During my time with BCA-Barcelona, I experienced and learned many things about myself and the world around me. Although it may sound cliché, it is true. I learned different things about myself, but a couple of the most important ones are that I am good in new social situations and therefore I should not fear them. Second, I am capable of planning and organizing, my time, activities, trips or whatever else it might be.
I arrived to the BCA group’s meeting point two days early, because I had spent time in Spain prior the beginning of the semester. I had two days where I pondered what the next three and a half months would bring. I had all the usual worries of whether I would make friends or if I would come to feel comfortable and at home in Barcelona. It turns out I did not have anything to worry about because I made amazing friends and became part of an amazing host family. With my friends I learned how to overcome the problems of what you might call “forced friendships”, meaning that they are not naturally formed relationships, but that does not mean they are any less important. I learned to talk through those problems and to not feel awkward about them, because they are almost always less stressful than you build them up in your mind to be.
My host family was more than great and as I write this I think again about how lucky I am to have found a home away from what I had previously defined as home (my long-term friends and my parents). As a quick side note, I realized that “home” is a special place and I feel proud of the fact that I was able to create it in Barcelona, Spain with my host parents. I became comfortable not understanding every word and having to ask for something to be repeated. I adjusted to not always feeling one hundred percent comfortable, because it was not my home, but luckily I moved past that. Most importantly for me, I became more confident in myself. I could fill conversations and overcome the language barrier. I did not always say everything perfectly, but that was part of the learning process and it is really the effort that counts and that makes you better.
Fortunately, I learned about the world as well. I’d heard and seen some of it before for short-term periods, but it is different to experience it for a longer duration, like a semester abroad. My first observation is one that I had an idea about before, but did not really see until I spent a long time in Spain. That observation is that most people are proud of their country and city and therefore want to teach you about it and show you around. This is something you should take advantage of whenever possible. Although one might never know the feel of a city unless you grew up there and it is yours, you can always try and meet local people who will help you do that. In fact, some of my favorite places and memories were formed in the places I may never have discovered without a local’s help. Those memories are what I am going to cherish forever. This point can also refer back to the first observation I made about myself, meaning that if you can feel more confident and comfortable about being in new situations, then it will be easier to interact with and befriend local people so that they can show you their city. For instance, my memories will inspire me to be more personable and assured when meeting new people so that I can recreate the essence of these memories in future travels and places.
Another observation is not so much about the people of the world, but on how society is and how I think I changed after my semester with BCA-Barcelona. A huge part of societies and the world is based on the value and importance on objects. For me, it was clothes, jewelry and books. Do not get me wrong, I still love those things and will continue to purchase them, but it will not be the same as it was before. In the United States, we spend a lot of energy and money on what to own or what to wear. While I may never be totally away from that, I realize that there is more to life than that, there is a whole world (literally) removed from that way of thinking. Many of the stories and memories I have now are far better than anything I own. This particular point became clear to me when I told my parents that I did not need or want anything for my birthday, instead saying that Spain and study abroad as an experience were the best gifts possible.
- Sara Helin-Long, Fall 2015 BCA Barcelona alumna and Bryn Mawr College student