We are going home!

Beatriz Cavalcante
July 6, 2017

While I was in Barcelona I took an amazing photography class, shout out to the awesome Professor Fred! One of the assignments for the class was to write about someone's epiphany which led them to realize that they were truly living in Barcelona. I wrote about my friend Claire. I decided to share the story I wrote about her here on the blog because there will be a time that you too will come to an epiphany that will make you consider the city you are studying abroad at as your home. In the text, I reflect on the differences between the concept of a house and home. Check out the photo gallery, where I'm posting pictures that I took of Claire to illustrate the post. 

Here is the story:

“We are going home!” Exclaimed Claire after the air flight attendant announced that the flight to Barcelona would depart in 20 minutes. Tiffany, Claire and I had arrived at the Ibiza airport at 7 pm to catch the 10 pm flight back to Barcelona. Apart from having a fantastic weekend in the chilly February Ibiza, we were ready to go back to Barcelona to rest for a few hours before our 8 am class. Our flight that was supposed to leave at 10 pm, however, at midnight was still unconfirmed, and we were still sitting on the airport chairs playing “heads up” and eating way too much chocolate as a reward for waiting patiently for the delayed flight. At almost 1 am it was announced that the flight was confirmed and the boarding process was about to be initiated. “Home…” Claire repeated.

Even though we had already been in Barcelona for a month, that was the first time that Claire realized that when thinking of home, the warm feeling that wrapped the word echoing in her mind came from a place called Barcelona and not Pennsylvania which has always been considered home to her. That was the beginning of Claire’s epiphany realizing that she was living abroad – in Barcelona.

About a week later, I got a text from Claire. She wanted to make her first tattoo and was wondering if I wanted to go to the studio with her “it will be in Gracia” she wrote, as she continued to explain that the neighborhood was filled with art galleries, live music, restaurants, etc. When I arrived at the studio in Gracia, her tattoo was halfway done. “I decided to have a Spanish carnation tattooed in my body; I want to remember this moment, I want to remember this time of my life” Claire explained. From there we decided to make our way to Poblenou to attend the Palo Alto Market that happens once a month in the gardens of an old factory. After only a month living in Barcelona, we already knew quite well our way around town – not having to constantly check the map just gave us all a greater feeling of belonging in the place. “That has always been one of my dreams, it may sound silly, but I’ve always dreamed of having an afternoon with my friends, while independently making our way around a foreign place but somewhat knowing where we were headed if that makes any sense.” Claire reflected while checking the photograph of her tattoo that was taken by Tiffany right after the tattoo was done. “I would live there, you know? In Gracia… I would live in Gracia if one day I’m back in Barcelona in a different context” Claire said.

We spent the rest of metro ride talking about how we weren’t feeling homesick and wondering if one can be homesick when living in a place which we sentimentally adopted as a new home. After arriving at Palo Alto, we enjoyed the food from a few different food trucks and sat down to watch two local musicians perform to American songs. The songs, however, had a “Spanish twist” perhaps not rhythmically speaking, but rather because of the way the musicians portrayed the song. Because of the calmness in the musician’s voice, by the interaction and natural and soft smiles being distributed to the public – and once again, Claire felt as if she belonged there.

On that day, we decided to visit a salsa place during the night. We wanted to immerse ourselves in the culture. After dancing, we had a couple of churros at a place called “Xurreria Trebol” that during the weekend is open 24hrs. When that great and long day was done, each one of us made our way back to our homes. And Claire made her way back to her apartment. What we didn’t know was that Claire had been documenting everything that had happened during that weekend in her notebook. What we didn’t know was that that whole week had been an epiphany to Claire realizing that she was living in Barcelona. That although our weekends were filled with adventures, at the end of the day, when she laid her head down on her pillow to sleep, she would be sleeping and waking up the next day in Barcelona. That was her home, that was her place. Some people’s epiphany – the moment of realization that Barcelona had become their home came in simple ways, like Claire’s. That just by saying “we are going home” realized that her home was Barcelona.

The origin of the word "home" comes from the part of the house where a family would have lit the fire, and everyone gathered there to warm up. It still has a lot to do with the meaning it has earned; home is where we feel safe, warm. When we decide for whatever reason, to move to another country, it seems that at first, we leave our "home" behind. But we don´t, home is something immaterial, it´s connected to memories. House is a cement and brick building. Home is a building of values and principles. House is our shelter from the rain, from the heat, from the cold. Home is a haven from fear, pain, and loneliness. House is the place where people go to sleep, use the bathroom, eat. Home is where we are in a hurry to arrive, and we delay the time to leave. 

A house only becomes a home when we “decorate” it with something of emotional value. Such as marks on the wall registering the growth of a child, a burned pan after many family meals, several pictures on the wall to document moments that one wishes to eternalize. Our home is where our heart goes when it finds itself lost, exiled and when it seeks emotional comfort. No matter the furniture, the decoration, the sophistication. The heart has no palpable memory but it recognizes what is truly human, and emotion is what gives the sense of belonging to a place – the feeling of having a home. To Claire, the realization of having a new location to call home comes from a series of emotional events that led her to such realization. Her epiphany of realizing that she is living in Barcelona is connected to emotions, to a collection of moments and the feelings she experienced from it, rather than from an imposition of having to live in a particular place. Barcelona is not her home because she is currently situated in Barcelona, Barcelona is her home because she is emotionally connected to it.

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Beatriz Cavalcante

<p>My name is Beatriz, but most people call me Bia/Bea. I'm an IES Abroad alumni from the Barcelona liberal arts and business program from the Spring 2017 term. Studying abroad had such a fantastic impact in my life that I decided to do it again, during my last semester of college!</p>

2017 Spring, 2018 Spring
Home University:
Hofstra University
São Paulo, Brazil
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