Returning Home

It has been a couple of weeks since I have returned from my study abroad experience, and it has been tough. When I first got to Barcelona I didn’t have any culture shock or any trouble adjusting to the time zone there because I was so excited to be in a foreign city by myself. My return home was a different story. For the first week I woke up every day at 6 am because it was noon in Barcelona, and I always got very tired at the end of the day when all of my friends wanted to hang out and were doing things. This was one of the first things I noticed about coming back home. The next challenging aspect of moving home was when I was hungry and when I ate. Now this may seem like a ridiculous struggle to have but when eating in Barcelona I would eat lunch around 2:30 and dinner at 8-9:30, but at home we ate at noon and like 6-7:30 so I was never hungry at the right times and didn’t really eat much with my family. Although these are small things they really play a big impact into a persons life.


The next thing that was challenging when coming back home was reverse culture shock. When I went to Barcelona I was so excited to be there and so ready to immerse myself into the culture that I didn’t experience any culture shock because I was open to almost anything, but when I returned home it was tough. When in Barcelona I would wake up every day and walk out on my balcony and look at the incredible view and then walk to class and get to look at all the architecture and beautiful sights. At home, I was either stuck in my house or had do drive my car to get to where I wanted to go, and everything was the same stuff I looked at and went to in high school. I was slightly depressed when coming home because I had moved away from this new incredible place where I experienced so many new things, and now I was back home to the place I spent 20 years of my life and have done everything there is to do. Even things such as being 20 minutes on the Metro away from the beach were tough to get used to not having since now I am nowhere near a beach. Overall it was a tough adjustment being back in my hometown instead of being in Barcelona.


The last challenging aspect about returning home was the food. Barcelona offered new food and new food experiences that I don’t have at home. Whether it be traditional tapas or a fresh seafood paella the food in Barcelona was incredible, but now I don’t have the options I did there. The first few days it was fine because I missed a lot of my home food such as Skyline and Chipotle, but after that I just wanted to be able to go to all of my restaurants that I loved in Barcelona. This summer was the greatest experience of my life and I got to experience so much culture and so many different things and I am happy and sad to be back in the United States and at UofL again, and I can’t wait until my next traveling adventure when I go abroad.


The next couple of weeks I spent exploring the city of Barcelona, and going to beaches during the week. During the weekends, I made multiple trips to Girona, the south of France, and Costa Brava through the ISA program. The trip to Girona and the south of France were involved in the same trip. Girona was such a fun trip for me because multiple scenes of the show Game of Thrones were filmed there, and it was so cool to see where they were actually filmed.

Next on that trip we visited Arles, France. This is the place where Picasso painted one of his famous pictures, and Van Gogh lived and visited the hospital for his ear. This city was quite interesting and even had a large outdoor market to shop in. The next part of this trip was a stay in Montpellier. This was a cool town with a lot going on. At night, we walked around a square and watched a bunch of street performers dancing. Below are pictures of the painting as well as the actual place that he painted. Overall France was a really cool trip seeing a lot of art and different architecture, but my favorite part of that trip is most definitely going to Girona and seeing all the different locations that Game of Thrones was filmed.

The next weekend I went to Costa Brava, a popular vacation spot for people who live in Barcelona, and it’s a lot less touristy than Barcelona. We took a bus to our hotel in Roses, and then took a boat to a very cool city Cadeques (pictured below). This was a beautiful and hard to reach city but had great views and good beaches. This is even the location of Salvador Dali’s house and it was really cool. The next day of the trip we actually went to the museum of Salvador Dali, and that place was crazy. It was like walking into the mind of a madman artist and all of the exhibits were crazy and awesome. Walking through the museum was fun and quite interesting.

These were two really fun trips filled with different arts, cultures, and beautiful views and architecture. I learned a lot more about art than I thought I would and really enjoyed all of it. The next two weekends I am going to have will be spent in Barcelona and then Ibiza and I am very excited!

