Searching for Familiarity in the Unfamiliar

Johnna Hawyard headshot
Johnna Hayward
January 30, 2019

“We are torn between nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange.”

-Carson McCullers


For those of us who have been exploring the world since early January it has started to reach the point where the days are now moving a little slower and life isn’t quite as exciting as Day 1. Don’t get me wrong, we’re still enjoying ourselves! But the longing for friends and family and the comfort of our own beds is becoming a little more real.

So how does one overcome the three week hump while continuously enjoying their international experience?

My best piece of advice: begin to search for familiarity in the things that are unfamiliar. But what does this mean exactly? As I embark on my fourth week in Barcelona there are a few areas of my life where I have found the small pieces of comfort that I’ve been searching for.



Music & Dance

One of my biggest challenges when arriving to Barcelona was the language barrier. I’m an outgoing person who loves talking to people. I very quickly realized that this would pose to be quite a challenge for me while here. I needed to find a different way to connect with people and enjoy each other’s company.

What better way to do accomplish this goal than through music? Whether there are no vocals, or there are and you struggle to understand the words, everyone has an equal opportunity to enjoy the rhythms. Music and dance is an incredible way to connect with people and become part of a universal language that everyone is capable of understanding.

If you’re in Barcelona, give these places a try: Soda Acústic & Gràcia Latina



Food & Coffee

Who doesn’t love food and coffee? Speaking for myself, those are two of the things that make me happiest in life.

Do you have a favorite food or coffee drink? I’m sure you do. So find it, or something similar, wherever you are in the world! This offers you the perfect opportunity to enjoy a small piece of home. There’s also a very good chance that whatever you order will turn out slightly different than what you’re used to. Perfect! You’re now able to accomplish two different goals: finding something that’s familiar to you while also appreciating a different culture’s interpretation of your favorite order.

If you’re in Barcelona, give these cafés a try: Nappuccino & Espai Joliu



Hobbies & Interests

Everyone can think of an activity, hobby, interest, etc. that they enjoy doing at home. Being in another country for a few months doesn’t mean that you have to completely cut out this part of your life! Find somewhere in your new city that has at least one thing that you’re interested in.

Whether it’s going to the local gym, signing up for classes at a dance studio, or joining a cooking class, get involved! You’ll inevitably meet new people who share similar interests which is always a plus. Ask around, do some research, and find the perfect opportunity for you!

If you’re in Barcelona, give these places a try: YOGABODY & Sharma Climbing BCN



Sounds pretty simple right? We’re often so focused on trying to figure out all of the new things around us that we look right past the aspects of life that are recognizable and comforting.

I truly believe that these “places” in which I have been able to find small pieces of familiarity can relate to everyone in any part of the world. Without a doubt, keep learning and trying new things. But every once in a while make sure to enjoy a small piece of home for yourself.


Until next time!





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Johnna Hawyard headshot

Johnna Hayward

<p class="MsoBodyText" style="margin-top:.4pt; margin-right:14.7pt; margin-bottom:.0001pt; margin-left:5.5pt"><span style="line-height:103%">Hiya! My name is Johnna (pronounced John-na). I am from Peekskill, NY (about 45 minutes north of Manhattan) and I will be graduating from Penn State in December! I’m a marketing major with strong passions related to sports and nonprofit efforts. In my free time I take weekly yoga classes and enjoy capturing Penn State’s beautiful campus through my iPhone camera lens. Lastly, traveling is a huge passion of mine and I am thrilled for the experience that I am about to embark on in Barcelona!</span></p>

2019 Spring
Home University:
Penn State University
Peekskill, NY
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