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First impressions, challenges and accomplishments of Barcelona, Spain

Filed in Blog, Spain by on March 11, 2019
by Catherine A.

When I first moved to Barcelona, i was completely alone and quite literally lost. It took a frantic hour of searching the airport and a giant wave of self-doubt before I pulled myself together, secured a home based and paid a cab driver 35 euros to drive me across town. Looking out the cab window, I took everything in and let myself exhale for the first time since my plane’s departure from the United States. “This is my home now,” I kept repeating in my head. “This is where I belong.” How could I not love it? Sixty degree weather year round, Spanish culture, siestas and tapas? What could possibly go wrong?

That is, I thought that until my cab driver opened his mouth and let out a flood of perfectly conjugated, accent-heavy Spanish words and expectantly awaited my response. To which I am pretty sure I replied with something along the lines of, “Uhhhh… quĂ©?” Language barrier: 1 point, Catherine: 0. In any case, I managed to make it my homestay completely unscathed and ready to meet my host mother. I waited excitedly outside her apartment door, imagining everything I was going to tell her about the States and all the questions I would ask her about Spain. However, the excitement quickly vanished and was replaced with self-doubt when she appeared. No English, whatsoever. I could not even figure out the context of her questions and conversations because of her rapid, spitfire Spanish and strong accent. The language barrier was going to be more of a problem that I originally presumed. I wanted to melt into a puddle of tears.

Despite four and a half years of Spanish classes, I had zero clue what anyone was saying. “I am in way over my head,” I thought. “This is going to be the longest four months of my life. Barcelona was a huge mistake.” I couldn’t have been more wrong in that moment. After another hour of panicked texts to my mom, tears of uncertainty and a nap, I woke up to dinner my host mother had lovingly prepared for me. She slowed her conversation and used Google translate when we reached a giant barrier. She bought me cookies and asked what types of meals I enjoyed. I took a deep breath and realized that I could either sit around and continue to be unsure, so I could familiarize myself with the city I was about to be grounded in for a semester. Culture shock is very real and it impacts everyone in some way. From that moment on, I never looked back on my decision to study in Barcelona.

The city has stolen my heart and continues to excite me every day. I have learned so much about myself and the world around me. I have fallen in love with Spain, Catalunya in particular. Of course, some days are easier than others. But on days when I think of my friends back home, morning coffee at my grandmother’s or the sweet face of my dog, I take a moment to remind myself of everything I have accomplished and learned. I have completed more goals in the past two months than I have in the past 21 years. I am obtaining experiences that most people can only dream about. I am living the life that I have always wanted. Sometimes it feels too good to be true. But here I am, 100% the person I have chosen to be, in the greatest city in the world. This is my reality, and I have never been more content.


About the blogger

Catherine A. studying abroad on the IES Abroad: Liberal Arts and Business in Barcelona program in Barcelona, Spain.

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