Growing Pains

March 5, 2018

This post comes to us from Abbey Wozniak from the University of Massachusetts Amherst who is currently studying in Barcelona, Spain.

Prior to my travels to Barcelona, it was incredibly difficult for me to even conjure up an image of my life as an abroad student in this extensive, Mediterranean city After being here for merely one week my mind is still foggy and my body is still in shock- is this even my reality? I have been dropped into a vibrant world where sleep is for the weak and the hunt to find something to do is merely effortless. Immediately I realized that I would no longer be spending a typical semester in the valley of Western Massachusetts at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, but in this metropolitan city as an international student at Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona. Although I’ve had previous abroad experiences, I quickly realized that those short-term adventures surely did not prepare me for this more permanent journey.  My gut has lead me to this spirited city filled with culture, arts, and amazing sights and landmarks waiting to be explored. Anxious that I will run out of time to see it all, it has yet to hit me that I get to call this city home for the next four months.

I have been in Barcelona for a week now- one of the longest, emotionally climactic, yet incredible weeks of my life. I can almost feel my mind, body, and soul morphing into something richer, and its uncomfortable in the most forgiving way. Upon arriving in the Barcelona airport, API did an incredibly fluid job in transporting and settling us into our hotel. Overall, API was really thorough and useful when explaining the ins-and-outs of our time spent here as international students through the first few days of orientation. The overflow of new experiences caught me off guard, and I initially began to feel trapped in a city that I failed to understand. As the independent and confident traveler that I thought I was, this feeling intimidated me, and I briefly doubted my abilities to live independently in this foreign city. I found that the language barrier often left me feeling uncomfortable and embarrassed; each time I step foot into a crowded and local cafe I feel my body sink; I feel immediately recognized as an American. What do they think of me? There were points were I experienced intense feelings of homesickness. I missed the familiarity and comfort of it all; Yet I forced myself to ignore it, proving to myself that this too will pass. Sure enough, having spent my days roaming the city with new friends between every local coffee shop and renowned tapa bar, I can feel my confidence slowly advance, and my abilities to communicate despite the divide have already improved.

I adapted to my classes quickly here in Barcelona, and better yet, I sometimes feel excited to attend. All of my professors are so genuine, fascinating, and comforting, and I look forward to learning about art and culture in the city most renowned for its architecture and history. While in Barcelona, I am taking courses in Spanish Civilisation and Culture, Urban Interventions, Graffiti and Public Sculpture, Intercultural Communication, and Spanish Language. Classes here are certainly a nice change of pace from my home university, where mostly all of my classes are typically in large lecture halls. Here, my class sizes range from 10 to 25 students. Getting on a schedule and attending class was comforting for me. Just when you begin to feel alone, you realize that you are far, far from it. The beauty of abroad is the fact that I am sharing this experience with hundreds of other like-minded students that I probably would never have the chance to meet elsewhere.

Just when I thought that I would never gain the ability to maneuver the city alone, I’m switching metro lines without second-guessing, roaming the Parque de la Ciudad before class, reading a book in a local cafe, and watching an intimate flamenco performance at a small Spanish bar. The Barcelona lifestyle is a strange adjustment, but before you know it, you find yourself a part of it. I think that this might be the hardest thing that I have ever done- yet, I know that this is the best thing that I have ever done. Although incredibly intimidating, change is good. It forces you to break your habits, your routines, and it asks a lot out of you, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Although these things all go against security, familiarity, and the comfort of knowing, I’m learning to not get discouraged, but you must embrace this change instead. Barcelona has the most unique rhythm of life, and although I am still a bit offbeat, I am confident that this city and I will get along just fine.

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