I am writing this blog post in the comfort of my own home in Louisville, Kentucky after returning from Barcelona a little over a week ago. I have had time to reflect on my semester abroad and all I can say is “what now?”. I was “go go go” for four months straight and now I am unemployed and living at home! That’s reverse culture shock for ya! BUT, as a I think back to the 20 plane rides, 30 trips, too many nights out and the constant feeling of not knowing what’s next, I can’t help but be thankful to be home. I look forward to returning to the University of Louisville for my senior year, as a cultured, more independent woman and I have the amazing Study Abroad Program to thank for that.
Since I have had so much time to reflect on my semester abroad in the past week, I have compiled a list of “lessons,” that will be helpful to me in my future travels and everyday life, as well as, to all the readers out there.
1. Enjoy the Little Things: I say this because, when spending your weekends traveling Europe, you think that you must visit every museum, landmark and cathedral in just 3 days. But, I have to tell you, that is impossible and extremely draining. My advice is to allow yourself to enjoy a long lunch or sit in a park and people watch if you want to; the museum will probably be like the one you saw in Paris last week and the cathedral will never live up to La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona (; By taking time to enjoy the little things, you will create better relationships with your travel partners, get a better grasp of the culture of that country and probably save some money along the way.
2. Walk Everywhere: This is the best way to acquaint yourself with the city and the most healthy option if you are like me and ate a croissant everyday. Comfy shoes will be your #1 travel companion with the app, Citymapper, or just maps on your iPhone taking close second. I walked up to 13 miles a day on every weekend trip and close to 6 miles on a daily basis in Barcelona. It sounds exhausting but you will miss the option once you return to the states where everything is spread out.
3. Don’t Just Visit the Biggest Cities: One of my regrets was not traveling to enough small, quant places. I didn’t realize this “mistake” until I came home and was asked “what was your favorite place you traveled?” My answers all had a reoccurring theme; they are all small cities, unaffected my massive amounts of tourism. The list includes Interlaken, Switzerland, San Sebastian, Spain and Lagos, Portugal. I love these trips because I allowed myself to absorb the beauty and simplicity of the cities as well as take advantage of the nature that surrounded me. Also, go skiing in the Swiss Alps. Just do it.
4. Money is a Factor But Not an Ultimatum: In my first couple weeks abroad I was extremely stressed out about money. I wasn’t used to spending so much everyday, plus I was planning all my weekend trips and my bank account was quickly dwindling. With that being said, my mom gave me the best advice and I will relay that to you. Now is the time to spend your money. You have the rest of your life to make up for any money lost while you were abroad. Not to mention, it is only four months of increased spending. You and your bank account will recover. So if you can’t decide if you should treat yourself to the infamous steak in San Sebastian, spend the extra 10 euro to go to the top of the Eiffel tower or go to an over priced Barca game, JUST DO IT. Those memories are worth a thousand more euros and you may not get the chance to do it again.
5. Be Thankful: Not many people get to say they spent a whole semester abroad. Throughout my time in Barcelona I had to remind myself of how rare of an opportunity this is and that missing a flight, bad weather or being crammed onto a metro is nothing to complain about. I became much more laid back because in the grand scheme of things, I was abroad and nothing could ruin that for me. So all in all, go abroad with an open mind. Embrace the culture, embrace your roommates, embrace the course load because you are abroad and you are lucky.
I have many more lessons but I will end it there. While I have a mixture of feelings about being home, these important lessons remain constant and will be with me for life. My “home sweet home” in Kentucky is now shared with my home in Barcelona and I am looking forward to finding out what my “what now” has in store for me.