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I’m spending my summer studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain, and what’s great about being in the city is the opportunity to travel easily throughout the rest of the country! For a little weekend excursion, my friends and I took a train to Seville, which is located on the southern coast of Spain.

My favorite part about this city from the beginning was the small-city feel; Barcelona is huge and provides more of a modern, busy environment while Seville was more traditional and a lot more relaxing. We stayed on the edge of the city and were a little concerned about getting to things, but as it turns out we were able to walk everywhere. My second favorite thing was the food. The food there was amazing, and we definitely treated ourselves. “Tapas,” small starter-like dishes, are very popular here so most of our meals were split and shared. One of my favorite places was called Coloniales; I highly recommend stopping in! Also the gelato, had to get gelato. We hit most of the tourist spots, and a map with the big monuments marked really helped plan the weekend once we arrived. The Cathedral of Seville is worth waiting in line for. It is huge, beautiful and has an amazing view of the entire city from the tower. Another must-see is the historic bull ring, Plaza de Toros, where you can take a short tour and see the arena where live bull fights are still fought today! The entire building is burgundy, yellow and white so the colors combined with the sky made for unreal pictures. The entire city is beautiful, and there are blue and white tiles everywhere!

Overall, Seville really blew all of my expectations out of the water, and I was sad to leave. I think it was important to see how the local people live in a smaller city and to experience the culture and history of Seville. I really enjoyed seeing a different side of Spain, too. I’m glad I studied abroad because I am able to have weekends like this, but I have also learned a lifetime’s worth in just five short weeks; studying abroad was one of the best decisions I have ever made!

Griffin is a public relations junior from Fort Worth.

The first two days of the Phillips 66 National Championships and World Trials in Indianapolis have been fruitful for both current and former Longhorns alike. The ultimate goal of the World Trials is to qualify for the 2013 FINA World Championships, which are to be held in Barcelona, Spain from July 19 to August 4.

Former Longhorns Jimmy Feigen (2009-12) and Michael McBroom (2011-13) both earned a trip to Barcelona with a pair of runner-up finishes on the first day. Ricky Berens also has eyes turned towards the Worlds. He’s turned in two top-five finishes in as many days.

Feigen, a San Antonio native, finished second in the 100 meter freestyle to the gold medalist in the event at the London Olympics, Nathan Adrian. The field features seven Olympians. Feigen finished in 48.24 seconds, pushing him to eighth in the world, beating his lifetime best of 48.46 from the tech-suited 2009 US National Championships. He had the fasted closing 50, a 25.12 time to push past Anthony Ervin for second place. Feigen became an Olympian in 2012, winning the silver medal as part of the 4x100 meter freestyle relay. He participated in the 2012 FINA Short Course World Championships last fall in Istanbul, Turkey and also won NCAA titles in the 50 and 100 yard freestyle categories in his final year at Texas.

“Winning a gold medal [at the Olympics] is the pinnacle of swimming achievement, but right behind that is winning a gold medal at the World Championships,” Feigen said about preparing for Barcelona.

McBroom clinched his trip to Worlds with a second place finish in the 1500 meter freestyle, posting a time of 14:59.12, with London Olympian Connor Jaeger taking first. It was McBroom’s first time to finish under the 15-minute mark and he now ranks seventh in the world this year. McBroom competed with Feigen at the 2012 Short Course Worlds in Istanbul, where he placed 10th in the 1500 meter freestyle. He added more accolades to his resume in March at the 2013 NCAA Championships with two second place finishes in the 500 and 1650 yard freestyle events.

Two-time Olympian and former Longhorn Berens finished fifth in the 100 meter freestyle on the first day, behind Feigen with a time of 48.68. His second fifth place finish came on the second day, in the 200-meter freestyle. Former Longhorn Michael Klueh took seventh in that same final.

Though Berens’ eligibility to compete at the World Championships next month remains unconfirmed, the two finishes he’s posted may still earn him a spot on Team USA’s freestyle relay roster; finishing fifth in both the 200-meter and 100-meter events improves his chances. Junior Clay Youngquist won the 200-meter freestyle consolation final and former Longhorns Austin Surhoff and Dax Hill finished fourth and sixth respectively.

