De la nieve de Montreal a la arena de Barcelona. Entrevista con Philippe Lemieux, estudiante de intercambio del BBA de Canadá

From white Montreal snow to golden Barcelona sand. Interview with BBA exchange student from Canada, Philippe Lemieux.

From white Montreal snow to golden Barcelona sand

Interview with BBA exchange student from Canada, Philippe Lemieux

5,895km, the Atlantic Ocean, and a significant language barrier separate Montreal and Barcelona. But none of that stopped Philippe from leaving his hometown for a few months to fully experience the City of Counts. Philippe, 22 years old and studying for a bachelor's in Business Administration in French at Université du Quebec in Montreal, took advantage of the exchange program offered by EAE Barcelona and his university to spend a semester abroad. We had the chance to have a chat with him about the experience, Barcelona and himself.

Our biggest and most burning question: Why Barna? Having previously visited Barcelona with his family, Philippe admits he had already fallen in love with the city.

“I wanted to come back. I wanted to experience somewhere you can truly feel the culture, somewhere drastically different from North America.”

We figured he was also running away from harsh Montreal weather and looking forward to a much-needed Mediterranean warmth.

Is there some truth in that?

“Yeah, in Canada, we have a lot of snow between December and March,”

We have to agree that switching cold Montreal snow for golden Barcelona sand for a semester is a winning move. We learned before our interview that Philippe is quite the sports enthusiast; he enjoys playing hockey, volleyball, golf, and the occasional surfing session. He also enjoys watching sports during his free time, which is why Barcelona made sense for Philippe, especially considering the city’s longstanding relationship with the world of sports.

Any expectations in the sports department?

 “I was expecting to watch a lot of football, which I don’t really do in Canada. And I did. During my semester in Barcelona, I watched the Champions League numerous times with my friends.”

Philippe also had the chance to enjoy one of Barcelona locals’ favorite activities: volleyball on the beach. Throughout the year, beaches on the coast of Barcelona are packed with volleyball nets and groups of people of all ages and levels that get together to play.

 “Great spot! Barceloneta beach,” he recalls,

“My friends and I would always play beach volleyball in the afternoon and evening. Sometimes, locals would join in and play with us. It was nice to spend quality time outside without snow.

Good weather and sports are not the only things Philippe crossed the Atlantic Ocean for; he wanted to learn.

“I’m the type of person who always commits 100%. I’m a devoted student and consider myself a high achiever, always looking to perform at my best. I’m extremely curious, and I like learning, so I wanted to go somewhere with a language barrier to learn the language. I only speak French and English.” 

That proved challenging for Philippe during his time abroad. He recalls one of his favorite or most special memories of Barcelona:

“It’s a funny story. During my first week in Barcelona, I needed to buy soap to do my laundry. But I didn’t understand or speak any Spanish or Catalan at the time, so it was hard to know exactly what I was buying. I’d have to buy things from the appearance of the package. So, I bought what I thought was laundry detergent and came back to my apartment. I did my laundry with whatever the product was, and it broke my laundry machine. I later realized that it was a product intended for your car — not washing machine friendly apparently.”

In what other ways did you find yourself having to adapt quickly?

“Just in general ways of living, it’s different. For example, we eat dinner in Montreal between 6:00 and 6:30 pm. In Barcelona, I used to eat at 8 or 9 pm, which is very late for us.”

What surprised you the most once you were here?

“I was surprised at how relaxed people are in Barcelona. People in North America are always in a rush. Also, I was surprised by the efficiency of the Barcelona metro system. It would get anywhere easily.”

What was your biggest learning experience?

It was the first time in my life that I was living alone, without my parents. I realized how many things you need to do. It was my first time doing my laundry, cooking my own food and cleaning my room. I realized how much work there is in just living on your own. At EAE, I studied Marketing; I learned a lot of things that I don’t think I would have ever learned in Montréal. Also, I really appreciated that some of our homework had to be done in teams, which I enjoyed. I think there’s a big learning experience in working with other people.”

What other things were different from your life in NA?

“I have to say I really liked the quality of life in Barcelona, especially the balance between university and extracurricular activities. I think we are too busy in North America with work and school. We tend to focus solely on working and studying, but in Barcelona, I could work on other areas of my life, such as spending quality time with friends and enjoying the city.  During my time in Barcelona, I felt that I was living a different life, and my responsibilities were different. Of course, studying and academics are essential, but I like how EAE handles grading for courses, motivating you to concentrate on teamwork. It’s not all about big exams; it’s also about interactions, participation, oral presentations and other curricular activities.”

What were some of your favorite things from the experience?

“It’s hard to choose. I liked many things during my time in Barcelona. I met a lot of great people. They made this experience fantastic. I hope to see them again one day.

At EAE Barcelona, my favorite class was Global Entrepreneurship. I had a great teacher, José Luis Martin, who was really approachable.  I felt that this teacher was different from others. He was attentive, and we always enjoyed learning in his class. His methodology and his way of seeing things, my friends and I had a great time learning from him.”  

And your least favorite?  

“I didn’t like people that were late. I know it’s a cultural thing in Spain, but it affected me. Sometimes, I would arrive on time, and the people I would hang out with would be 40 minutes late.”

Are there any spots you would recommend to your friends back home?

“Ovella Negra at the Marina was probably the best spot where my friends and I would always hang out. I would go there at least twice a week. We would mostly watch football games. The beer was good, and the crowd was amazing. I even bought a T-shirt as a souvenir.” 

Finally, what are you taking home with you from this exchange experience?

“I am taking home the sweet memories I made with these special friends and our crazy nights together. Also, I got to travel to Morocco, England, France and Portugal during my time there. I found these trips amazing and I did some incredible sightseeing.”

It seems Philippe's exchange experience in EAE  Barcelona was a life-changing one. From adapting to a new culture to learning a new language and making new friends. Overall a fantastic opportunity to grow and learn, and it looks like he will always cherish the memories he made during his time in Barcelona, maybe we’ll see him back here soon enough.

Au revoir, Philippe!