5 Things I Miss The Most About Croatia

I studied abroad this summer in Zagreb, Croatia for three weeks. This was actually my first time out of the United States. I have now been home for about two weeks, and I already miss Croatia so much. I am going to pick out five international things that I miss the most since I have been back. The first thing I miss the most, which might sound crazy, but coffee. Every country has coffee, and I must say the coffee in Croatia is very different than the coffee in the states. I only normally drink iced coffee, hot coffee is not very appealing to me. This opinion of mine changed drastically when I was studying in Croatia. They do not use ice cubes as often as we use them. It was unusual to have ice in your coffee. I sometimes felt embarrassed to ask because it was a little difficult to communicate anyways. They speak their own Croatian language over there. However, I only really picked up on goodbye and hello. The coffee though, was amazing. I now look at coffee differently. I used to just run through Starbucks and grab me a quick drink because I needed caffeine. In Croatia, they don’t drink coffee for the caffeine, they drink it as a social thing. You go grab coffee and sit down and talk with some friends and relax. When I got back, I actually went to a coffee shop, got a coffee, sat down, and read some of my book. Anyways, that is the first thing I miss, the Croatian coffee! The second thing I miss would have to be the night life. Going out to bars is a totally different scene than in the states. I normally order a bourbon and coke, that’s what I enjoy drinking. When I asked for that at bars, they would give me a glass bottle of coke and a shot of bourbon. Which was a little odd, but I got used to it. I learned to not judge people as much. In the states when you go to bars, a lot of people judge you by what you wear or how you dance. When I went out in Croatia, you could dance and look like whatever you wanted and people still loved you. But, of course going out is always a great time. The third thing I miss would have to be my friends. This was the best part about the trip. My school had 100 students from 20 different countries. I met so many different people from different countries. What was the coolest part was that even though we are all from different cultures, we are still very similar. This taught me so much. Even though our country dislikes Muslim’s, I actually met so many that were awesome people. Don’t let religion or cultures effect how you look at a person. I met lifelong friends that I am already planning to go visit! The fourth thing that I miss would have to be the art and history. There is so much art and history within the country of Croatia that I got the opportunity to see. I miss waking up every day and seeing the Cathedral in my hostel window. I look at history so differently now. History is actually very important and interesting. It is nice to take a few minutes out of your day and to stop and admire the history. The fifth and final thing I miss the most since I have returned would, of course, have to be the people. The locals in Croatia that were born and raised there taught me so much. Weather it was in a ten minute Uber ride, or talking to someone in a coffee shop. I learned to look at things so differently, and I will always remember those memories. Those are the top five things that I miss about Croatia!

Most Memorable Moment While Studying in Croatia

Hello! I am Kaitlyn Morrison and I studied abroad in Zagreb, Croatia for three weeks this summer. I would have to say the most memorable thing I did while I was studying abroad was doing a one day five island visit. Let me tell you a little bit background about my visit before I go into detail. I took two classes during three weeks, which was tough. I was in class from 10am to 1pm and then from 5 to 8pm, I spent a lot of time studying. I traveled on the weekends, which I only got two to play around with. My first weekend, my school took all of us to Zadar. This is a popular city on the coast of Croatia. It was pretty neat because our school paid for all of it. It was beautiful, but I have to say my second weekend trip was my most memorable. The second weekend, we could of went anywhere we wanted. I had a small group of friends I met that were studying with me and also staying in the same hostel. I met a girl named Lindsey, who was from Texas, it was nice to meet another American. I also met a girl named Irmak, and she was from Turkey. And I met a girl named Lara, who was from Germany. It was the coolest thing that we all clicked and got along so well. Even though we all come from different backgrounds and cultures, we are all really similar. I actually met so many different people from different countries, but overall my class got along really well with each other! We all just wanted to party and travel. The second weekend, my group of four friends, decided to go to Split. It was about a four hour bus ride, which was not bad at all. We all actually slept the whole time. We rented out an Airbnb which ended up being really cheap since it was split four ways. We were only in Split for about three days. The second day, we booked a five island boat tour. This was the best day ever! We visited some very popular islands off the coast of Split, Croatia. The tour was about $115 US dollars, but we were on the boat from about 7am to 7pm. I think it was worth the money. We stopped at every island for about an hour, where we got the option to snorkel and swim. The Acratic Sea was beautiful! It was crystal clear and such a pretty blue. Within the trip, we stopped at an island to eat lunch. The food in Croatia is amazing, it was all very delicious. The cost of living over there is actually really cheap, I did not end up spending much money at all. This impacted my life so much by learning that there is so much more out there in the world. This was my first time out of the country, this whole experience really opened my eyes and showed me how other people live day by day in a different culture. Another thing I found interesting that I want to share is that the Game of Thrones is tapped off the coast of Croatia! thought that was pretty neat. But overall, that weekend trip in Split was my most memorable moment. I loved every second of it and I cannot wait to go back again one day!



