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Barcelona protests touch the lives of Miami students abroad

Protestors push for independence in Barcelona.
Protestors push for independence in Barcelona.

On October 1, 2017, the citizens of Catalonia voted to declare independence from Spain.

Catalonia is a region in northeast Spain containing roughly 7.5 million residents, including the 1.6 million people who live in Barcelona. Despite the regions' Spanish roots, it contains a unique language, culture and booming economic landscape.

Madrid, the capital of Spain, rejected Catalonia's bid for independence and declared the act illegal. This sparked independence protests across the city.

Junior Meghan Collins studied in Barcelona last semester during the political upheaval.

"[The protests] were a topic every single day in every single class," said Collins.

In contrast to the vast media coverage, the protests Collins witnessed were peaceful, she said.

Christie Currie, a Junior currently studying in Barcelona, believes that the political tension has died down, yet she has still encountered protests.

"At first we were scared [of a large protests] but then realized we were being naive. No one is violent or mad, just expressing their values and opinion," said Currie. "Once we got over it, it was really cool to observe."

Despite these peaceful demonstrations, Currie said Barcelona University, where she is studying, notified students of recent violent protests.

"Last week, there were some violent things happening and we got emails from our school telling us to stay away from certain areas," said Currie.

Miami's Study Abroad Office provides all students studying abroad with an International SOS membership. This service provides emergency services when needed, such as medical professionals and evacuation if necessary.

"The Study Abroad Office is actively working with local Barcelonians to monitor the situation," said Kevin Fitzgerald, a Miami Study Abroad advisor.

Barcelona is Miami's second-most popular study abroad destination behind Luxembourg, according to Miami's Study Abroad Office. Fifty students were there in the fall semester and nine, not including the Farmer's School of Business Barcelona trip, are there now.

Fitzgerald said he believes Barcelona's popularity is due to the increase in tourism over the past 10 years.

"Specifically where male students are going, the vast majority are going to Barcelona," said Fitzgerald.

Despite the political unrest, Collins said she experienced a positive experience studying in Barcelona.

"I never felt unsafe or that it was an issue that would affect my life or study abroad experience," said Collins.