Making friends is a key component of studying abroad. I have yet to run into someone that will tell you differently. When asked about their experience studying abroad I’ve heard hundreds of stories, many of including an adventure traveling somewhere with someone new. While it is incredibly important to make friends with the locals, there is absolutely nothing wrong with making friends with other international students. In fact, making friends with other internationals has helped me and many others have someone that we can talk to that understands the culture shock we are going through. Making friends isn’t as difficult as you might expect. Instantly when you meet the other internationals you recognize you already have at least one thing in common, and that is your love for traveling, and learning. Study abroad is a huge undertaking and the majority of people decide to opt out of studying abroad. So, when you meet other study abroad students, odds are you will have much more in common with them than other students you might meet at school. Still, building these relationships can be difficult at the start since (in my case) all the international students lived spread out throughout the city and we only really had time to talk in between orientation sessions. The BCA excursions in Barcelona we went on, helped us both understand the culture and history around us whilst helping build these friendships that will last a lifetime.
The first and probably the most important excursion was a trip to Gerona. Gerona is a beautiful small town a few hours outside of Barcelona. While the final destination was Tarragona, we made a few stops along the way. First, we stopped at a beautiful monastery overlooking a town next to the sea. When we arrived in the town we were given two hours to wander, and have lunch. Since our international group is already small we were all able to go to the same restaurant and spent the next two hours getting to know one another. We eventually arrived in Girona where we would stay at a hotel for three nights after being randomly assigned a roommate. The excursions that BCA took us on throughout the trip were incredibly informative and necessary to really understand the surrounding culture. However, building friendships with other internationals primarily took place in the free time we had. Our BCA resident director (RD) recognized that parts of the excursions were exhausting and that learning about so many new places could be overwhelming so luckily, she gave us plenty of free time at night. This time quickly helped bond us as we all opted to watch movies together, play games and do some exploring of our own. Through long bus rides, late nights, and full days on our excursion to Tarragona, everyone had several very close friends that they could confide in. It is easy to get sucked into just socializing with one or two close friends, and there’s nothing wrong with having one or two close friends. However, by having day excursions such as tours through the gothic quarter and a trip to Tarragona, BCA helped all the international students stay close as a group.
One of the biggest reasons people study abroad is to learn about and experience a different culture. When you live in another country for several months this is inevitable. However, BCA went the extra mile by organizing excursions where we were given tours of nearby towns, monastery’s, church’s, and Barcelona’s gothic quarter. It’s easy to walk around Barcelona and be in awe of the beauty but have no idea of the history behind it. Our BCA RD helped us to learn about learn about the city and the rich history of its streets, cathedrals and culture. Some argue that you don’t need to know all of this to be abroad, and that might be true. To study abroad in a Barcelona, you don’t absolutely need to know the history behind every building, but taking the time and effort to understand the city around you will provide you with a new-found appreciation for the city and everything it has to offer.
About the Author – Sarah Melgar, Spring 2018 Barcelona Storyteller & Juniata College Student
Sarah is a junior at Juniata College studying Art and Business. Originally from Kalamazoo, Michigan, Sarah is thrilled to be studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain during the spring 2018 semester. Sarah enjoys capturing her experiences through photographs and videos and hopes to inspire others to begin their own travels.