International Programs Office
Student Success Center
Campus Box 1159
Study Abroad Coordinator
Dr. Ronald Schaefer
International Programs Director
So I chose my destination: Barcelona, Spain. It was not until the night before I left that it hit me. I was miserable. I could not imagine being away from the ones I love for so long. It was only a four month program, but going into it, it felt like a lifetime. By the time I made it to the atrium of the Barcelona airport, I could not see for the film from my tears covering my contacts.
I had a few bumps upon arrival, but who doesn’t? I immediately felt overwhelmed with the realization that many of the students in the same program had come with friends and acquaintances. I spent my flight from Madrid to Barcelona listening to a fellow student who happened to be in the same program as I complain about his misfortune at not being able to fly over with his girlfriend. I wanted to smack him. I was also blessed with a roommate who shared very different values than me, causing us to butt heads on more than one occasion. To top off the beginning of a great semester, I came down with bronchitis and an ear infection in the same week.
Having reached what I felt sure to be the lowest point I had ever experienced, things started to look up. My classes started, and I loved them. All of my teachers realized this semester was not only meant to be spent in a classroom earning credits but also out in the city living this experience. All of my classes were with American students since we were on semesters and the Universitat Pompeu Fabra was on trimesters, along with the obvious reason that our classes were not only teaching us art, religion, and history but also the Spanish language. I made some great friends in those classes.
I’m not going to lie, living in a city that relied mainly on the Catalan language combined with not having classes with the locals made it very difficult to befriend the native students. However, in terms of improving one’s language abilities, this obstacle simply made it more challenging, and therefore more rewarding, when speaking with the locals (in Castellano of course).
As part of my personal experience, I also had additional practice with the language with my second roommate. After one final blow, my first roommate moved out and a girl who lived down the hall of our "residencia" decided to move in. It was the best thing to happen to both of us. We immediately became fast friends.
Probably the biggest selling point for me while abroad was all the traveling that was now open to me. There were very few weekends that were spent in Barcelona. Almost all of my trips were accompanied by my roommate and a couple friends we made within the program. We traveled to Paris, Dublin, saw the pope in Rome, and visited the Neuschwanstein Castle in Munich (photo below). I also made a solo trip to Heidelberg to visit a friend studying there.
The day to day life in Barcelona was a far cry from life in the states. It took some time to get used to NOTHING being open on Sundays. It was my first experience in a real market; I was fortunate enough to have one right next to the residencia (dorm) where I lived. I lived in a building with both Spanish and American students. It was comparable to an American dorm but with a kitchen. The front desk staff was very good about only speaking Spanish to us. I never once missed driving and only took the metro when forced, preferring to walk everywhere. I was within walking distance of the beach, something I took advantage of at every possible moment. My last weekend in the city, I experienced my first bullfight and a phenomenon called the castellers, or human tower.
Everyone’s experience is different. Everyone’s experience has its good and bad moments. Here’s the kicker: it’s still an experience! It is something that is looked back on with pride, with joy, and with very little, if any, regret. My only regret was that I booked a roundtrip ticket. A one-way there would have been the direction in which to go, with additional chances to travel and see more of this world that has now been opened up to me. I never thought I would feel this, but I am homesick to go back. So I have begun looking into a 9 month internship in southern Spain after I graduate. All I can think is how much different my life and goals would be if I had not taken that first step; and I wouldn’t take it back for the world.
For more information on the CEA Programs in Barcelona, go to www.gowithcea.com
Contact Robyn by e-mail at email@example.com