Texas signee and Maryland native Jack Conger also had a top-five finish in the 200-meter backstroke championship final with a time of 1:56.82. The national high school record holder in the 500-yard backstroke, Conger was a finalist in the 100-meter and 200-meter events at the 2012 Olympic trials.

Flamenco Dancers

Flamenco dancers perform at El Tablao de Carmen in Barcelona, Spain. Flamenco is a type of folk music and dance that originated in southern Spain in the late 18th century and is still popular today.

Scenes from Spain

Passersby walk through a group of pigeons at Plaza Cataluyna in Barcelona, Spain.

A boy plays at Placa de la Vila in Vilanova i la Geltrú, Spain.

Editor's Note: Senior photographer Chelsea Purgahn is studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain for the summer and will be intermittently reporting interesting scenes she encounters during her trip.

A demonstrator sits on the ground as riot police officers stand guard next to the Mobile World Congress during a protest in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. Spanish students in Barcelona clashed Wednesday with police and set fire to garbage containers during nationwide protests against education spending cuts.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

BARCELONA, Spain — Tens of thousands of students protested education spending cuts in big cities across Spain on Wednesday, and the demonstrations turned violent in Barcelona as angry young adults clashed with police.

Riot police charged a crowd outside the stock market in Barcelona, Spain’s second largest city, after protesters who broke away from a peaceful rally numbering thousands threw rocks and other objects.

Video in Spanish media showed protesters setting plastic garbage containers alight with flares, causing a blaze that destroyed at least one car. They also hurled rocks at the glass front door of a bank branch.

Some students made their way to the University of Barcelona and took refuge from riot police in a plaza inside the campus, denying that they started the violence. Student Pau Bronsoms, 22, said police used truncheons to hit protesters and fired rubber bullets.

“We did not expect this degree of repression,” he said. “Nobody broke anything until they charged.”

A regional police official in Barcelona declined comment on tactics used to break up the demonstration, speaking on condition of anonymity because of department policy.

Spain is in the midst of a deep economic crisis, with the unemployment rate for people ages 16-24 at nearly 50 percent.

Many young adults fear they have no future in the country and are angry at the new conservative government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, which is enacting widespread austerity cuts to prevent the country from being forced into a bailout such as those taken by Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

Large protests also took place Wednesday in Madrid and Valencia, but there were no reports of violence.

The Barcelona protesters regrouped late in the afternoon and marched to the sprawling convention center hosting the Mobile World Congress, an annual cellphone trade show event that is the world’s largest.  

Published on Thursday March, 1 2012 as :Spain student protests turn violent in Barcelona

Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo from Portugal, centre shoots to score during a Copa del Rey quarter final, 1st leg soccer match against FC Barcelona at the Bernabeu stadium in Madrid Wednesday Jan. 18, 2012.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

The biggest story of the Copa del Rey quarterfinals, a matchup between Barcelona and Real Madrid, dubbed El Clasico, ended with a 2-1 Barcelona victory in this first leg.

Éric Abidal notched the first and Carlos Puyol headed in the second to seal the deal against their longest rival.

Cristiano Ronaldo managed a goal for Real Madrid, but last year’s champions will have to try to take the second game of the series or risk elimination.

Just under five months since the infamous Spanish tournament started, there are only eight teams left. The Copa del Rey, or King’s Cup in English, is currently in the quarterfinals stages. The Copa has been around since 1902, however this is the 108th year of play.

The nine-month tournament which started last August and ends in May is comprised of 84 teams exclusively from Spain and is intended to crown the nation’s best team. The tournament is a combination of four different leagues: La Liga, Segunda División, Segunda División B and Tercera División. La Liga, the best league in Spain, doesn’t come in until the Round of 32 while the lower three leagues battle for a spot to just advance and play for a shot at the final phase in the first three rounds.

Starting in the Round of 32, each matchup consists of a home-and-home series, the overall winner of which moves onto the Round of 16 where they also play two games per matchup.