I’m a huge soccer fan. You can ask any one of my friends or family and they will tell you, if there’s a day I’m not at school or work (sometimes even when I am) I am usually watching soccer. This all started during the 2014 World Cup. That’s the first time I remember sitting down and getting lost in a game. However, since soccer wasn’t very popular in the United States there were only about five teams that were regularly broadcast throughout the actual soccer season. One of those teams was F.C. Barcelona. For those of you who don’t know, they are basically the equivalent of Golden State in basketball, or the Patriots in football. I have not missed a Barcelona match in well over a year and I fully plan to be sitting at Camp Nou for an El Clasico at some point in my life. Spending the summer in Europe (Prague to be specific), I really wanted to make it out to Barcelona and see the home of the greatest team in sports (lets be honest, it’s a fact not an opinion). I’m proud to say I made it happen and the weekend I spent in Barcelona was one of the greatest I have ever had.

When I landed in Barcelona that Friday, I was greeted immediately by something we all know a little too well…humidity. Europe is severely lacking in the A/C department, so you never want it to be too hot or humid, but it was actually a welcome reminder of my old Kentucky home after a month and a half spent in Europe… even if I was sick of it five minutes later. Regardless, the next day was spent hanging out with some friends on the beach and bargaining for anything from blankets and souvenirs to mojitos and donuts (shout-out to the dude sprinting around with a plate holding them on his head). We quickly learned we were terrible when it came to reaching an agreed price, so it became a consistent joke when someone approached. They would start the offers at 15 euros and we would counter with 5. They would eventually tell us the lowest they were allowed to go was to 10 euros to which our response would be “Best we can do is 6”. Needless to say, most of the beach bargainers started to avoid us after a while. I’m sure they were glad the rowdy group of American guys only went to the beach for a day. That night, our group tried to make it into a bar crawl but a friend of ours fell in the first bar. Sporting a busted lip and a cut on his forehead, he looked like he’d gotten into a barfight. Naturally, they wouldn’t let him into any of the bars afterwards.

The next morning was the best time I’ve had on any trip I’ve ever been on. We visited the stadium of my favorite soccer team, Camp Nou. Like I said, I basically live for this team so walking through the hallways of the stadium I thought I’d never get to see was surreal. I got my photograph in front of the Champions League trophy they won in 2015 and stood with my mouth agape as I gazed at Lionel Messi’s five Ballon D’or’s. Later in the tour we were able to walk through the player’s tunnel and see the visiting team’s loccer room and the prayer room that is off to the side. Let’s just say I spent a lot of time there and may have called my parents to ask what a “healthy” amount of money was to spend on souvenirs. I have zero regrets.

I spent my last day in Barcelona touring the city on my own, which may sound lonely, but it wasn’t all that bad. First off, I simply roamed through the city. I was honestly trying to find my way back to Camp Nou, but ended up getting a cab to La Sagrada Familia. From there, I walked through the streets and made my way to the Arc de Triomf and took several photos in front of that. Since those were the top two on my bucket list I then proceeded to roam through Barcelona and eventually found my way into a large park. A little thing most people don’t realize is that parakeets are actually wild birds in Barcelona. So naturally I spent the next hour chasing them around in the park trying to get a cool picture of one. If you must know, I never did…

That’s the basic rundown of my time in Barcelona. It quickly became my favorite city in Europe and not just because I was biased and obsessed with their soccer team. Whether it was the beaches, the food, the nightlife, or simply the energy the people in the city seemed to possess, Barcelona was all around amazing. I will definitely be visiting this amazing city sometime in the future and I will definitely be back for a soccer match as well. Barcelona was truly amazing, and I couldn’t be more sad that I had to

5 Things About Spain That I Miss The Most

There were many extraordinary things about Barcelona, Spain that I will continue to miss for quite a while. Paella is the first part of Spain that I will miss. It is a traditional Spanish dish that consists of rice and seafood and is served steaming hot. Normally you have to share it with another person because it comes in such a huge portion. If you don’t like seafood, they will serve it to you with any type of meat that you please. By the beach there were dozens of paella restaurants so you could eat your seafood and rice while looking out at the ocean- this was my favorite part!

Gunnar Knetchel is the second part about Spain that I will miss. He was my photography teacher at the University of Barcelona and is a professional photographer himself. He has photographed many covers of magazines for AirCanada and his work is truly remarkable. A part from being an awesome photographer he was an even better teacher. He made our assignments enjoyable and encouraged us to explore the city to take pictures for our projects.  I am so glad that I studied in Spain because I got to learn from a real photographer who also gave me feedback on the photos I took. I may never get an awesome opportunity like that again!

Isabella Cosentino is the third part about Spain that I was sad to part with. She was my International Business teacher at the University of Barcelona. She is one of the owners of a company called Cosentino which specializes in selling countertops for kitchens. Her company is known worldwide and even has stores in America. She is a highly successful business woman and I was honored to be able to hear her story and learn from her as well. She taught us all of the important factors of doing business internationally as well as how to do business with people from different cultures and countries.

