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Riona Mactutis

Riona Mactutis


Green River College
Customized Program Participant

Riona is pursuing her associates degree at Green River College, and studied abroad through a Customized Program in Fall 2022.

What are you up to these days? Have you graduated? Are you working? How did your experience in Barcelona have an impact on your life?

I think one of the things that I loved most about my study abroad experience was the community that was fostered everywhere. I made quite a few meaningful connections with onsite staff, my host family, and other Barcelona SAE students. Nearly any time an onsite staff member walked by, they were sure to say hello and start up conversation. Everyone seemed genuinely interested in how it was going and if they noticed that you spoke Spanish, they would help you practice. Even in the city, there were so many small instances where people were looking out for each other, and it really made for a great support system while being abroad.

If you were to sum up your Barcelona experience in one to two words, what would you say? My Barcelona Experience is…


Explain why you chose those words.

My quarter in Barcelona was one of my first experiences traveling and living without my family. Living in Barcelona was an incredible experience for me, as it provided the opportunity for me to experience city living (very different from home) and living without a car (which is also very different from home). There were so many opportunities to get out, have fun, and learn about myself. Reflecting back, it was the exact experience that I needed at the time, to help me grow and get out of my comfort zone.

What was your favorite place to eat in Barcelona? Favorite food?

I would totally recommend going to Les Truites in the Sarrià-Sant Gervasi neighborhood! Although it’s not necessarily in a central location, it is accessible by metro. The restaurant is dedicated to making Spanish tortillas (egg and potatoes) and has flavors that vary daily. One of my other favorite foods is Patatas Bravas. I would also absolutely recommend trying some while in Barcelona!

What was your favorite tour, day trip, or cultural activity? Why?

There were so many fun opportunities, it’s difficult to choose! I think my favorite activity was exploring La Fira de Santa Llúçia, one of the Christmas/holiday markets. It’s a really fun way to learn more about holiday traditions in Barcelona, and a great opportunity to pick up a mini caga tío to bring these traditions back home! It also ended with a delicious plate of churros and chocolate.

What was your housing experience like? Did you live in an apartment with other students? A homestay with a local family? A residence hall on your Barcelona campus?

I lived in a homestay with a local family, and I cannot recommend it enough!! I lived with an older woman and her adult daughter, along with another student from my program. They took such good care of us and offered advice when we were having trouble. One of my favorite parts of living in a homestay was sharing dinner with them every night and talking about how our days went. It was also an amazing opportunity to practice speaking Spanish, and many people (including my host family) noticed how my Spanish had improved towards the end of the semester. You also may be more likely to learn some Catalan this way! If anyone is planning on staying in a homestay, I would definitely recommend preparing yourself for the language barrier. My host mom didn’t speak English, so it definitely would have been a challenge if both my roommate and I didn’t speak any Spanish.

Is there a site in Barcelona that you would recommend to future students that may be a little more “off the beaten path”?

If you like spaces with an urban feel, I would totally recommend going to Jardins de les Tres Xemeneies (Gardens of the Three Chimneys)! My literature professor took my class to this park, and it was one of my favorite spaces and it reminded me of home. This concrete skate park serves as a giant canvas for graffiti artists, and the pieces or the “gardens” on display are always changing. It’s an amazing spot to take some photos and people-watch, and you may even see some people dancing or skating to music.

If you had one perfect day in Barcelona where would you go, and what would you do?

If I had a perfect day in Barcelona, I think I would split my time in three places. I would definitely return to visit my host family and wander the neighborhood that I called home for a few months, I would wander through the Gothic Quarter and find a cozy café to get a snack or some lunch, and I would round out my day by going to the beach to wade in the water. Maybe find some ice cream or gelato afterwards too!

What was something you were surprised to learn about Barcelona or Spain? Or what aspect of the country or city were you least expecting?

At most, I knew a few stereotypes about Spain and Spanish living, but when it came to Barcelona, I had no idea what to expect. The thing that surprised me most was the history of Barcelona, which I learned most about on our walking tour through the Gothic Quarter. It was incredible to walk through the old, brick buildings, and find the hidden Roman city remains within the area! It was really incredible to learn how many layers of history the city had.

What is one piece of advice that you have for future students coming to Barcelona?

Don’t be afraid of seeming rude when it comes to your safety. In situations where things don’t seem right and you don’t feel safe, don’t be afraid to say “No” and continue stating that boundary while leaving the area. This approach was what helped me get out of an encounter with some people, who I think were trying to scam or pickpocket me.

Why was Barcelona SAE the right program for you?

I think Barcelona SAE was the right program for me because of the balance of independence and support that it gave. Traveling and living alone (much less alone, abroad) is a BIG change from living in your home country with your parents, but the entire staff made me feel really supported. They provided lots of resources beforehand that helped me feel prepared, and I felt like I could talk to anyone if I needed help with anything, big or small.

Experience the magic of Barcelona SAE