I cannot believe that I have been in Barcelona for a week; I have a constant in-between feeling that leads me to think that I’ve been here for weeks, but I still don’t know everything about Barcelona yet. This week has been a whirlwind and a rollercoaster of emotions. Being one of the two U of R students in this program, never having been so far away from my family and friends before, and not speaking a word of Spanish, I knew that the first couple of days would be a bit difficult in terms of adapting. However, being from New York City and having a couple of similar experiences, such as first days of school, I thought that it would be somewhat of a breeze. The first thing that I have to say is that culture shock is real, people! No matter how prepared you might think you are, you will feel trembles, no matter how big or small.
While there are the typical feelings of culture shock such as your senses being on hyper drive from your new surroundings, getting used to everyone speaking Spanish, the time difference, different modes of transportation, and constantly making yourself aware of pickpocketers, the smaller (and less talked about) parts of culture shock were the hardest for me. These included but were not limited to, the frizzing of my hair from the humidity :) , trying to find my niche in a new place, and breaking out of my shell to introduce myself to as many students as I could. The only advice that I can give that has helped me through this week is remind yourself why you are here and be a yes-girl (or boy!). I wanted to immerse myself in the Barcelonian culture, so though it was difficult, I pushed myself not to always stay in my room. After classes, I have been trying to explore the neighborhood around IES Abroad and my homestay, even when I haven’t had a friend to go with (I mean, I am in Barce-freakin-lona!). Just wandering the streets is an adventure. Also, try to say yes to everything. Part of studying abroad means that you won’t always be comfortable, so I have been signing up for and trying everything, from new foods to DiscoverIES trips. The more you try new things, the more you’ll know and have memories of— maybe you’ll even make a couple friends along the way. Lastly, call your friends and family. Even though it has been only a couple of days, it’s normal to feel a little homesick. Not only did I feel better after calling them, my friends and family wanted to hear about my life so far, too.
Now, to discuss what I’ve been up to this week. The first two days went by in a blur with unpacking and orientations. I am living in a homestay, and I must say that it is probably one of the best decisions that I have made since coming to Barcelona. My host mom is super friendly even though I cannot communicate with her (yet!), her food is great, and my room is comfortable. I really think that I am getting an authentic feeling of what living in Barca is like. After the orientations, IES Abroad had a study journey trip to Tarragona, which is a small city in Catalonia. It was a great getaway, especially because it was probably a city that I wouldn’t have gone to otherwise. Tarragona was picturesque and has so much history in it. I loved just walking around and exploring during our lunch break, in the evening, and on the tours. The trip also gave me look into what real Catalonian culture is like.
Since the trip, classes have started, which are quite similar to ones at my university in the U.S., except for the smaller class size. I am taking two classes at an affiliated university called UVic, which is also one of the best decisions that I have made while being here. The art and design college is so artsy and modern, and I’m able to get to know another neighborhood. The teachers are also so genuine and love what they are teaching— it makes me excited to learn! I am in disbelief that this is just the beginning, and I can’t wait to see what’s to come.
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<p>Hi! My name is Chirlien and I am a native New Yorker, going to school at the at the University of Rochester. While I am a science student, I also really enjoy writing, photography,and journalism. I am so excited to be studying abroad in Barcelona this fall. Come with me on this journey as I try to learn the ropes of Barcelona's unique culture and people-hopefully I don't get too lost!</p>