Home Sweet…What Now??

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 IMG_4974being 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.

Nothing Comes Closer To Home


Nothing Comes Closer To Home
The title of this post may be a Stoufer’s jingle but it has complete relevance, here. After months of living in a different country and years of living in the states I’ve decided that…(drumroll please)…home is what you make it, honestly. I’m not saying that from the standpoint of “you can find a family anywhere” but with the perspective of how we view our homes.
In Spain and a lot of the other Mediterranean countries, it is not uncommon for the people walking in the streets to keep to themselves; no head nods, no finger flips, no wrist waves. Just straight faced, runway-worthy walking. I would probably think I did something wrong if a stranger and I crossed paths and I acknowledged both of our existences but they simply looked passed me in the states, particularly in my Ole’ Kentucky home. At first, it’s easy to look from the ethnocentric perspective – the view that your home country’s ways are superior – to make the generalization that Spaniards are rude and don’t know old-fashioned, southern hospitality. And truth is, they don’t know southern hospitality, but they have their own version.
The essence of the Americas is one of exploration, liberty, and freedom. We’re known as the guys with the “frontier spirit” and manifest destiny- to spread from coast to coast and such. Remember that song from elementary (or grade school for you private, catholic folk) “this land is my land, this land is your land, from california to the new york islands.” It has a lot more implicit meaning than I ever realized. Sure, we’re not a perfect society and we have had and still have our problems but despite this we are a open society where PERSONAL space is at a minimum. We’re quick to share, quick to greet, quick to befriend. This land belongs to all of us and it makes up our “ home” in its totality.
Just because I’ve spent a few months here doesn’t make me an expert or local by any means but between my classes, my personal experience in my homestay, and the accounts of Europeans I have spoken with, I have a little bit of an idea of how it works here in Espana. Remember when I said that the Spaniards keep it a little more on the straight faced side compared with us Americans? Well, Spain’s place in the history of the world has afforded it a little different view of society. They are a people who look at the history for their answers more so than the future or event the present. Thus, it’s kind of important for them to have a history with you before they go on exchanging all the pleasantries of a familiar friendship. The Italians, French, and Spanish are sort of famous for their kissing-as-a-greeting and their bypass of the tradition hug. Well, it turns out that the hug or “abrazo” is reserved for special relationships. Neat, huh? And all this time we thought they just moved really fast in relationships. What more? A common perspective is actually that American “friendships” can be a little superficial and surface. After all, how much can you really know about someone you just met? Here, time spent together and a common knowledge of one anothers backgrounds is a contract of a solid relationship in itself. In this case, actions speak louder than words. In Spain, the home isn’t necessarily everyone you meet but those with whom you have taken the time to build something special.
There are advantages and disadvantages from all perspectives, as with most things in life, but there is no wrong answer here. Now, however, I will stop to think about the differences in perception of personal space and how relationships function in different parts of the world. Furthermore I can apply this learning to the different cultures represented by the salad bowl that it the U.S. Also, I will reflect on the amount of time and effort I put into my relationships in the states and how I’m building “my home,” while continually sharing the “frontier spirit” and letting everyone, no matter where they’re from that “this land was made for you and me.”