Currently the tournament is in the quarterfinals with Espanyol matched up against Mirandes, Athletic Bilbao with Mallorca, Valencia with Levante and Real Madrid with Barcelona. Only three games in this round have been played, Espanyol already beat Mirandes 3-2 in their first leg, Athletic Bilbao beat Mallorca 2-0 and Barcelona beat Real Madrid 2-1 on Wednesday.

The biggest story of this round was yesterday’s “El Clasico,” the matchup between Barcelona and Real Madrid. The two longtime rivals played last year in the finals of the Copa del Rey. Real Madrid took the title, making it their 18th championship in the history of the tournament. Barcelona, who currently holds the most championships wins at 25, looks to make up for their loss last year with another championship run this year. One more win against Real Madrid in these quarterfinal games takes them to the semifinals where they look to move onto the finals and get their 26th championship win.

Another big story is Mirandes. This team from the community of Castilles and Leon is the only team still alive that isn’t from La Liga. They are in the Segunda División B, which had 26 representatives in the initial field of 84. The last time a non-La Liga team won Copa del Rey was in 1927. The team, Real Union, was also from Segunda División B.

With only eight teams left, it’s getting close to naming the champion of the Copa del Rey. A total of only 10 more games have to be played until the champion is crowned. The final two teams will play either May 20 or 25 to conclude this season’s edition of the Copa del Rey.

Printed on Thursday, January 19, 2012 as: Barcelona tops Real Madrid in first leg

FC Barcelona’s Lionel Messi from Argentina celebrates after scoring against Zaragoza during their Spanish La Liga match on Sunday. Messi is on his way to becoming the world’s best player.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

There’s little doubt that Lionel Messi is currently the best player in the world, but is he on course to become the best soccer player ever?

The diminutive Argentinean won the most recent Balloon d’Or, awarded to the world’s best player, and he is a frontrunner to take the award for a second straight time. His speed is unmatched, while his goal-scoring as of late has been astounding. In the past week alone, the 22-year-old winger scored seven goals.

He started the week off with a hat trick in the second half of Barcelona’s 3-0 win over Valencia last Sunday. Going into their midweek clash against VFB Stuttgart in the Champions League, Barcelona were level on aggregate 1-1. Messi initiated Barcelona’s incredible performance against Stuttgart as he scored the first goal, played a key part in teammate Pedro Ledesma’s goal and then scored once more in the 4-0 thrashing of the German club.

After Barca’s win, Stuttgart coach Christian Gross made a startling assessment, comparing Messi to Diego Maradona, one of the best players ever and the current national coach of the Argentina squad.

“They started coming at us so quickly, and we tried our best to stay with the pace,” Gross said. “[Messi] is the best player in the world. He’s a fantastic talent, and it’s incredible to think he’s only 22. We can now compare Messi with Maradona.”

As if his week couldn’t get any better, Messi had one final masterful performance left in him, and it may have been his finest of the season. Barcelona were away at Real Zaragoza, needing a win to keep pace with La Liga leaders, Real Madrid. Messi got Barcelona off to a firing start in the sixth minute when he headed a bullet past Zaragoza keeper Roberto Gago. Messi’s second goal was the goal of the match. He bounced off a defender near midfield before going on one of his trademark runs, dodging two defenders and shooting brilliantly past the keeper into the bottom right corner.

Messi still had a few tricks left for the La Liga bottom-dwellers. He completed his hat trick in the 78th minute when he got a great pass from Andres Iniesta on his left foot and put a stunningly placed shot past Gago. After Zaragoza answered with two goals of their own to make things interesting, Messi put the game away for good. He controlled a long pass perfectly at the edge of the box and completely turned around one Zaragoza defender before faking out another, and he was then dragged down blatantly in the penalty box. In a show of ultimate class, Messi, who usually takes the Barcelona penalties, conceded the opportunity this time to striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who had been struggling with his form as of late, and the Swede converted the penalty for the 4-2 win.

Barcelona are now tied with Real Madrid at 68 points but trail by two in the goal differential column. The Catalan club has two La Liga fixtures in the upcoming week before heading to the Emirates to take on Arsenal in the quarterfinals of the Champions League next Wednesday.