A Reflection of My Time in Barcelona

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Adam Smith
December 29, 2023
Sunset by Placa de Catalunya

Nightfall stretched beyond the horizon, disturbed by orange specks of light emanating from the ground far below. Everything was so tranquil. The cabin lights were dimmed, there were no babies crying, no stewards doing their rounds serving airplane coffee and packets of peanuts. I felt so unrushed—no preoccupations, no worries, no distracting chatter in my mind, just a rolling view of the world below me. I’m usually a slightly nervous flyer, but on this occasion, I couldn’t think of anywhere else that I’d rather be. 

The warm Mediterranean air greeted me like a hug when we touched down in Barcelona. A refreshing adjustment from a weekend spent in the frosty winds of Amsterdam. The friends that I had travelled with were talking of essays that they had to complete in the coming days as if walking through a vacant airport terminal were like returning to campus. Minutes later we piled into a bus that took us back to the city center, and then gradually dispersed back to our own separate accommodations.

The next day I woke up in a bedroom that I had come to think of as mine, to the sound of someone on their balcony, shaking the dust off of their blankets, hollering in Catalan to someone who, I could only guess, was inside their apartment. I sauntered into the kitchen and made breakfast with food that I had been told I was welcome to. As the coffee machine grumbled to life, the door swung open and in entered my host—someone who I hadn’t known at all until, a few months earlier, I walked through her front door with my suitcases and set up camp in her apartment for the semester. 

“Buenos días,” she said.

“Buenos días, Ana.”

“Que tal el viaje a Amsterdam?”

And so, then began a conversation entirely in Spanish, full of stutters and pauses as my mind grappled with pre-coffee, early morning translation. Nonetheless, I communicated the wonder of spending the first days of December in Amsterdam, in sufficient enough Spanish that I didn’t receive any looks of confusion or misunderstanding—my first victory of the day. 

On my way to class I picked up a sandwich and a freshly baked croissant, made in-house at a local bakery that I passed every day on my way to the IES Abroad building. After class, I went out to a Tapas bar with some friends; drank amazingly cheap, but amazingly good wine, then took a routine metro journey—that I’d learned by heart at that point—to my final class of the day at UPF (Universitat Pompeu Fabra), where the signs are all in Catalan, and none of the audible conversation around you is in English.  

There’s an overabundance of what to say about the whole study abroad journey, so much that it couldn’t possibly fit in a series of blog posts. I don’t want to use too many clichés or state the obvious—that studying abroad is magical and life-changing, a one-off experience that I encourage everyone to participate in. I don’t want to sound cheesy, but I also don’t want to underemphasize, to anyone feeling uncertain about whether or not they want to study abroad, that there is no part of the experience that is not worth it. In spite of the obvious routine-building and sense of familiarity that comes from existing in a place for long enough, every day of the semester felt exhilaratingly abnormal in its own way. There’s not a single thing that I would’ve done differently, and it is a shame that the semester had to come to an end. But the temporary nature of studying abroad is what forces you to make sure you’re able to fit in all that you want to do. There is a certain kind of freedom that only an experience like study abroad makes possible. With the structure and guidance that the program provides, and the ample remaining time you have to yourself to just wander off into the city, pick a point on Google Maps and just go. Or, pick a city on the continent and just go. You have the time, if you work enough hours before leaving home then you’ll have the money, so why not? There aren’t many, if any, other times in your life where an experience like this will be feasible. Take it.  

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Adam Smith

I have a passion for storytelling, I like to spin mundane thoughts and pass-times into narrative spectacles on paper or in my mind. I think everything we do is part of a story and there is no such thing as a boring life.

2023 Fall
Home University:
Drew University
Media/Media Studies
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