Experience of a Lifetime

I returned to the U.S. just over a week ago from my nearly 7 weeks in Barcelona, Spain. It was an absolutely incredible experience. Though at times it was rough, when I was homesick or having trouble adjusting to the culture, I still wouldn’t go back and change anything. I absolutely don’t regret having done it. In fact, I would encourage everyone to do a study abroad program or any international experience at some point in their lives. It truly is life changing. It makes you realize what is really important in your life, and what is not so important. It helps you realize all that you take for granted and helps you to appreciate the small things in life. It opens your eyes to a whole different part of the world and widens your perspective on life in general. You learn more about yourself by learning about others, as ironic as that may be. It helps you learn how to take care of things by yourself and learn to navigate through difficult situations. Your parents and friends and family are not available to help when you thousands of miles away from them, which helps you learn to be independent and resourceful.

All in all, it was an extremely valuable experience and I’m better for having done it.

Espana es Diferente…

I’m finally started to get comfortable in Spain after being here for 2.5 weeks now. It’s definitely different than the U.S. There is so much we take for granted. Just simple things like A/C & water are luxuries here. It’s near impossible to get a cold drink around here because ice is rarely used. Public bathrooms also are nonexistant. If you need to go to the bathroom, you will usually only find them in restaurants, in which case you are going to have to buy something to use it.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a 3rd world country, it’s just different than the U.S. It’s not impossible to get used to, just difficult. Slowly but surely I’m adapting to the culture.

This weekend, I went to Costa Brava with ISA, which is the stretch of coast line that starts north of barcelona and continues all the way to France. It’s absolutely gorgeous. We took a boat up and down the coast line and saw some of the most beautiful houses built into the hills like you typically think of being in Greece or someplace like Cinque Terre. The water was absolutely gorgeous. Torquiose blue.

One of the biggest things I have noticed here is that you walk everywhere. & don’t think taking the metro helps you to avoid the extravagant amounts of walking, it doesn’t. I found that out the hard way. First of all, you have to walk to and from the metro, and you also have to walk several flights of stairs and down many long hallways to even get to the metro…. then you have to walk more when you switch metro lines. Needless to say, it’s impossible to avoid walking when in Barcelona, it’s just an unavoidable part of their life here. On the plus side, I’m getting tons of exercise!

The eating schedule has been one of the hardest things for me to adjust to. They eat a light breakfast as soon as they get up and then don’t eat anything, not even a snack, until lunch around 2 or 3 o clock. Then, one again, they don’t typically snack, and don’t eat dinner until around 10 o clock at night. Sometimes even later!

I’m taking 2 business classes over here (International Business & Cross-Cultural Management). They have been extremely interesting and insightful into the cultural differences between the different countries of the world, and of course the different norms of business and the way it is conducted. The classes have been extremely helpful for gaining insight into the way one should do business with a person of another country. Overall, very valuable to my business education.

I still have 3.5 weeks to go, and I’ve already learned so much about not only the country of Spain, but the people, the culture, and even about myself. It has been an extreme challenge to adapt, but such an incredibly rewarding and eye-opening experience.

Bienvenida a Barcelona

I arrived in Spain a little over a week ago w/ ISA. We started off in Madrid, where we only spent 2 days. 2 Days is absolutely not long enough to see Madrid. It’s such a beautiful city that seems to be torn between the renaissance and modern day. Despite the renaissance age art & architecture, Madrid is a relatively modern city. From it’s version of Central Park, “El Retiro” to the Prado Museum, it is an absolute must see.
From Madrid, we traveled to the medieval, former capital of Spain, Toledo. Even though little to no people actually live in Toledo anymore and it’s been entirely taken over by tourism, the city itself with it self remains completely unchanged since medieval times. It’s a beautiful walled in city with some of the most incredible “vistas” you will ever see.
After an entire day on a bus, we finally arrived in Barcelona. How do you even explain this beautiful, eclectic city with its proud natives? Barcelona is one of the most diverse, fascinating cities you will ever see in your lifetime. None of its several neighborhoods even closely resemble each other. From the beach to the gothic neighborhood, to Gaudi’s modern architecture, you will never see a plain sight in this city. It’s absolutely gorgeous. As the capital of Catalunya, the majority of the natives speak Catalan, a language with similarities to French and Spanish, but do not mistake it for either. It is its own independent language and the Catalunyan people are extremely proud of it. Although the Catalunyans prefer to speak their native Catalan, nearly all of them speak regular spanish, or Castellano, as they call it in Spain. Though most of the natives speak both of these languages, hardly anyone in Barcelona speaks English. Needless to say, I should achieve fluency by the time I return home.
Though Barcelona is known as the pickpocket capital of the world, if you are safe and protect yourself from pickpockets, you will soon realize that despite this, Barcelona is one of the safest largescale cities in the world. I feel very safe walking around on my own. I walk everywhere here, whether it’s to class, to the gym, to eat, shop, whatever.
Unfortunately I do not have a metro stop near to me, nor is my homestay apartment situated anywhere near any of my friends in the program. The homestay is definitely something to get used to. I personally do not reccomend it. Aside from the obvious practice of the spanish language that I get daily, due to the fact that hardly any of the host families speak english, it is hardly an ideal situation. Several of my friends have had decent situations as far as homestay families go, with the homestay “mother” being very flexible. Mine, though nice, is not very flexible and is a very busy woman.
The Catalunyan style of living is very difficult to get used to. As Americans we take so much for granted. Water is an actual luxury here, as they often have shortages.
So far, I have had the opportunity to go to the beach, travel to the Cava Winery, and Sitges, a little beach town south of Spain.. The Cava Winery is absolutely incredible. Cava is the spanish term for Champagne. We got the opportunity to go underground and see the miles of fermenting bottles of Cava. It was a very neat experience.
Overall, my experience so far has been very eye opening and enjoyable.
Now it’s time to see what else Barcelona has to offer me!