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World Class

A semester in Spain

Stephen White in front of the opera house designed by Santiago Calatrava in Valencia, Spain. Stephen White in front of the opera house designed by Santiago Calatrava in Valencia, Spain.
By Chris Murphy
Globe Staff / August 29, 2010

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Stephen White, a junior at Northeastern University, recently wrapped up an internship through the school’s co-op program at DNA Architectos, an architectural office in Barcelona. In high school he had lived for a time in Salamanca, a small town near Seville. He chose to return to Spain for “the total experience,’’ namely the culture, food, new friends, and the opportunity to improve his Spanish and gain a new perspective on architecture. Read about his travels at http://stefanobarcelona.blogspot.com .

A SMALL WORLD: “Everything in Spain feels smaller. My bedroom has just enough space for a double bed, a wardrobe, and a desk. My washing machine is in my kitchen. Every time I do laundry, I hang my clothes out on my balcony along with everyone else, which gives each side street its own personality.’’

WHAT’S FOR DINNER: “Tapas, paella, seafood (if you eat down by the beach), tiramisu, sangria, bocadillos (a sandwich on a baguette), and crepes. Patatas bravas (potato wedges served with spicy salsa) have become a staple in my diet. I also have become addicted to olives, a typical appetizer.’’

HEADY FEELING: “I’m happy to try anything at least twice, once to try it and twice to make sure I like it or not. Despite my love for seafood, the king prawns that come with the head attached give me a funny feeling, and I imagine them still swimming. But they are delicious.’’

EASY DOES IT: “Here everyone sits in the cafe in the morning, drinks their coffee slowly, often with a cigarette and a croissant, and takes their time getting to work. It’s rare to see anyone with a to-go cup or even a doggy bag of food from dinner at a restaurant. It’s even more rare to see someone walking fast.’’

NO RUSH: ’’Spaniards eat late and stay out late. Lunch is usually taken between 2 and 3 p.m. and dinner isn’t until 10. When I first got here it was hard for me to wait that long to eat dinner. I sit on my balcony watching families walk by with strollers and young kids, sometimes until midnight or 1 a.m. Everyone stays out all day just enjoying a relaxing stroll.’’

HEART TO HEART: “Barcelona is an affectionate city. They don’t care about who you’re with or sexual orientation. As a gay male it’s refreshing to be in a country that has nothing against anyone. Everyone is always kissing each other, hugging each other, and holding hands. It almost makes you want to cry how much love you see in this city.’’

SCREEN TIME: “My TV only has six channels, two of which are tarot card readers. My Spanish friends tell me that Spanish TV is not very exciting, though I do enjoy ‘Family Guy’ in Catalan.’’

PLAY TIME: ’’Students sit in small dive bars with friends and drink beer or wine. There are always outdoor concerts or events to go to. There is always a ton of people on the beach as well. A lot of people go to the clubs, and dancing lasts until 6 a.m. or later. My favorite find is a group of two DJs called Wanted. They mix typical Spanish music with funk and soul beats.’’ [For a sample, go to www.myspace.com/wantedgrooves.]

CHRIS MURPHY