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Global Immersion: John Pfeifer Blog in Spain

Global Immersion: John Pfeifer Blog in Spain
John Pfeifer, a junior finance major from Grand Island, Nebraska, is studying abroad June 3-July 16 in Barcelona, Spain, as part of the College of Business Global Immersion program Husker Race of Spain. He and his classmates will learn the culture, language and business practices that make Barcelona a truly unique city. He looks forward to learning more about the customs and culture of Spain, making new friends, enjoying the night life and trying all of the local cuisine.

7/16/2017 - A Farewell to Barcelona
I just couldn't resist the cliche airplane picture on my flight home.
I just couldn't resist the cliche airplane picture on my flight home.
I spent my last week in Barcelona crossing off the few attractions I had not yet seen and revisiting my favorite places that once made me catch my breath. Among these were the famous cathedral La Sagrada Familia, the world’s soon-to-be tallest cathedral that has been under construction for the past 100 years. It is expected to be finished in 2026. I also visited Parc del Laberint d’Horta, a park with a real labyrinth that I got lost in for quite some time. Lastly, I watched the light show at the Magic Fountain, a huge fountain that is synced with music and colored lights. For reference, it’s similar to the fountain show at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. I had a week filled with amazing food, which led to the result of me eating my weight in croissants and gelato. While doing all of this, I made the most of my time with the people I had grown close to while abroad. It is amazing how quickly and easily I was able to develop such strong friendships with my fellow College of Business students!
I feel a variety of emotions as I begin my journey back to the U.S. I feel heartbroken to be leaving the city that has given me so much during the past six weeks. This heartbreak is mixed with the excitement to see my family and friends, of course. I am also very much looking forward to air conditioning again, but that is less important! I think, most of all, I feel inspired. I feel as if my eyes have been opened in so many different ways. Whether it be cultural, intellectual or spiritual, my study abroad experience has provided me with more growing opportunities than I could have imagined.
To anyone who is considering studying abroad, do it. To anyone who hasn’t even thought about it, give it some research. There is so much out there to explore, and there’s no better way to do it than alongside your fellow Huskers. Thank you to everyone who has shared this journey with me. I hope I was able to provide you with some cultural insight, adventure and a few laughs along the way. 

7/6/17 – Running of the Bulls

You better BULLieve I made it to Pamplona!
You better BULLieve I made it to Pamplona!
On Thursday, I headed up to Pamplona, Spain, for the opening day of the historic Running of the Bulls. The running is the highlight of the nine-day celebration of the San Fermin Festival and takes place every morning at 8 a.m. The festival attracts more than a million people each year who come to run, watch and dance. I took a quick four-hour train ride to get there and was immediately overwhelmed by the atmosphere of the festival. For reference, I would compare it to downtown Lincoln on a Husker gameday, but multiplied by 10. The streets were packed with everyone wearing the same outfit. Thetraditional attire of the celebration is a white shirt, white pants and red scarf. So upon arrival, I bought my outfit, got changed and joined the celebration in the streets. There are tons of activities to do during the festival such as free concerts, carnivals and even firework shows. I spent a good chunk of time at a rock-style concert where the lead singer was playing the accordion. Yes, an accordion. Of course I didn’t understand a single word, but the crowd was loving it. I had a blast dancing and cheering with the locals. I think my favorite and the most entertaining thing to do was simply walk through the streets. Around every corner was an event or people gathering to drink sangria and socialize.
Since Thursday is the start of the festival, everyone stays out all night to watch the first running take place on Friday morning. At about 6 a.m., the event’s workers began to set up the fences that line the course for the running. Due to restrictions within my program, I wasn’t allowed to actually run. Instead, I chose to watch from one of the most popular locations on the course: Dead Man’s Corner. It’s a sharp turn at the end of a long straightaway, which makes it challenging for the bulls to turn. This leads to a pretty dangerous situation for the runners. I sat on the top of the fence and had an awesome view, which made it worth the two-hour wait before the running started. Right as the clock hit 8 a.m., a cannon went off to signal that the bulls had been released, and a few moments later I saw the runners begin to pass by slowly. Within seconds, I could see the bulls flying down the street, surrounded by hundreds of people running for their lives. I watched quite a few people get hit and trampled, and within eight seconds,the bulls were around the corner and it was over. The whole run only takes about three minutes, but the excitement and adrenaline in the air makes it all worth it. Once the running was finished, I headed to the arena where the course ends and joined the celebration.
A few hours later, I caught my train back to Barcelona, and my time at the festival had come to an end. I can say that going to Pamplona has been one of my favorite parts of my trip so far!

