Before I delve into how I'm preparing to study abroad in Barcelona, I'll tell you a bit about myself.
I grew up in the D.C. area and have lived in Arlington, Virginia my whole life. I was lucky enough to attend school at the National Cathedral School in the city, where I got to walk by the Washington National Cathedral every day between classes and attend weekly services there. I can't wait to compare the vivid stain glass and gothic architecture of the cathedral to churches in Spain, especially La Sagrada Familia.
I currently go to Washington and Lee University where I'm a rising junior. W&L is a small liberal arts college tucked away between mountain ranges in the Shenandoah Valley in Lexington, Virginia. I am a business journalism major there, write and edit for the school paper and play on the women's lacrosse team. This past summer I was in NYC interning at CNBC as a .com breaking news journalist. I was happy to be able to brush up on my street smarts while living in New York to prepare for Barcelona. Although I'm sad to be away from school for the fall, I couldn't be more excited to go to Spain for the first time.
I've been learning about Spain my whole life during my Spanish classes and I can't wait to explore Barcelona and the rest of the country. Spain, and especially Barcelona, has such a unique history that created a culture that I can't wait to become a part of. I've been reading in my Lonely Planet Barcelona travel guide all summer and have a lengthy bucket list of museums, restaurants, parks, mountains, sports games, festivals, islands and shops that I want to visit.
However, one thing not on my bucket list that I can't plan for is the people I'll meet and how they'll change me. When I visited Chile and Argentina on a school trip after my freshman year of high school, I got to stay with five different host families. Sitting around the dinner table with my host families, riding in a packed car with them and laughing when someone misinterpreted my Spanish or when they made a mistake in English was what really gave me a taste of the true cultures of those countries. I learned about their humor, what music they listened to, their impressions of the U.S. and their versions of their country's history. Their anecdotes really opened my eyes and stuck with me. For example, one of my Chilean host moms revealed that she hates it when people from the U.S. call themselves "Americans," because it's not like the U.S. is the only country in all of North, Central and South America. I can't wait to meet the locals of Barcelona to gain a better understanding of the city and country firsthand, and to create more lasting friendships.
I also plan on travelling to other countries while I'm in Europe. I love adventures. I used to go to a tripping sleepaway camp in Maine every summer where I led groups of girls on 200 mile canoeing and hiking trips. I learned how to pitch a tent and do a T-rescue in a canoe. But I also learned how to be independent, plan ahead and try new things—all skills that I'll bring over to Spain with me.
With all the terror attacks going on in the world, my parents, and especially my grandma, keep worrying about me and reminding me to stay safe, yet they understand that you can’t become so afraid that you don’t live your life. The very recent attack in Barcelona really spooked my family, but those kinds of incidents can happen anywhere—I keep reminding them that we do live in D.C. after all. Instead of worrying about something that's out of my control, I’m focusing more on petty crimes that I can safeguard myself against. For example, I’m bringing a purse with a zipper rather than an open bag.
Now, with just 2 weeks before I hop on a plane to Barcelona, I’m really starting to prepare. The hardest part is differentiating between what I need to bring and what I want to bring. My friends who have studied abroad before told me I can always buy clothes and bed sheets when I’m there. I guess as long as I have my passport and Visa I’ll be fine!
I can’t wait for August 31 when I’m lugging all my bags through the Barcelona airport trying to spot some people in IES Abroad T-shirts to take me to my new home for the next few months.