Some Final Sentiments

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Adam Smith
December 13, 2023
Barcelona View

The neighborhood of Gracia, in Barcelona, with its intriguingly decorated stores, calm atmosphere, and chic coffee shops is a surprisingly tranquil escape from the tourist-heavy lanes of the old city. Gracia is still fairly central and attracts a lot of attention; however, it’s residential vibe is unmistakable. As I walked around in the late afternoon sun, with the birds flying in between the trees that lined the sidewalks, I couldn’t help but feel irritated that I hadn’t discovered the neighborhood sooner. Nostalgia welled in my chest; in exactly a week’s time my study abroad experience would be over. Questions circled in my mind. Had I enjoyed my time abroad? Did I feel like I had accomplished that which I set out to achieve? Had I made the most of my time abroad? Such complexities were difficult to answer. To look back on my semester abroad and think that I had wasted my time was an unsettling thought.  

I meandered through the streets searching for a coffee shop that wasn’t packed to the brim. A soreness had developed in my hamstring, a result of weeks of endless city-walking in unsuitable footwear. I trudged along the main road and found a place called Antonio Café. It was packed, but not to the brim. Without the patience to find somewhere quainter and quieter, I went inside. While I tucked into one of the best chocolate croissants that I’ve ever eaten; my taste buds going manic, I had nothing else to do other than to sit and ruminate. 

What constituted a successful semester abroad? I thought about what I had wanted to achieve before I arrived in Barcelona: I had wanted to improve my Spanish, make friends, and hopefully mature and gain some knowledge along the way; standard goals for a student studying abroad. However; a true moment of realization struck when I considered those goals in the context of the broader ambitions and aspirations that I had for my life. 

For a long time, to anyone that asked, I would say that all that I knew that I wanted to do with my life, for certain, was to have the time, freedom, and flexibility to travel. I took the final bite of the croissant. The ambience of Spanish, Catalan, and Italian conversations echoed to the backdrop of a coffee machine. A moped buzzed past outside. In that moment a lightbulb turned on in my brain and I felt overcome with gratitude. The spectacle of the travel, my dream to chase it, was gripped in my hands, coursed through my hair, and shone in my eyes. I looked up from my plate at the baristas, the décor on the walls, the pastries lined up inside of the display counter, the people passing by the café window. My anxieties dissipated. 

My reflections on the semester gleamed in a new light. In my determination to improve my Spanish I had lived in a homestay, I had taken two classes taught in Spanish, and made every attempt to converse in Spanish when the opportunity arose. I had made plenty of friends through the IES Abroad program and had managed to undertake two solo journeys to both Lisbon and Seville. Most importantly, I had learned to take pride in what I did, what I enjoyed and what I found worthwhile, instead of feeling compelled to adhere to some pre-determined agenda of things that I should be doing and enjoying. My goals were not fixed activities to be carried out within set timeframes, they were coming to fruition through the everyday events and activities that had begun to feel mundane and familiar. The mere fact that I had done a study abroad at all was testament to my desire to fulfil my goal of travelling.  

As the semester draws to a close, I can say that I did that which I wanted to do and feel a sense of completion from having done so. My advice to those planning a semester abroad is as follows: set yourself goals, no matter how mild. It’s easy to get too caught up in the moment, and it’s easy to stay too focused on the short-term that you can’t zoom out and see the beauty of the experience itself. Save time throughout the semester to reflect on the insanity of what you’re doing. You are living in another country! Appreciate the moments that make you feel like your time is being spent well, and don’t lose sight of the challenges you want to take on. There can be moments of homesickness, and moments of self-doubt, that derail the novelty; as is completely normal. But you’re only abroad for a few months; the experience is not permanent. In part, that’s what makes it all so incredible. 

The fun that you want to have is there to be had, and the goals that you set for yourself are there to be achieved. Embrace the temporary nature of study abroad and don’t let anything deter you from not relishing all of the wonderous things that you will undoubtedly experience.  

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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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