7/3/17 – Weekend in Florence

A close up picture of Michelangelo's Marble statue of David, before his battle with Goliath.
A close up picture of Michelangelo's Marble statue of David, before his battle with Goliath.
This past weekend I made the quick two-day trip up to Florence, Italy, to visit a few other College of Business students who are studying abroad there this summer. Right when I got into town I could tell it was a very relaxed, leisurely atmosphere which is a nice change of pace from busy Barcelona! Florence is known for being home to many prolific museums, churches and gardens that serve as the main attractions of the city.
I made the most of my time here by visiting two of these, beginning with the Boboli Gardens. The Boboli Gardens are among the most famous in all of Italy, serving as a winding trail filled with many marble sculptures and statues dating back to the 1600s. The garden also includes an amphitheater, various fountains and an incredible view overlooking the city. It took us about two hours to walk through the entire garden, but it was well worth it to see everything that it had to offer. Next, we checked out the Galleria dell ’Accademia, which is an art gallery home to many works of Michelangelo, one of Florence’s (and Italy’s) most recognized renaissance artists. The main attraction of this gallery is Michelangelo’s marble sculpture of David. You may be familiar with this sculpture, as it is one of the most famous in the world. Standing a whopping 17-feet tall, it is without a doubt the coolest piece of art I have ever seen. The detail, preservation and size are all so compelling that it’s crazy to think it was sculpted more than 500 years ago.
Aside from those two places (the lines were very long, so it took time), I spent my days walking around the city, catching up with my friends and enjoying some of the best food I’ve had in my life! The pizza, pasta and paninis were all so good that I would’ve made the trip just for the food alone. I had an awesome time in Florence and was lucky to have the opportunity to visit.

6/28/17 – Class Abroad

Students enjoying an afternoon at Boquet D'alella, a beautiful local winery.
Students enjoying an afternoon at Boquet D'alella, a beautiful local winery.
Considering I’m here for a global immersion program, it might be time to talk a bit more about my studying experience so far. As I mentioned before, I’m enrolled in two classes during my six-week session. One of them is BSAD 491, a class that has been focusing on the Spanish wine culture and how it relates to the business world. We’ve been doing various activities such as meeting and talking with local wine experts, enjoying wine during a business-themed dinner and visiting a local winery. It has been very interesting to see how wine plays such a large part in not only the Spanish culture, but in professional settings as well. For our schoolwork, we have been typing many in-depth papers discussing what we’ve learned and how it can be compared to the Nebraska wine and business cultures. We also prepared group projects in which we discuss similar topics as a team. So far the class has been informative and enjoyable, and it’s been fun as well as interesting to learn so much about wine.
The other class that a majority of my group is enrolled in is an intercultural management class, taught by one of the most interesting women I have ever met. Laura Cervi is an Italian professor who has spent the past 15 years living in Barcelona. She is fluent in six different languages and is a truly captivating speaker. The main focus of this class has been learning how differences among cultures can impact the way the business is done on an international level. We’ve spent a lot of time discussing stereotypes, customs and how mixing of cultures is beneficial to the business world. We have done a lot of really interesting activities as well. We spent one afternoon exploring the historic neighborhood of Raval. For a period between the 1960s and 1990s, Raval was one of Barcelona’s worst ghettos (famous for crime, prostitution, etc.).  In order to restore the neighborhood, the city decided to place there some of the city’s most important buildings (Museum of Contemporary Art, Center of Communication Measurement, etc.) which helped reform the area. Another really cool activity we did with Laura was visit the High Representative of the Spanish European Union, where she taught us all about the history of the European Union and how Spain has contributed to it over the past 30 years. We’ve also had a few other highly interesting guest speakers who have explained how they found success at an international level through the use of understanding other cultures. I can honestly say this has been one of the most informative and useful classes I have ever taken, and I can’t wait for another three weeks of it!

