I have one week left in Barcelona, and I can’t quite explain how I feel about it. This semester has been life-changing in so many ways (obviously—how could you move to Europe for four months and not come out different?). But it changed me in ways that I didn’t expect. Some of these changes I didn’t want, but some I really, really needed. Here’s how Barcelona has taken me in and spit me out as a new person.
I’m aware of my surroundings constantly. I come from a small town in the Midwest, so moving to a metropolitan hub of Europe was an adjustment. I’m extremely paranoid of pick-pocketers at all times—my friends make fun of me for always clutching my purse. I can’t imagine going home and putting my phone in my back pocket like I used to. I think I’ll always be a little more skeptical when I’m out and about. I haven’t decided if that’s good or bad.
I’m more open to new foods. As a chronic picky eater, it was hard to adjust to my host mom’s cooking. Don’t get me wrong—she makes incredible food, but I would never have dreamed of trying mussels or rabbit meat before coming here. But that’s what was for dinner some nights, and I learned that I shockingly love both of these foods. I think I’ll go back to the states and be more willing to experiment.
I’m so much more independent, and I’m someone who considered myself to be the most independent before being here. I’ve never been accepting of help from others, and I take pride in accomplishing things on my own—almost to a fault. But I didn’t realize how living in a foreign city in Europe would force me to grow even more. I’ve had to figure out really tough situations on my own, with people who don’t speak Spanish. I had to figure out how to use the public transportation system and try not to look like a crazy person running to catch the metro. I’ve had to learn not to be embarrassed when speaking Spanish to native speakers. I’ve had to figure out tight, hard-to-solve situations in the midst of a travel weekend. But through all that, I’ve grown in confidence and in self-love. I can be proud of what I’ve accomplished because let’s be honest, it’s been really hard at times. And I can give myself some slack in the future—not everything is going to work out perfectly, and that’s okay.
And, of course, I’m more culturally aware. I’ve come to understand that different cultures have different customs, and that’s a good thing. It took me a while to get used to being kissed once on each cheek each time I saw my host family—I viewed it as unnecessary, I’d never done that in the states. But now I look forward to giving Alejandra the traditional Spanish greeting every time I see her. I finally understand just how many people and cultures and ideas are out there after traveling to over ten countries. It’s given me a new perspective to life, one that I wouldn’t have had without this incredible experience.