Navigating Discomfort In My New Home

Shane Young
January 23, 2020

My first two weeks studying abroad has been an emotional roller coaster to say the least. The adjustment is real, very real. I came on this program with very little expectations and prepared for an immersion into Spanish culture, which happened right away. Going to the grocery store in my neighborhood was the first experience in which my Spanish proved to be below average. The woman at the cash register looked puzzled at me as I spoke Spanglish and tried miserably to understand what she was saying.

After this initial experience, I returned to my empty apartment where I still had yet to meet my roommates, beginning to wonder why I made this choice to throw myself into this new world without any close friends. A few hours passed and I met my roommates in the evening. After some surface level introductions, we decided to get tapas and wine at a restaurant near our apartment in Gracia. We discussed our schools, our backgrounds, our interest for studying abroad and learned a lot about each other over our first Spanish meal. With all of the overwhelming feelings of anxiety, the comfort of bonding with people who are going through the same thing as you is an unmatched feeling. Developing relationships with different people due to a familiar discomfort and vulnerability has been a theme throughout my first two weeks in Barcelona.

Despite the natural homesickness, the struggles of leaving your loved ones for almost four months, the lack of racial diversity & cultural familiarity, and all the changes that I have experienced, I have somehow felt a new comfort in this uncomfortable position. There is a lot of discomfort in studying abroad, especially in this first few weeks. If you go without any friends like I did, there is an unfamiliarity that will feel even more intense than your first day of college.

However, one of the reassuring aspects that has gotten me through this is that there are hundreds of other students from the US doing the same exact thing that I am. Even if others come with their friends from school, everyone is looking for new experiences and open to meeting new people. Whether it is through my apartment, from the IES Abroad orientation trip in Tarragona, my classes at IES Abroad or the two outside universities I am attending, there are so many opportunities to meet and get connected with people from completely different places, which has been one of my favorite parts of this journey so far.

With these new friends, I have been able to admire the Bunkers del Carmel's beautiful view at sunset, walk Las Ramblas, capture the Arc de Triomf, walk through Mercat de la Boqueria, and purchase way too many clothes and dinners in two weeks. I am so grateful for all of the unique people I have met and the memories that have already been created.

This new experience has not been easy, but each day has been better than the last. This discomfort has taught me something new about myself each and everyday since I have landed in Barcelona. When you recognize that even feeling loneliness, discomfort and confusion are natural and when you remind yourself that you never are actually alone, it becomes an easier transition. I have realized that every difficult moment is an opportunity; an opportunity to challenge myself, to learn how I respond to certain situations and to develop my understanding of the world I know.

Shane Young

<p>I am a junior from Connecticut studying Finance, Africana Studies, and Economics. At the University of Connecticut, I am a consultant &amp; the Director of Diversity in the UConn Consulting Group, VP of UConn FEC (teaching underprivileged elementary school students about financial literacy), President of the Club Basketball team, a practice player for the Women's Basketball team, a TA for the First Year Experience program, and a tutor for first-generation college students. In my free time, I enjoy playing basketball, working out, traveling to new places, having great conversations, discussing politics, reading, learning about and discussing injustice, and going out with my best friends and new people.</p>

2020 Spring
Home University:
University of Connecticut
South Windsor, CT
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