6/25/17 – Cultural Observances

The sights of graffiti flavoring the Barcelona atmosphere.
The sights of graffiti flavoring the Barcelona atmosphere.
Since I’m halfway through the time I’ll be spending in Barcelona, I want to share with you some of the main cultural differences I’ve observed so far. One of the very first things I noticed is there is graffiti everywhere. It is on the walls of nice buildings, restaurants, sidewalks, railings, metro trains and more. The abundance and acceptance of the graffiti is particularly interesting to me considering it has such a negative connotation with vandalism in the United States. As far as observing the city’s people, I’ve seen way more piercings, tattoos, and crazy hairstyles than I’ve ever seen back home, even when I’ve been in bigger cities. Smoking cigarettes is a very causal thing to do here as well. I see people of all ages smoking during all times of the day. There’s also a crazy number of people walking their dogs, many of them without leashes. I’ll typically see somewhere between 30 to 50 dogs on a daily basis, all perfectly behaved. There are also tons and tons of bikers and drivers on mopeds, as it’s much more common to own some sort of a bike than it is to own a car. Speaking of cars – the way the locals drive here would make my mom incredibly nervous because it is borderline reckless. I have yet to see any sort of accident so far, but I would not be surprised if I see one soon. As far as food, it is not much different than in the U.S. There are a couple local dishes such as paella and patatas bravas, but for the most part you can order anything you would back home. One really odd habit that kind of weirds me out is that some foods such as milk and eggs aren’t refrigerated at the grocery store. Apparently it’s perfectly sanitary, but I just can’t get over it. Lastly, and one of the biggest shocks so far is that it is completely normal to be nude at public beaches. There are no laws enforcing clothing at the beach, and some of the locals definitely take advantage of it. I guess some people just really can’t stand those tan lines.

6/20/17 – A Weekend in Amsterdam

Amsterdam's famous Red Light District.
A snapshot of Amsterdam's Famous Red Light District
One of the coolest parts about being in Europe is having the opportunity to travel anywhere in the Union for relatively cheap. This past weekend, I made the impulse decision to head north to Amsterdam, Netherlands, with a small group of my classmates. I didn’t know a whole lot about Amsterdam before arriving, but after my first night, I immediately knew it will forever be one of my favorite cities I’ll ever visit.

Upon our arrival, we were greeted by friendly locals, a refreshing use of English and significantly cooler temperatures than what we experienced in hot, humid Barcelona. Amsterdam is a city packed with attractions, and we didn’t hesitate to make the most of our time there. We began with a tour of the Heineken Brewery, a highly interactive experience where we learned how the beer is brewed, bottled and shipped. Being founded in Amsterdam, Heineken is “repped” proudly by all of the local bars and restaurants, and you can find their classic logo multiple times as you walk down any street.

After the tour, our next stop was a private boat ride through the city’s canals. We had an awesome local guide who showed us all of the major attractions via the river and gave us many history lessons about the great city. After some dinner, we finished the night with a quick trip to see the city’s famous Red Light District.

The next day’s adventures began with a visit to Bloemenmarkt, a beautiful tulip market in the center of town that is surrounded by many other fun stores. Among these were a couple of famous cheese shops, where they offered unlimited free samples of tons of different types of cheese. Being a cheese enthusiast, I highly enjoyed this part of the trip!

Following the market, we waited in line for quite a while to tour the famous Anne Frank House. The house is visited by over 3,300 people every single day, and the line to get in was one of the longest I’ve ever seen. Being inside the house was a very intense, surreal experience that I’ll never forget.

Having worked up an appetite after a long day, we grabbed a good dinner and then headed to Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s most popular green space. Vondelpark is a huge, gorgeous park that sits just outside the city’s center. Here you can find hundreds of bikers, people walking their dogs, and groups of friends sitting together, listening to music and enjoying each other’s company. We grabbed a blanket watched the sunset in the park and had a perfect, relaxing end to our little weekend Amsterdam adventure.


Beautiful view overlooking the small coastal town of Tossa de Mar.
Beautiful view overlooking the small coastal town of Tossa de Mar.
This weekend we packed our bags for a quick trip up to Costa Brava, a string of smaller cities along the northeastern coast of Spain. Our first stop was in the small city of Figueres, home to the famous contemporary artist, Salvador Dali. We received a private tour of his museum which was a truly mesmerizing experience. Dali was a very interesting, abstract person and his artwork shows it. You know of him due to his crazy mustache he would style in silly, funky ways. After the museum, we had a short bus ride to Ginora, a town with a historic medieval infrastructure that is a popular filming location for movies and TV shows. Most recently, Game of Thrones used it as a shooting location. I enjoyed this stop on our tour because I love the series! (Seriously though, who doesn’t?) I checked out where some of the most famous scenes were shot and ate a patio lunch before getting back on the bus to head to Calella for our final stop of the day. There, we checked out the beach, had a nice dinner and experienced the local night life.
We left early the next morning to make the most of our time at Tossa de Mar, which was by far my favorite place we visited. Tossa de Mar is a small coastal town that has one of the most breathtaking views I’ve ever seen. It’s a quiet, traditional Spanish town and served as a fresh alternative from the busy, big-city feel that Barcelona offers. We had a delicious lunch at a local restaurant where we were served paella, a popular Spanish rice and seafood dish. I would say it’s probably the best food I’ve had in my time here so far. Once lunch was over, we had a few hours to lay on the beach, soak up the sun and grab some gelato before our bus ride home. Overall, it was an incredible weekend and refreshing to see a more native area of Spain.