The fact that you are not expected to tip waiters at restaurants is another thing I will miss about Spain. The people who work at restaurants there get paid more than what we call minimum wage so they do not expect people eating at their restaurants to tip. This was helpful to me because I saved a lot of money! Over in the United States I usually tip the people serving me at restaurants about 20% and all of those tips start to add up eventually!

Being so close to the beach is the last thing I will miss most about living in Barcelona, Spain. I lived in an apartment near Plaza Lesseps and that was not a far distance from the beach at all. My room mates and I would get home from school most days, drop our backpacks off, and take the metro to the beach. It would only take us about 25 minutes and we were there. Here in the United States I live very far from the beach so it was nice to be near a beach while I was studying abroad.

Now that I am back here in the United States I will try to keep in touch with my professors and maybe take a road trip to the nearest beach more often. Also, I am going to teach myself how to make paella because I miss eating it so much! Although I miss all of these five things so much, I know that I will make it back to Spain one day in the near future!

Returning Home

I returned home from studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain two days ago and it has been quite a process adjusting back to my normal way of life. When I first arrived Barcelona I had no idea what to expect from the people and the city. It surprised me how pretty the buildings in the city were because they were very old and had a lot of character. Everywhere I looked reminded me of what a historic district of a city would look like back in the states, but of course everything there was much older there than it is here. When I first arrived to the apartment that I would be staying at for the next six weeks I met my four room mates and we wandered around our new home to explore. It didn’t take us long though, because families in Spain are used to having much smaller living spaces. We had four tiny bedrooms, a kitchen the size of a small walk in closet, a medium sized living space, and two small bathrooms.

Apart from the size of our apartment, I was also stunned at the fact that no one uses dryers in Spain. Outside the windows of our apartment were clothing lines and clips to hang clothes outside to dry on. The washers are also much smaller there so you can not wash a lot of clothes at once. This made it take much longer to wash all of your clothes because you would have to do smaller loads and hang your clothes outside to dry and that could take up to two days if the weather was not clear.

When I first got home in Louisville I put a load of clothes in the washer, walked through my kitchen, and then my bedroom and felt like I had so much space. Being in Spain made me appreciate the size of everything over here in the United States because everything here is much bigger. People in Spain spend most of the time outside of their house working or enjoying the outdoors, so the places they live in are as small as possible because it makes more sense to them and is probably more cost efficient.

The most challenging aspect of coming back to life in the United States is leaving all of the friends I made while abroad. We are all from different parts of the country so I will most likely not see them for a while. We all had a very close knit bond because we mostly hung out with each other throughout the trip. Another challenging part of coming home was that the food here is much different. I ate a healthy American meal for dinner the night I got home and after it I was still extremely hungry. I attribute this to the fact that over in Spain I received large portions and ate every last bite of the food I could because it was expensive. So when I got back here I had to adjust back to my usual healthy way of eating. Overall, it is nice to be home but I am so glad that I spent my summer abroad in Barcelona, Spain!

Adjusting back to life in The States

I am not the most emotional person, but I will never forget the feeling that I got when I was walking to my terminal at the airport in Torino, Italy. I had not shed a tear about leaving up until this moment, but my eyes filled with tears because it became real that I was leaving the country that had become my home for the past month and a half. Although 6 weeks sounds like such a short time to most, but when you are completely taken outside of your comfort zone, 6 weeks feels like 6 months. I was now leaving the whole new life that I had built, completely removing myself from my apartment in the city, my friends that I made, all of the amazing weekend getaways, and so much more. I cannot even put into words how rewarding this experience was.

Trying to follow the Italian culture was hard because the people do not smile and say “hi” to each on the streets. Being from below the Mason-Dixon line, I have been raised to make conversation with strangers and be cordial with them on the street. I quickly learned that Italians saw this to be insulting and that I had bad intentions. This became one of my hardest habits to break. So, when I arrived in Atlanta, I had extreme culture shock!

One of the most interesting parts of my culture shock, was being able to eavesdrop on people’s conversations. I had been completely immersed in a different language, and I never really knew exactly people were talking about while I was gone. I was completely overwhelmed being able to actually hear what SO many people were saying around me.

On my flight from Atlanta to Louisville, I was extremely shocked to finally be reunited with ice-cubes in my drink! The cup was so much larger than any that I had while I was living in Italy. Also having pretzels and being able to read the package label was different. This short flight was reminding me of how different life is in Kentucky.

