Traveling has always been a passion of mine, even though before studying abroad I had barely traveled outside of my home state of New York.
Entering college as a freshman, studying abroad was already on my mind. I would constantly find myself thinking about where I wanted to study and where I wanted to travel to once I was abroad. Sophomore year crept up so fast and before I knew it, I was getting emails about study abroad info sessions and deadlines. Luckily the first info session I went to had me hooked on the notion of going to beautiful Spain, Barcelona to be specific. With its beautiful beaches, warm weather, diverse population and eclectic food, what was not to like?
The months leading up to my departure to Barcelona were both nerve-wracking and exciting. Arriving in Barcelona, I felt the same mix of emotions, but after walking around the heart of the city, excitement overtook all other emotions. Everything was so different, but I have always been told that "change is good!" Before I left, I was told by friends who were from foreign countries or who had studied in foreign countries that I should try to look as un-American as possible because "Europeans don't like Americans." How false this turned out to be! Everywhere in Europe that I traveled to, the people were so hospitable and gracious. This and so many other stereotypes, I have learned during my stay here in Spain, are mostly false.
I have learned that every single day living abroad is a challenge and a learning experience. Some days are better than others, and some days you just want to go home back to "normal life." But then there are days, weeks or weekends of travel and exploration that make you never want to leave. I have met people, eaten food and seen sights in Barcelona, in Spain and in Europe in general that will forever live in my memory. The culture and history in Europe is incomparable to anything you can find anywhere else in the world and it is truly fascinating. For example, on September 11, shortly after my arrival, I got to witness a human chain from Southern France to the end of Catalunya, a region in Spain (Barcelona is the capital of Catalunya), that has been fighting for its independence for hundreds of years. This human chain was formed on Catalunya's Independence Day to show that the people of this region are willing to stick together to fight for their independence. It was such an act of camaraderie, and it had me both curious and in awe of the Catalan population. This was only one of many amazing sights I was able to see in Barcelona, the most festive and happy city I have ever been to, despite the hardships they are facing.
After staying three and a half months in Barcelona, I feel that I have a place to call my "second home." I have lived with a host mother during my months abroad, and when I leave I know that we will stay in touch because I have formed a strong bond with someone who was a complete stranger to me before I came here. Studying abroad is all about taking chances, and I have taken many here. Studying abroad is the best decision that I have made in my college career (and in my life) so far and I don't regret a single moment of it. To anyone thinking of studying abroad: take the chance, because you may never have such an opportunity again in your life! It is a truly life changing experience that I will forever be grateful for.