I’m all packed, most likely over packed, and my flight leaves tomorrow. Tonight will most likely be a sleepless night as I am highly anticipating my departure to Barcelona, Spain. Studying abroad for the entire semester still seems a bit surreal, but I am sure the reality of it will hit me as soon as I land in Spain. While I am a sad to leave my family and UVA friends behind, I am looking forward to fostering new relationships abroad. Before departing, I have set three goals for my semester that I will reflect on in May.
After reading my letter, pretty much everything that I thought would happen did end up happening. I learned a lot about entrepreneurship and corporate impact strategies in school, I didn’t pick up that much Spanish, I saw a lot of people pronouncing their “S’s” like “C’s”, and I traveled a lot. One of the things that did surprise me is something I wrote about in my last blog post, which is that Spain and other European countries are not as unified as they seem. A thing that I and my parents are still shocked about is the immense amount of money that I spent on this trip. One thing I will say is that if I could do this whole thing again, I would definitely budget my money a little better.
Before I knew it the semester sped by and now I’m back in America. I can’t even believe how quickly time flew and could not have predicted how much Barcelona would feel like home to me by the time I left. Leaving Barcelona is definitely bittersweet. There are so many things I’m going to miss about the city, like its delicious food and proximity to such amazing culture. I am going to miss how, in a day, I can wander the narrow streets and alleys of the old gothic quarter, but then walk to the beautiful beach and boardwalk, and walk down the busy street “Las Ramblas.” I’ll miss how easy it is to travel to other countries and my weekly exposure to different cultures. I’ll miss sitting on my back terrace on sunny afternoons reading my book and relaxing, looking at the surrounding apartment buildings with views of clothes drying on hanging racks everywhere I looked.
I have been home for nearly a week now, and have had time to reflect on my semester abroad. I arrived in JFK with mixed emotions- sad to be leaving my home and new friends in Barcelona, but excited to come home to the things I am used to. I wondered around JFK, killing time before my connecting flight, feeling a sense of relief that the voice over the loud speaker was talking in English, I could read all of the newspapers and magazines, and prices were in dollars. It was refreshing to walk into a store and not have someone glance at my hair color and height (I am six feet tall) and immediately know I was a tourist.
As my return home is approaching, I’m having mixed feelings about leaving Barcelona. Yesterday was one of the biggest holidays in Barcelona, Diada de Sant Jordi, which is essentially the Catalan equivalent of Valentine’s Day. It is tradition for men to give a single rose to their wife, girlfriend, sisters, mother, and even friends, and in return, women give men a book. My roommate and I spent the day walking through the city where tons of people had set up tents to sell used books and roses. There were also concerts throughout the city, and the overall mood of Barcelona was incredibly happy. Yesterday night was another huge event for the city because it was the Barcelona Madrid soccer game and Barcelona won in the last thirty seconds. It was a once in a lifetime experience to be watching the game in Barcelona where everyone loves soccer more than Americans love football.
With my time abroad coming closer to the end, there are definitely things I’ve noticed about Barcelona that makes it different from other European cities as well as different from what I’m used to at home.
For one, bagels do not exist. Croissants have become my new bagel, not that I’m complaining. Bakeries and cafes are frequent here, and Barcelona is truly different in that there are barely any “take-away” fast casual food places here besides bakeries, or “patesserias”. In Barcelona, time is supposed to be taken while enjoying your coffee and pastry for breakfast, or when you stop for lunch or dinner. In and out type lunch places just don’t exist! At first it was unsettling because I did not know where to go if I wanted something quick. I solved this problem by realizing I did not have to be quick. Studying here has really taught me to take my time and not be in such a rush all the time!
Since I have to make another blog post, I thought I’d use this time to talk about how disappointed I am that there isn’t a good salad or “Roots-like” restaurant in Barcelona. It’s not part of the culture here to have fast-casual, healthy food. I’ve been around the entire city, and I have had the most difficult time finding this type of place to eat. Of course, I could go out to the shady market next to my apartment in Las Ramblas, but it would just be so much more convenient to just have a go-to spot. I really hope that more Chipotle, Roots, Mezeh-type restaurants come to this city.
I am going into my last month in Barcelona, and I have really enjoyed my time here. I have had the opportunity to meet people from a completely different culture, and I have become very comfortable with those differences. At first, I found it annoying when I wouldn’t be able to communicate with the taxi driver or the person in the small, sketchy market outside of my apartment building. However, it pushed me to practice my Spanish and put me in an uncomfortable position. It’s normally in these moments that you are out of your comfort zone that you learn the most about your environment and yourself.
While I am feeling at home in Barcelona at this point, there are certain differences between here and home that still nerve me. The service in restaurants is one example. Usually food comes in a timely manner, but after you finish your meal, waiters usually neglect your table until you flag them down to ask for the check. Then after you get the check, it takes them even longer to bring over the machine to take your credit card. Another thing is water in restaurants. You have to pay at least one or two euros for a bottle of water because nearly no restaurants serve water.