Today’s blog post comes to us from #APIabroad alumni & University of Massachusetts Amherst student Warren Nakazawa. He studied abroad with us in Barcelona, Spain!
As I reflect back on my time abroad, I feel happy and fulfilled in recounting the things I have experienced and the opportunities that I have managed to come about.
Barcelona is a city filled with culture and good people, so in some ways, it was easy. From experiencing the local holidays to learning more about the Spanish language to spending my time volunteering within the community, I have been lucky to experience all that I did during my four months in Barcelona.
One of the best things I did (that I unfortunately do not have a picture of) was volunteer at an elementary school to help teach English to fifth and sixth graders.
To me, volunteering is always a rewarding experience, and being able to work with children brings a lot of unfiltered joy and curiosity unlike a lot of other, boring routine things in my adult life.
Volunteering at the school allowed me to learn a lot about the structural differences in the educational system in Spain and in Catalunya versus those systems in the United States. It allowed me to learn about the relationships that students have with teachers, and it allowed me to focus on understanding and bettering my own professional skills in working with other people of all types of backgrounds. Ultimately, my time volunteering at the school allowed me to better understand the community that I was living in and provided a great opportunity to give back to the community of Barcelona.
I also thoroughly enjoyed partaking in a language exchange program while abroad.
Through that, I was able to learn more about the Spanish language, specifically more about slang terms and phrases that are more for everyday use and less formal than what we would have learned in class. I was also able to experience some more authentic food in better restaurants and bars than what I would have been able to on my own, and for that, I am thankful. I also made a great friend in the process!
Experiencing holidays, while not regular, was another extremely fulfilling experience.
It helped me connect with the local culture even more. One of my most favorite experiences abroad was attending the festival of La Mercè during the early days of September. During the festival, I attended a firework parade and was able to meet and hang out with some locals who showed me the ways of the celebration. I endured the Correfoc with them (as a stranger in their large group of locals) and afterwards, they treated me to tapas.
Though through these festivals and holidays, along with other cultural activities planned and scheduled through API, I was able to experience bits and pieces of Catalunyan and Spanish culture. Ultimately, it was by putting myself out there and challenging myself to experience all these new things, I was able to have such a fun and fulfilling cultural experience while abroad!