¡Llegué! Hola, Barcelona, ¿Qué Tal?

Emma Ropski
September 10, 2015

For your benefit, I’ll fast forward through my uneventful nine hour flight from O’Hare which was as one might expect any long flight to be: a little tiring, cramped, and uncomfortable. Transferring planes once in Rome’s Fiumicino Airport made me feel confused and confident at the same time, as languages completely foreign to me echoed against the walls. I weaved through hundreds of people, both big and small, on a mission not to miss my connecting flight. Among the hurried chaos, the leisurely airport employees seemed to be in their own world: the security officers laughed with each other and my passport stamper sang “Barcelona” as he sent me on my way. After a rail car, a bus, and walking up the stairs on the airport truck, I settled into my window seat and was off once again.

Nose glued to the window, I could see tiny ships cutting through the water, their long tails following behind. I was able to pick out a few familiar manmade 400 meter ovals traced onto the land. I saw fluffy, heaping, slowly creeping clouds cover the sea. The mountains looked like they had been beautifully and intensely carved into the earth by a master sculptor.

After two hours in the sky over the Mediterranean, we landed in BCN. Once I finished filling out some forms for IES and picking up my heavy checked bag that had lost one of its wheels in transit, I hopped in a cab with another student who was on my flight. Since he didn’t know much Spanish, I chatted up our cab driver, Vicente, and translated as we soaked up our first views of sunny Barcelona: the green mountains, the palm trees, the sea, and the buildings that were both modern and antique in style.

Like anything new, the differences are the first to be most evident, so throughout my first few days here I’ve noticed how Barcelona is unlike home. I have noticed the presence of cigarette rolling and the lack of jaywalking; the presence of masses of pigeons and the lack of leashes on dogs; the presence of bidets and the lack of three ring binders (I know because I brought incompatible loose leaf paper :/).

On a less superficial level, I’ve noticed how certain spaces and situations are defined differently compared to the United States. For example, whenever people go outside of the house, though they might dress casually, they wear clothes that are fashionable, polished, and fit well. Dressing in lounge pants is reserved for home, a private space. People also rarely entertain guests at home because it isn’t considered a social space, but instead go out to bars or restaurants. Eating a meal or enjoying a drink are social events, therefore, getting a coffee to-go or eating a sandwich on the train isn’t a frequent occurrence here. Lastly, in the U.S., affectionate displays with one’s partner are seen as something that is more private, but here, emotional expression is seen more as a vital component to a full and happy life. Accordingly, seeing a couple passionately kiss in a busy park or while waiting to cross an intersection isn’t rare.

In meeting Barcelona, its cultures, and its people, my goal has been to be observant and to ask questions. My mouth has been quiet, while my mind has been buzzing in trying to experience and form together the ideologies, sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures of a place as unique as Barcelona.


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Emma Ropski

<p>Hi all! My name is Emma Ropski and I&#39;m a senior sociology and psychology major at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. I am a middle distance runner on the track and field team there and love it to bits. My interests include the sociological imagination, thrifting, lifting, daytime judge shows, and gorditas. I am so excited to share my study abroad experience in Barcelona with you!</p>

2015 Fall
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