple years back in high school, but I can honestly say that I’ve learned more since I’ve been here than I ever did back then. It’s incredibly gratifying to be able to order food or chat to a store owner entirely in another language (or so I’ve heard — that’s my ultimate goal). I also enjoy the overall shift in our group from exclusively English to a sort of English-Spanish hybrid language (Hola, lo sienta, I’m late, I was eating my jamon boccodilla in my room) and I look forward to us all becoming fluent in the next few days.

9. The Metro System

An inside look at the Metro

Any account of Barcelona would be incomplete without the Metro.  We take it everywhere — it’s the easiest transportation in the world.  We wish they had something like this back in East Lansing!  Also, there are escalators everywhere, and no one can not have at least a little fun every time they ride one of those.

10. Cheryl Pell

Cheryl and Abbey on the bus tour

Okay, so Cheryl isn’t technically a part of Barcelona, but I think I speak for everyone when I say that a trip like this simply would not be the same without her.  I know that many of us would not even be here if we hadn’t taken her class at MSU and promptly changed our majors/lives to follow the design path. Even though it took her awhile to accept my Facebook friend request, I am glad that Cheryl is here and I can’t think of anyone else I would want to lead this expedition!

Well, that just about puts Barcelona in a nutshell*.  I hope it’s given you a taste of what it’s like for us, and I’m looking forward to another week here!


*And by that I mean that really I could fill an entire novel with the things we have packed into a single week in this city.

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