Returning Home

Well, I’m finally back home in Louisville. During the two weeks leading up to my departure, I tried to cram in all of the sightseeing and activities in Barcelona that I had neglected to accomplish. I visited Gaudi’s Casa Batllo and spent a few days on the beach, but I also made time to revisit some of my favorite locations in Barcelona, such as the hill with the stone Cross in Parc Guell. I’m not going to lie, these final weeks have been hard. I’ve experienced a wide range of emotions, but I did pretty well in controlling any sadness that crept into my mind. I put off discussing my departure with my host family until 2 days prior to actually leaving because I just couldn’t handle saying goodbye to the people who had taken me into their home and treated me as if I had been a member of their family for my entire life. I miss them immensely, and I am forever grateful for all of the things that they did for me.

Luckily for me, I only had to take two flights to get home, whereas I took three on the way to Barcelona. In total, I flew 18 different times while studying abroad, so it really had become a normal part of my routine for me to hop on and off of planes. I was thrilled to see my family waiting for me in the airport with “Welcome Home” signs, and that quickly took my mind off of leaving one of the greatest cities in the world. And of course, I immediately began planning where I would eat over the next few days….BW3s, Qdoba, Taco Bell, etc. My mom and sister have put together a party celebrating my return this Saturday, so I am very excited to see the rest of my family and friends.

Looking back, study abroad has easily been the greatest experience of my life. I remember being very scared and sad to leave my family, but I never really dealt with very much homesickness. With modern forms of communication, it really is no big deal being halfway around the world. Of course, it was quite different to not physically be around my family and friends each day, but they were never more than a quick Skype call away from me. I can’t point to a specific moment in my time abroad that really changed me, but the entirety made me significantly more responsible and also opened my eyes to the wonders of this amazing world we live in. I loved the energy that came with living in a foreign city and traveling to other cities practically every weekend. I was always out exploring other cultures and seeing how people live in different parts of the world. I hope that I can take this excitement for exploration and incorporate it into my life in Louisville. I know that everyone always says how amazing Europe is, and they aren’t lying. But, I’m confident that our own city, state, and country can be just as invigorating and magnificent if we don’t take it for granted.

Wanderlust after study abroad is a very real thing. I haven’t been back for very long at all, and I am already thinking of ways to explore the world next summer. I hope I can go back to Barcelona to visit my host family very soon; it will forever be my second home.

Semana Santa!

**Sorry! Apparently this didn’t actually post to the blog when I first tried to submit it!

I just got back from traveling to Amsterdam, Berlin, and Prague during Semana Santa (Holy Week). Spain is ultra-Catholic, so their spring break occurs during the week leading up to Easter. I actually began planning my spring break travels back in the early part of February so that I could get good deals on hostels and flights, which worked out nicely. Traveling throughout Europe is so cheap compared to traveling within the US that it’s crazy, but I saved even more money by always planning my trips about a month in advance. After exploring all of my options, I decided to split up my spring break into three parts: Amsterdam, Berlin, and Prague.

I traveled to Amsterdam with 5 of my friends from my study abroad program, and we ended up staying in an airbnb (short term apartment rental). Our apartment was so nice that we probably ended up spending too much time in it. It didn’t help that Amsterdam was cold, windy, and raining during the entire 4 days that we were there. Amsterdam feels very American honestly, which was pretty different compared to the rest of the European cities that I visited. My two favorite things that we did in Amsterdam were visiting the Anne Frank House and visiting the Van Gogh museum. The Anne Frank house really evoked a lot of emotions, but I’m glad that I went to it. Traveling throughout Europe has really caused me to take an interest in art because of how many amazing art museums there are, and the Van Gogh museum was very cool to see.




Next, one of my friends and I flew to Berlin, where we stayed for 4 days as well. Berlin has so many things to do that I’d say a minimum of 4 days is required to see most of it. We were constantly on the move while in Berlin, and we visited the Reichstag, the Jewish Museum, Checkpoint Charlie, and much more. Unfortunately, I slipped and fell onto concrete and broke my tooth while in Berlin. I had to seek out a dentist who spoke English, which I was luckily able to find with the help of the management team at my hostel. The very next day I went and got a tooth filling to fix my tooth, so it turned out to not be too big of a deal. German food is as good as everyone says, but Berlin also has a very large immigrant population from all around the world. So, there are many delicious food options to sample while in Berlin.

The Reichstag in Berlin

The Reichstag in Berlin

Lastly, we took a train to Prague where we stayed for 5 days to conclude spring break. Prague is one of the go-to places in Europe for Easter celebrations, so the city was absolutely packed with tourists. The Easter markets in Prague are famous for their hand-painted Easter egg stands, and there are people out in the streets celebrating from dawn until dusk. Prague also has two beautiful castles, which are both worth a visit. Overall, Prague has one of the richest histories of any of the places that I visited.


Hand-painted Easter Eggs in Prague

Hand-painted Easter Eggs in Prague


Rome, London, and Paris!

I was lucky enough to be able to travel to many amazing cities and countries during my time abroad. Of course, I made sure to visit the big 3: London, Paris, and Rome. I have been dreaming of visiting these places (especially Rome) ever since I can remember. Luckily, flights out of Barcelona are extremely cheap, so it really didn’t cost very much to make these dreams into a reality.

