A Day at Montserrat

Submitted by Kate Lilly on the 2024 Winter ETE program in Barcelona, Spain…

Myself (right) and two friends from the program, Sydney (left) and Kelsey (center) at Montserrat mountain

The first several days in Barcelona consisted of an intense adjustment period. Aside from  the obvious transition imposed by the time zone change and subsequent jet lag, I suddenly found  myself in an environment unlike any other I had ever been in. I am from a small town in rural  southeastern Pennsylvania—life there is starkly different from the bustle of Barcelona, with its  gothic architecture, narrow streets, hilly slopes, energetic nightlife, and 1.6 million people. That  being said, it was a transition I welcomed wholeheartedly. While I found myself overwhelmed  here and there within my first hours in the city, it quickly ebbed into excitement at all the  newness I was experiencing. My favorite “new” in my first week in Spain, by far, was my  program’s day trip to Montserrat mountain.  

On Saturday, we met our program director, Dr. Lewis, bright and early at our apartments  in the Gràcia neighborhood of the city. We then made the trek to the Metro station (another  lifestyle adjustment). After two separate train rides, we arrived at the stop for Montserrat, about  one hour outside the city. From there, visitors boarded a separate train to carry us almost all the  way to the mountain’s peak, where the Basilica sits. I chose to write about this particular  excursion due to how awestruck it left me. My group spent about three hours at Montserrat,  which consisted of taking many photos of the breathtaking views and joking about the three plus-mile hike to get to the peak of the mountain. This excursion came early on in our trip, and it  truly set the tone for a wonderful first week in Barcelona. It was deeply impactful for me, as  someone who has lived in somewhat of a smaller bubble her first twenty years of life, to see such  beautiful things that are so wildly different from what I have always known. Regardless of the  hundreds (if not thousands) of other people that had chosen to visit Montserrat that day, and the  different languages that were being spoken all around us, it did not feel crowded or  overwhelming. Instead, it felt refreshing to spend time in a place that represents peace and unity.  The cross constructed to look out over the edge of the mountain side was both beautiful and  grounding to see. People of countless different religions, backgrounds, and races/ethnicities came  to the same place to see the same thing. Furthermore, while we are all students in the Elementary  Teacher Education major, not all sixteen students on the trip (including myself) knew each other  prior to arriving. The time spent traveling to and from Montserrat as well as that spent fighting  our way up the mountain gave us ample opportunity to talk. It felt great to go beyond the surface  level connections that we already had formed in our shared college and area of study and learn  more about who my peers are—I’m not sure I would have had the chance to connect with them  otherwise. Though the steep climbs were tiring, we ended the day extremely appreciative to have  seen a more scenic side of Spain and gotten to know more about each other. I highly recommend  a visit to Montserrat for anyone in the Northern Spain area! (Submitted on January 20, 2024)