no pasa nada: don't worry about it; no worries; it's all good
Week 3 of mi aventura española.
When people tell you about their study abroad experiences, they often beam as they recount their cherished memories and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. "It's the BEST!" "The most AMAZING 4 months of my life!" "I didn't want to go home!!" And from the endless photos and videos on social media, study abroad looks like a dream come true – and it is.
But what they often forget to tell you is that there is a transition period at the beginning of your four-month adventure as you adjust to a new country, a new culture, a new normal.
I am going to be honest. The past few weeks have been a rollercoaster ride of emotions for me: excited, nervous, homesick, scared, lonely, proud, happy. I've experienced it all in the past 3 weeks – and I've learned that it's okay to feel like this. However, with classes underway and finally having more of a schedule, I'm happy to say that Barcelona is feeling more and more like home every day. Barcelona has it all – the sun, the beach, the city, the mountains – and it doesn't hurt that it's been about 70 degrees every day either! The transition period is challenging, but it's also one of the most rewarding; it's a time of time of change, reflection, and growth.
Travel abroad experiences have different variables: the country, the people, the program, the language. It's an opportunity for full immersion; it's a time to learn, try, experience, explore, and most importantly, go outside your comfort zone. For me, speaking Spanish for the majority of the day, every day is something that I am still adjusting to. As I walk down the streets, ride the ferrocarril or metro every day, or eat in a cafe, I seldom hear English. Yes, most people can speak English here, but it's considered a tertiary language after castellano (Castillian Spanish) and Catalan (and sometimes even French or Italian). There is an influx of tourists that descend upon the city every week from all over the world speaking almost every language you can think of (especially with the Mobile World Conference this week - bringing tens of thousands of people from all over the world - s/o to Mark Zuckerberg being one of those people who was spotted on his run through the city earlier this week!).
Speaking a different language can be difficult, exhausting, and even awkward, BUT it is worth it every time. As my instructor told us in our Zumba class (Yes, I went to Zumba!!), "Relax, let it all go, and just try it." Whether it be buying a loaf of bread at the corner panadería, running to the farmacia 10 minutes before closing to ask for lágrimas artificiales (eyedrops), explaining to the security guards at the metro station that my metro pass is too crumpled up to scan, introducing myself to my host mom's friends, ordering my café con leche para llevar y un pan chocalate every morning before class, trying to describe the 30 inches of snow on the ground in New Jersey to my doorman, joining the gym – it's 100% worth it, and more often than not, people are happy that you are speaking their language. My host family was having a discussion about this the other night at dinner and my host sister was telling me that no matter the country, she always tries to speak the language. Because all of my classes are in Spanish and I speak castellano with my family 90% of the time (+5% English, +5% charades), it's becoming more and more natural every day.
So yes, being outside your comfort zone can be intimidating, stressful, and sometimes, even scary – especially during my first week of classes at my host institution la Universitat de Barcelona as I sat in my classes, struggling to keep up with the rapid discussion and unfamiliar vocabulary. But as my host mom tells me often, "No te preocupes. No pasa nada." Do not worry. It's all good. Because life is good in Barcelona.
And with that, I'll leave you with some "good" from my past couple of weeks in Barcelona:
1. Sitges (Part I and Part II)
Part I: Day Trip with CIEE to Sitges, Spain (a beach town)
Part II: Night Trip to celebrate Carnaval! Took the train around 9pm from Sants Station to sing and dance and party in the streets with what seemed like all of Spain. For Carnaval, everyone dresses up – I wore a pink wig!
2. The Bunkers
One of my favorite spots in Barcelona. The Bunkers del Carmel are perched atop the mountain Turó de la Rovira. They were built during the Spanish Civil War in order to protect the city from bombings. There are several different ways to get to the Bunkers, but perhaps the most direct route is by bus. Take the V17 bus to Gran Vista - Turó de la Rovira. Then you have to climb some stairs, hike a little bit to the top, and then voilà: a 360 degree view of the most beautiful city. You can see it all: the sea, la Sagrada Familia, the W hotel, Barceloneta, Tibidabo, my apartment (ok, maybe not my apartment...) I went right before sunset with friends and we watched as the sun descended into the horizon leaving behind a brilliant golden glow in both the sky and the buildings down below.
3. Bike Ride + Picnic with Host Mom
My host mom (Elena) is the best. She took my roommate (Amanda) and I on a bike ride of the entire city. We started in el Barrio Gótico, biked all the way to Barceloneta (the beach town on the coast) and rode all the way to a neighboring town where we had a picnic (packed tuna fish sandwiches) and then went all the way back. Such a fun way to see the city!
4. Finalizing my class schedule (!!!)
The first week and a half of classes was an add/drop period for us which was very much needed! In Spain, a "liberal arts education" is very rare; in fact, most higher education systems are extremely specialized and once a student chooses a study, he/she typically only takes classes within that department. Therefore, us liberal arts American students needed to find something that not only interested us, but something that wasn't too specialized so we could follow along. So I treated this time frame as a "shopping" period – I went to all of the different classes that interested me: Realismo y naturalismo, Poesia del s. xx, Arte de las vanguardias, etc. This period was definitely one of the more stressful times during my time in Barcelona thus far because sitting in a class where you can only catch every other word or a class where the professor switches between Spanish and Catalan or a class where you're the only American can be pretty overwhelming. That being said, I am happy to announce my finalized class schedule with classes that I am thoroughly enjoying thus far:
1. CIEE Advanced Writing & Stylistics (Spanish)
2.CIEE Literatura y cine en España
3. CIEE Obras maestras de arte catalan
4. UB Teatro español de la edad de oro: texto y especto
5. UB Literatura hispanoamericana del s. xx
5. FC Barcelona Game @ Camp Nou
Hello, Messi! We were so close to the field and it was such an incredible night! Barcelona beat Valencia 6-0. As soon as the players step on the field, the stadium comes to life as the crowd roars and chants "Barça, Barça!"
6. A friend's surprise 21st Birthday Party
One of my friends, Eva, turned 21! Her host mom (Rosa) organized a surprise birthday party for her with cake and cava (champagne). Eva was certainly surprised and we all had a great time celebrating with her! Happy Birthday, Eva!
7. Learning how to make croquetas
One day I came home and told Elena how much I loved croquetas. She told me that we'd make them sometime that week. Sure enough, I come home on Monday and she was already rolling the masa (dough) and tells me to come help. There are so many different types of croquetas that you can make – we had chicken! DELISH
8. Discovering the BEST cafés
If you know me, you know that I am a foodie. I absolutely LOVE food. Every single cafe that you pass in Barcelona is the cutest cafe that you've ever seen. Some look like they're straight out of Instagram, Pinterest, or Tumblr. Here are a couple of my favorite places so far:
Brunch & Cake
I WENT TO A SPANISH ZUMBA CLASS! And pretty much everyone knows that I cannot dance for the LIFE of me but IT WAS SO MUCH FUN! Definitely have to go again!
10. THE SUN
While it's cold and snowing back in New Jersey and Boston, it's sunny and 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit pretty much every day here. Although Spaniards are used to even warmer weather so everyone still wears boots and jackets because it's still "winter"... If only they knew what winter was like in New England! I took advantage of the warm weather one weekend and went to my favorite place: the beach :)
That's it for now! Stay tuned for my PORTUGAL blog post that's coming soon to a computer near you!
Abrazos & besitos,