Getting ready to depart for an awesome bike tour of the city.
Getting ready to depart for an awesome bike tour of the city.
My first few days in Barcelona have already provided me with so many stories, activities and foods that I don’t even know where to begin! When my group arrived, we went to our apartment where we met our trip leaders, Dr. Laurie Miller and her husband, Nate. The apartments provided for us by the Institute for American Universities are clean, well-furnished and have a modern interior design. One significant detail we noticed right away is the lack of air conditioning. This is normal in Spain, but it’s definitely not for Americans. We live in the Sants Estacio neighborhood of Barcelona, which is about a 15-minute train ride to Plaza Catalunya. Catalunya is a central square (similar to Times Square in New York City) of downtown Barcelona, and it is also where we go to class every day inside the Seminari Conciliar de Barcelona or the Barcelona Conciliar Seminary. It is a retired seminary that was built in 1882 and is a beautiful place to have class. I’m enrolled in Multicultural Management taught by Laura Cervi, an Italian professor who has lived in Barcelona for the past 15 years. In this class, we will focus on considering the aspects of management within an international and culturally complex environment. Professor Cervi is a captivating speaker who is very passionate about what she teaches, which makes the class interesting and exciting. Additionally, I’m enrolled in an online course taught by Dr. J.K. Osiri, where the objective is to compare the Nebraska wine industry to the Spanish industry.
When not in class, I’ve been keeping myself plenty busy simply by exploring the city. As a group, we took a couple guided tours to get a feel for the area and provide us with some helpful tips and tricks to get around. The metro train is a huge tool I’ll be utilizing throughout my time here, as it can turn a 45-minute walk into a quick 10-minute ride. So far my favorite group-led expedition has been to Mercat de la Boquera, a fresh food market filled with fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses and seafood. We also ventured out on our own to hike the famous Monte Tibadabo, a fun, intermediate trail with a breathtaking view overlooking the city and the Mediterranean Sea. We also were presented the opportunity to go on a guided bike tour of the city, which allowed us to see many of the famous buildings in Barcelona designed by famous architect, Antoni Guadi. This was a super fun, easy way to see the city’s parks and gardens and cruise alongside the beach.


Passport ready to roll!
Passport ready to roll!
When I came to Nebraska, I always thought studying abroad was something that would be too good to be true for me. I instantly got a case of the “Hows?”. How am I going to decide where to go? How am I going to pay for it? How am I going to be able to be away from home for so long? All of these questions made it hard for me to ever truly consider studying abroad. Then, one fateful day in Dr. Laurie Miller’s economics class, there was a short information session about the upcoming abroad trips offered for this summer. I initially sat and listened, not thinking too much about it. But when the words, “Barcelona -- Husker Race of Spain” popped on the screen above a picture of the cityscape tucked between the mountains and the ocean, something triggered inside of me that I have to go to Barcelona. These words echoed in my head not only for the rest of that class period, but for the rest of the day and throughout the next few weeks.
I battled these thoughts with all of the “Hows?” mentioned earlier as I thought it was still out of question. As the deadline to apply for the program approached, I continued this quarrel with my head and heart. It wasn’t until a deep discussion with one of my good friends, Griffin Mims (junior communication studies and global studies major), did I realize it was time to stop thinking, stop doubting and start doing. Our motto is to Start Something after all. This underlying urge finally got the best of me, and I made the call to my parents to discuss the possibility of making this a reality. After a very positive and supportive conversation, my mind and heart were finally on the same page. I filled out my application, booked my flights and the rest is history!
I’d like to consider myself an avid traveler and adventurer. I’ve been on camping and hiking excursions to Utah and Colorado, seen the lights in Times Square, and had my toes in the sand of various beaches. I have not, however, experienced a serious culture shock. I’ve never had to deal with the challenges that come with different currencies or language barriers. While I’m slightly nervous for these factors, I’m definitely more excited. I’m excited to experience a completely different world than what I’ve known in my short 20 years. I’m excited to make new friends, try new foods and learn local customs and traditions. Above all, I’m most excited to have an adventure, explore and make memories that will last a lifetime. I could not be more ecstatic for the six weeks I’m about to spend in Barcelona, and I thank all of you for tuning in! 
Published: July 21, 2017