Helle Kettner, Danish student that has lived in Tarragona for the past 11 years: “When I walk into the Part Alta, I shiver and tell myself: all right, I’m home”.

Helle Kettner / ©Pere Toda-Vilaniu Comunicació

Helle Kettner is a young Danish girl that arrived in Tarragona in 2004 willing to learn some Spanish and then, after a few months, go back to Denmark. It’s been getting on for 11 years since that moment now, and Helle is still in Tarragona. Five years after she arrived, she starting studying a degree in Communication in Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV), Campus Catalunya. Once she had finished, and refusing to go back to her country, she took a master’s degree in Strategic Communication, and she’s currently in the middle of her doctorate, after being awarded a grant by the university. Within the field of Communication there’s a sport that drives her crazy: “My line of research is communication and main cycling races”. A part from working in the URV, Helle Kettner runs a radio programme in Ràdio Ciutat de Tarragona: Trójkat, a culture and music magazine that presents interviews to music artists that come to Tarragona to perform. Helle has yet another passion: Nàstic (Tarragona’s football club). So it’s not Aalborg BK, nor Kobenhavn… It’s Brøndby IF and Nàstic. We guess Carles Cortés, Quim Pons and Joan Alfons López have something to do with it, her radio colleagues during the club’s game broadcasts, through the very same radio station. Helle may not know it –or maybe she does–, but she is a true Tarragona girl.

Campus Catalunya / ©Helle Kettner

Helle’s most personal Tarragona moves between the area where she studied and the city’s Part Alta, in which she admits to feel like at home. The first picture she sent shows Campus Catalunya (in URV). “I am aware that this is not one of the most beautiful places in the city, that’s for sure, but it is a very special place to me. The Rovira i Virgili is important to Tarragona because having a university of this quality makes a city stand out. To me, Campus Catalunya means a lot to me, specially the Communication area, because they welcomed me and gave me a chance to do this PhD”. Kettner explains that before signing in, she had to master the language (she’s got an excellent level of Catalan), and that once she was in, she felt surprised by “the teachers’ closeness”. “When you start a degree in a country you don’t know, using a language that is not yours, that holds you back a bit. However, the way teachers dealt with me is very rewarding, since it made me feel like at home”.

Portal del Roser / ©Helle Kettner

The second spot where Helle takes us is just a few metres from Campus Catalunya. “I chose Portal del Roser as one of the most spectacular spots in Tarragona. It’s part of the Part Alta area that, to me, is a truly magic place in the city. When I walk into the Part Alta I shiver and tell myself: all right, I’m home; this is what the Part Alta means to me. I used to live here and walking under the Portal del Roser arch was a true privilege I could not believe. Every morning I used to tell myself –How luky I am to live in a city with such a beautiful structure, atmosphere and light–. Walking under it every morning, and seeing those mountains in the background, behind Campus Catalunya, was simply stunning. Tarragona is located on a privilege area, by the sea, but also very near the mountains. It’s spectacular!“.

Circ de Tàrraco / ©Helle Kettner

In order to get to Helle’s third location, we move into another neighbourhood. “My third picture shows Tarragona’s Capçalera del Circ, since it is the best tourist attraction in the city in my opinion. Together with Pont del Diable, Capçalera del Circ is my favourite monument. I think is it a pity it is not that known abroad. I realise about that every time I’ve got my family or friend around from Denmark, and they get shocked about the city, and all its beautiful places. I love Tarragona more and more every day, but getting my family and friend’s reaction when they visit the city for the first time is simply incredible and it makes me feel very proud”.

We decided to finish the Helle’s interview by taking her to Tarragona’s Antic Ajuntament (former Town Hall), today home of Tarragona’s Tourism Board, and the starting point for many tourists visiting the city and willing to know more about it, despite many of them will only stay for a few hours or days. “I am a true Tarragona lover, from the very first day I arrive here. At the moment though, I’ve never made the actual decision to stay for good, but I’m not even thinking about it. I do this, then that, I might then finish this and then that… and this is how years go by. It’s been 11 years now since I arrived here, but the thing is that Tarragona makes you really fall in love with it, it is an ideal city to live in. What I love the most is its lifestyle, they way locals live their lives and they way they understand things and the way to live them. That’s what really fascinates me about it, and that’s why I love it. Oh! And to me, having to choose only three spots in the city was tremendously difficult because, in fact, every spot in Tarragona is incredible”.

That’s what we said before… Helle might not know about it –or maybe she does–, but she is a true Tarragona girl. And let it be for many years! Tak, Helle!

Text: Ivan Rodon (@irodon on Twitter)
Photography: Pere Toda (@ptodaserra on Instagram)
Translation: Artur Santos (@artur_1983 on Twitter)