In Torino, there wasn’t Uber so I didn’t spend much time in actual cars for long periods of time. When my family, picked me up in the airport and drove me home, it was different to be in an actual large vehicle again, with air conditioning! Cars were so small in Italy, and my parent’s Ford Flex actually felt like a bus to me.

My first meal back was Cracker Barrel, and the service industry is so much different in America. The servers are constantly checking on you and making sure your needs are met, and in Europe, the servers only take your order and bring your food, you even have to ask for the check! It felt amazing to have LARGE portions of food, but more importantly breakfast food because I was only able to have pastries and mini cups of coffee for such a long period of time.

It crazy how the smallest parts of life in America such as: free water, ice, cheap peanut butter, air conditioning, and services, are taken for granted, and can be very hard to adjust pack to in America.

Culture Shock- Language!

It never really hit me that I was flying all the way across the Atlantic Ocean, from all my friends and family, to a country where I did not speak the native tongue, until I got there. Wow, that sounds pretty crazy when I put it into words. All I had heard when I would tell people that I was studying abroad in Italy, was that “You will be fine! They speak English in Italy!”, well let me tell you… that is not the case in Torino. I first figured this out when I arrived in the airport, and I was greeted with the hustle and bustle of so many people running into each and not even saying I’m sorry! I ended up eating lunch at the airport, and ordering food for the first time. This experience was interesting because it was a mixture of pointing and smiling, trying to be as a polite as possible.

My non-verbal communication skills were put to the test my first few days in Italia, and I am forever thankful for this. The main example that I have of this is the relationship that I built with the older man that owned a cafe on the street that I was living on. I quickly was becoming a regular at Cafe de Marconi, and one morning a man came up and started speaking Italian to me, and I could understand that he was talking about an older couple had been married for 50 years and still shared their lunch everyday. Mr. Daniele then sat down with me, and I ended up having to tell him that I didn’t speak Italian, and he didn’t speak an English. We still were able to communicate, and he told me all about the city through broken language and of course, Google Translate. He would take my notebook and draw maps of the city of restaurants and gelato places that I needed to try. My favorite part of the morning, was always stopping by to share my adventures with my friend. The day we met was still gives me chills and brings a smile to my face when I think about it. The small moments that you don’t expect to happen are the reason that I fell in love with traveling.

If I were to redo my experience, I would have learned more of the language before I left The States. I should not have expected most people to speak English. When I first arrived, people would point and whisper under their breath, “Americana,” which means American girl because there is not tourism in Torino. By the time I left Italy, people would come up to me and ask for directions because they thought that I was a local, and this was one of the best feelings. I would definitely not study in an English speaking country. Completely immersing myself in a new culture forced me to be completely out of my comfort zone, and made me think quick on my feet. The skills I gained from this experience have changed who I am, and prepared me to take on adulthood and my future career.


A post-reflection on my time abroad

Studying abroad was something I always considered doing, but ended up becoming a necessity. I was at a place in my life where the world had become too small and my days felt like they were full of old habits and just getting through the motions.

As much as I prepared, packed, and studied the country of Italy and Greece, I don’t think anything could have taken away the nerves. I did not know anyone else going, did not speak Italian or Greek, and I was pretty sure it was the first thing I had ever done on my own. I sobbed on my flight to JFK, like I’m sure I made the whole plane super uncomfortable. The scariest part of it all was that I knew it wasn’t something that I could just give up halfway through and retreat back to my comfort zone. There was no way to predict what would happen after I got off my flight or what would happen in 6 weeks.

It’s hard to explain how you change through study abroad, but you definitely do. I’m not sure if it’s the freedom of exploring a whole new culture or how adaptable you become when problems arise or how you start recognizing people from your neighborhood and feeling like your part of something completely separate of your life back home.

My favorite thing that I can take away from study abroad is how much I learned about other people. I learned A LOT living with 7 other American girls in a small apartment in Trastevere. I learned about how to get along with your travel partners as you run around Europe on the weekends. I bonded with an old lady in Italian village who spoke no English with only hand gestures and a lot of smiling. Being a tourist is easy, but being a study abroad student requires you to make deep connections with people. Those human connections are what made my travels complete!

So, if I had to give someone any one tip, it would be to jump into your travels with both feet! Meet people, explore places, and run far away from your comfort zone. This can be an experiment to see how much you grow. Make a country 1000 miles away your 2nd home. It’s hard to not let fear take over in an unpredictable situation, but look at the unpredictability as potential!


Elshadai Smith-Mensah