Upon my arrival to Barcelona during my study abroad trip this summer, I was overwhelmed. I was in an unfamiliar country that did not speak my native language.
At first I had to point to objects and pictures just to convey a message. During the first day I started to panic and thought “never again shall I venture to another country without speaking their native language.” However, over time I realized that while I had limited knowledge of the language, I could learn.
During my visit, I learned how to ask for directions, what certain things meant and how to converse with locals of the region – to a limited amount but progress nonetheless. I took part in a Kentucky Institute for International Studies (KIIS) study abroad program.
Throughout my time in this program I was able to visit many landmarks such as the Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, Santa Maria del Pi and an Ancient Roman aqueduct. Barcelona has something for everyone. However, it is important to understand what kind of pace works best for yourself as it can be quite bewildering.
On my first day I quickly learned a valuable lesson, how to be more patient. In Barcelona, dinner is always an event, it can take up to three hours to finish. People would take their time, have a coffee or dessert and converse with others at the table. I was used to efficiency in America, going from one activity to the next and never stopping to reflect on what is happening. By learning to be more patient I realized just how special every aspect of life is and also to be more caring towards myself.
Life is a marathon, not a series of sprints. The human experience should not be a clock that never stops ticking, like the anxious rabbit from “Alice In Wonderland”, but a series of meaningful events that should be treasured. My plan is to attend medical school so I am used to constantly being on the go and striving towards goals that are always escalating.
Barcelona was full of vivid colors, entrancing smells and a slight breeze that never seemed to go away. My favorite part of the whole trip was when I had to do an assignment in a local Spanish neighborhood, or barrio. Part of the assignment was to note the differences between the barrio and the touristy parts of Barcelona, the other part of the assignment was to interview someone in the neighborhood.
Through this assignment I got to see a different view of Barcelona – a more grounded and realistic one. The area ran at a slower pace and was quiet; it felt like I had entered a place that felt familiar. Barcelona is full of shops and things to do but it was nice to be in a place where everything wasn’t so in my face. I saw elderly people getting groceries, kids playing in a park square and noticed political flags on every corner.
Time started to run out and I was left with many profound feelings. This experience helped me realize a lot about myself. It taught me to be more caring and patient with myself, how to recharge when I feel distraught, to be less afraid of everything, to connect on a common ground with others despite massive differences and how to better present just who I am.
If anyone ever has the opportunity to study abroad then they should take it and not think twice about it. I was able to see beautiful sights, make lifelong friends, learn how to not be a tourist, explore a culture outside of my American scope, experience history in 3D and gain a deeper understanding of the world around me.