My first stop was London. London is way bigger than I ever would have imagined. It even has 5 different airports, which made traveling to and from London quite an adventure since we used different airports for the two flights. The airport that we flew into was about an hour outside of the city center, so we had to take a train to get to our hostel. The suburbs of London seem to go on forever, which makes sense considering there are over 8 million people living in greater London. I spent 4 days in London, and I could have easily spent another 10. There are so many things to see and do, and so I had to be picky about what I wanted to accomplish during my 4 days. My favorite things to do in London were riding on the Eye of London (a gigantic ferris wheel on the Thames river that provides perfect views of the city center) and touring the Parliament building. Unfortunately, the food really isn’t very good in the UK, but the attractions more than made up for it.

Next up was Rome. Luckily for me, my study abroad provider included a trip to Rome in the costs of my program. Staying in a hotel was a nice break from all of the hostels I have stayed in during my time in Europe. I have always been fascinated by Roman history, thus finally experiencing Rome was amazing. I was overwhelmed with how big the Colosseum actually was. My favorite part of Rome was the Vatican. We toured the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel, and on Sunday we actually got to listen to the Pope speak from St. Peter’s Square. Lastly, I can’t forget to mention the food. Authentic Italian food is something that everyone must try at least once in their lifetime. It was incredibly difficult choosing what to eat because there were so many delicious options, and the portions were gigantic. Rome is my favorite city that I have visited thus far.

A few weeks later, I traveled to Paris for 4 days, and I stayed in a hostel in the Montmartre part of town. Montmartre is the very stereotypical part of Paris: lots of artists wearing berets and painting pictures of nature. Similarly to London, it was extremely difficult to see everything that we wanted to see while in Paris for only 4 days. We took a day trip to the Palace of Versailles, which I would highly recommend to anyone who visits Paris. Versailles was also very cool to see since I knew the history behind it. Unfortunately, the gardens were pretty much nonexistent since we visited while it was still Winter, but I hear they are beautiful. Of course, we also visited the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and the Louvre. My favorite though was the Museum d’Orsay, which is an art museum. It isn’t nearly as big as the Louvre, but I think that makes it a little more fun to see. When we visited the Louvre, it seemed like we were practically running to be able to see everything, but the d’Orsay has a smaller collection of extremely impressive paintings. The food in Paris was good, but not as good as in Rome. I tried macaroons, but oddly enough, I didn’t really care for them.

I’ll post again soon!

Big Ben/Parliament

Big Ben/Parliament



Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

-Connor Smith


On January 4th, 2015, I arrived at the Barcelona-El Prat airport where my study abroad journey began. During this Spring 2015 semester, I am studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain, a place known for its vibrant culture, architectural wonders, and great soccer. It took 3 separate flights, with a total of 15 hours of traveling time, for me to arrive in Barcelona from Louisville, but the trip was well worth it. I struggled for the first few days to cope with jet lag; however, this allowed me to partake in the famous siesta naps that Spain is known for. While many Spaniards actually don’t nap at a specific time each day, I still actively participate in the tradition, as constantly exploring Barcelona can be quite exhausting.

Barcelona is home to over 1.6 million people jam-packed into a rather small area. One major difference between the United States and Europe is that Europeans build upwards, while Americans build outwards. There are no actual houses in Barcelona, only apartments stacked on top of each other, allowing for a greater number of people to live in a much smaller area in comparison to an American city with the same population. Barcelona has an amazing metro system that is extremely comprehensive in covering all of the major parts of the city, which allows for easy exploration of my new home. One of my favorite things about Barcelona is that there is a new adventure waiting around every corner. I did my best to visit all of the major areas during my first week here because I didn’t have classes to worry about yet. While this gave me a good overview of the layout of Barcelona, I was really only able to see the tip of the iceberg that is Barcelona. The city is extremely safe, with the majority of crime being non-violent pick pocketing. I have never once felt unsafe, even when walking home at night from my friends’ apartments.

This semester, I am living with a host family. I have a host mother and a host brother. My host brother is 22 years old, and he is studying to be a green energy engineer at the same university where I am taking classes. I have thoroughly enjoyed living with the host family even though it does bring about some interesting challenges. They have been extremely welcoming and helpful to me since day one, and I couldn’t have asked for a better host family to spend my time in Barcelona with. I was quite worried that there would be a language barrier between my host family and me; however, that has proven to not be the case. My host brother speaks English quite well, but my host mother only speaks Spanish. I actually haven’t taken a Spanish class for three and a half years, but I remembered quite a bit, so I was able to jump right back in. My host mother is very patient with me when I do not understand what she says. In Barcelona, the people speak both traditional Castilian Spanish and Catalan Spanish, which is a dialect from the Catalonia region, which includes Barcelona and the surrounding towns. While I do not speak any Catalan, all of the locals are very accommodating and ready to speak Castilian instead.

My two favorite adventures in Barcelona thus far were touring Sagrada Familia and attending an F.C. Barcelona soccer game. During my first week in Barcelona, F.C. Barcelona played Elche at home. Elche isn’t doing very well this season, so the tickets were extraordinarily cheap. I got to see Messi, Neymar, and Suarez all score goals, and Barcelona beat Elche 5-0. The atmosphere was awesome, and it was very fun watching the game with some of the friends I have made thus far in Barcelona.


Sagrada Familia is a beautiful church designed by Antoni Gaudi and has been under construction for 133 years. In 2010, the Pope consecrated it as a Basilica, and it was announced that Sagrada Familia will be finished in the year 2026. The inside is completely finished, however, so we were able to tour it and see the amazing designed of Gaudi. Sagrada Familia truly was breathtaking, and I felt like I could have wandered around it for hours. The church is so gigantic that you practically break your neck straining to look up at the top. Gaudi also designed a few other parks and houses in Barcelona that I am looking forward to visiting during these next few months here.


That’s all for now! I will include information on my travels throughout Europe in my next blog post. Hasta luego!