I’ve been in Barcelona for almost three weeks now; and somehow it feels as though the time has both flown by and dragged on.
Throughout my trip to Spain I was numb to all the nervousness of being on my own. To keep myself from worrying, I focused on my flight numbers, how to collect my luggage, items that weren’t allowed through security, etc. When my plane landed I found my checked luggage without a hitch. I exited the secure part of the airport and took a breath, still focused, and found a taxi. As soon as my bags were loaded in the car and I’d handed the address to the driver, only then did I start to panic. Slowly we made our way into the city. Huge buildings in every direction, all with balconies, and every street intersection looking the same. Cars and mopeds flew between lanes chaotically. My conversation with my taxi driver was very limited considering he only spoke Spanish and I was too nervous to think of words, let alone entire sentences. When we finally arrived at my building, he stopped at the corner, pointed me in the right direction and gave me my bags. At that moment, as he drove away and I struggled to maneuver my three bags, I felt like I could throw up I was so nervous; and at that moment it actually hit me that I would be completely alone for three and a half months.
I hobbled to number 122 and, with a shaky hand, pushed the button for apartment SA, aka Sobreatico, the very top apartment for the building. Carmen, my host mom buzzed me in and met me in the lobby of the building. Still too nervous to string together full sentences in Spanish, we struggled to understand each other as we loaded my suitcases into the tiny, sketchy elevator. Throughout the evening I began to relax a bit. I took a shower that was much needed after rushing through multiple airports, unpacked all my belongings, and ate dinner with my new host mom and roommate, another study abroad student.
Over the next couple of weeks I fell into a sort of routine: wake up late morning or early afternoon (because really, where did I have to be), eat breakfast, go explore for a couple hours, eat lunch, do a little more exploring, take a nap, have a late dinner, go out to bars or watch a movie, go back to bed, repeat. On days when I have class, the hours for exploring are limited. Some days we’ll have excursions: a tour of modernism throughout Barcelona, a day trip to Girona and Figueres. But I sleep a lot. Not because I don’t appreciate the city and what it has to offer, but because I have no where I have to be in the mornings: no job, class, club… And if I do go somewhere there’s a good chance I’ll have to spend money that I shouldn’t be spending. The city really does have so much to offer though. There’s tons of shopping: from Channel to H&M. Museum, tours, a beach, and more. So when I do sleep late I feel guilty (and a little judged by my host mom).
It’s also been harder to meet people, both study abroad students and locals, than I expected it would be. I’m not sure why I thought this would be easy. Maybe because I’ve always thought of myself as someone who can get along with most types of people, even if I’m not best friends with everyone. However, most of the abroad students here came in groups with their schools, or are living in apartments with their best friends from home. Those people don’t care about meeting people because they already have their people with them. And after two weeks of struggling to make friends, I kind of wondered if I should have lived in an apartment instead of a host family. At least that way I’d be thrown together with a group my age and wouldn’t feel so alone.
Ironically, this is what I’d wanted. Not necessarily the lonely feelings, but I came to Barcelona without other ISU students and wasn’t scared of this because I wanted to be independent. To challenge myself and meet new people. It’s been one of the hardest things ever for me, not knowing anyone here. I’m used to having a buddy to go out and explore places; but here it’s just me or some of my new friends. Even just going to a new coffee shop seems scary. I didn’t expect my confidence to be shaken, but it really was the first two weeks.
Week three felt different. I accepted that this trip was mine and I could either make it the best or the worst experience of my life.I realized I should be proud of myself: I’ve wanted to study abroad since I was a junior in high school, and here I am four years later, actually doing it. Yes, I miss my family and friends immensely, but I only have three and a half months to live in Barcelona, Spain. I’m a 20 year old, single college student, who is lucky enough to have this amazing opportunity, so I think I’m going to enjoy it.