Trials and Triumphs

Emma Ropski
September 23, 2015

One of my best friends back at home, Leah, has a signature prompt she likes to use whenever the room grows a little quiet: “Highs and Lows?”. Everyone in the group then takes turns sharing her favorite and least favorite part of the day. It allows everyone to empathize, smile, connect, and be human. So that’s what I’m going to give you a snapshot of, me being human while abroad.

A High

On a sunny Sunday afternoon, three girls from my barrio, my BCC (Barcelona Cultural Companion), and I took a bus to La Barceloneta, the most popular beach in Barcelona. Luckily, we were able to find a nice spot next to an open volleyball net. It wasn't long before we jumped into a game. What started with a few rusty, deadend serves evolved into extended volleys, quick action, and great plays. More and more people asked to join and eventually the court was filled with travelers from Germany, Austria, and Poland. We all played fairly and made sure everyone was included throughout the game. By the time the group had dispersed, I was ready to head into the water. Walking onto the rocky shore, I could see rows of surfers riding the strong, tall waves that eventually crashed onto the shore. The cool blue water was just comfy enough to be refreshing, but after quickly being knocked down, I realized that the waves were a little too rough to play with today. The rest of the time there I spent lounging on my towel while hearing “Sangria! Mojitos!” from vendors snaking through the sunbathers, gazing at varying degrees of now normal nakedness, and taking pictures of friends doing partner yoga. While waiting for the bus home, I decided to finally get a 1€ Cornetto that I’d had my eyes on since I arrived in Barcelona to cap off a fantastic beach day.

A Low

I researched a group run at the Nike Store and decided to be adventurous and go on my own. While sitting on the metro, ready to run with my little drawstring backpack, I rehearsed in my mind the route to the store and what I’d say in Spanish to the runners. A short walk through the city from the station brought me in front of the store. After talking with three different employees on three different levels of the store, forgetting how to say “early” in Spanish, and searching for two different flights of stairs that were actually in plain sight, I was told that the running club hadn’t started yet and to come back in two weeks. Deflated and a bit frazzled, I decided to try running home since I was already dressed for it. Bag now in hand, I weaved around the people on the busy city streets and dashed through pedestrian stoplights. My maneuvering wasn't the most successful though: when running across from La Plaça Catalunya, the crowded city center, I tripped on a slightly raised brick in the sidewalk and wiped out. Under what felt like hundreds of stares, I grabbed my bag and rebounded quickly. It was an uphill battle home after that--literally. The 280 foot elevation change was much more taxing than I expected, so much so that after twenty minutes of it I gave up and hopped on the nearest metro home. If you were wondering, my scraped left knee and my most of my ego has recovered since.

In short, studying abroad isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. For every picturesque and awe-filled day, there is a frustrating and sad one. It´s not just foreign travel, city adventures, fresh food, and thriving nightlife. We still have courses to be responsible for, public transportation to figure out, language barriers to struggle with, and cultural differences to learn and practice. Both days, the ones you don't want to end and the ones that you have to work through, are part of the study abroad experience and knowing that can help to make moving forward day-by-day a whole lot easier.


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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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