One of the best and worst things about study abroad is the sometimes heightened, sometimes lowered, and always exacerbated sense of reality that it creates; Hence, why I think the phrase “living the dream” is the perfect way of summarizing the study abroad experience. To say someone is “living the dream” certainly has positive connotations. However, when interpreted in a literal way, “living the dream” is simply this: existing in a false reality.
For the most part, my study abroad experience exists in that more positive, elevated zone of false reality. Take, for example, how I spent my past weekend: in Barcelona with my friend Charlotte. In what other lifestyle could I have enjoyed the freedom to travel to an alluring city in a foreign country, with the ease (in terms of time, money, and transportation) in which I did? That’s certainly not a reality in my day-to-day life back in the States. I mean, what kind of college student has a part-time job that can afford an overseas flight? Furthermore, what kind of college student has the time between countless meetings and obligations to spend 72 hours doing, essentially, nothing? Fortunately, in the life of a study abroad student, this is definitely my reality.
This past weekend, I simply got to enjoy Barcelona. I found that Barcelona isn’t necessarily one of those cities you go to see or experience numerous attractions; Barcelona is a city best showcased by simply experiencing it. It exudes a vibrant culture that welcomes visitors, as seen in the way in which its citizens utilize Parc Ciutadella for ping pong tournaments and guitar strumming sessions that all people can benefit from. Barcelona even socially constructs an eating environment that embraces strangers with trendy, almost Americanized tapas bars, and La Bocqueria (the famous food market) that is intended to accommodate, awe, and gastronomically satisfy, visitors. And my favorite thing that Barcelona shared with its visitors? The beach, of course. As we sat with Sangria and fresh seafood at a restaurant literally steps away from the sea, we conversed with Charlotte’s local Barcelonian friend about her way of life and I couldn’t help but marvel at the oddity of me being in such a pleasant situation in the here and now.
On the flipside, I never imagined that this same trip could produce a very different sense of “unrealness.” I found myself saying the same thing on Tuesday morning at 5 a.m. as I had said merely ten hours earlier at 7 p.m. on Monday night while I was enjoying our last meal in the Gothic Quarter: “This is crazy.” The first time I said those words, I was referring to how crazy delicious the nachos were and how crazy awesome our time in Barcelona was. The second time I said it, I was referring to how crazy unfortunate the situation we were in was. The reason Charlotte and I had to get up so early was because we found out late Monday night that our return flight on Tuesday afternoon was cancelled due to an air traffic controller’s strike, so we had to get to the train station so we could (hopefully) buy train tickets back to Nice.
While I will spare you all from the details of Charlotte and I’s escapade, suffice it to say that getting up five hours earlier than planned was only the first of many setbacks. Other comically tragic events include trying to take a nonexistent bus to get to the train station, having to buy separate train tickets for separate trains, being denied scrambled eggs for breakfast, a four hour layover in a very cold train station, and a train accident that caused successive delays which further stalled our homecoming. At the time, these hindrances were overwhelming and it was hard not to feel like they were the end of the world. Looking back, even hours later, I can see how trivial, and certainly fleeting, most of them were in actuality.
While dramatized during brief weekend trips such as my one to Barcelona, this emotionally intensified lifestyle applies to my daily life in Nice as well. Just like in Barcelona, my life in Nice has marvelous aspects (such as, walks on the beach, authentic gelato, and bustling markets at my daily disposal), and also consists (at least from time to time) of stressors (such as, group projects with French speakers and having to navigate a new living situation) that seem more extreme here in France than in my normal life simply because they occur in a foreign country.
Throughout all of the highs and the lows, the most important thing to remember is to bring myself back to reality. To remind myself to be grateful. And to remind myself that problems I encounter are most likely fleeting. I have to remember that it is because of the fortunate combination of circumstances that I am able to study in Europe, and thus have easy access to many places of culture, and that I am able to enjoy the life I am currently living.
More Blogs From This Author
<p>My name is Rosemary Newsome, and I am studying abroad in Nice, France! I study finance and political science at TCU. For me, there is always something new out there to learn, make, do or play, and studying abroad in Nice offers a whole new arena in which I can do that. If you want to learn about the triumphs & trials of a bright-eyed, goofy, restless, and French cuisine-loving girl, follow me as I immerse myself in the culture of a Riviera lifestyle!</p>