After graduating high school I was geared up and ready for what my college life would look like. I had no idea what to expect but I knew for one thing, I wanted to study abroad. Even during my competitive scholarship interviews, I told them that the one thing I definitely wanted to do was go abroad for part of my education. My eagerness to go abroad was a result of the few years I lived in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I was around the age of nine when I left the states and almost thirteen when I got back. I have always felt like I did not make the most out of my time there. I can not really be blamed since I was so young, but I have always felt like I needed another experience abroad. Today, I can for sure say that studying abroad has fulfilled my thirteen-year-old dreams. Now that I am abroad, I have tried to make the most of this opportunity and take it all in. Here are some ways I have been able to cherish my time abroad.
One way I have grown to absorb my surroundings is through the architecture and views of the area. I am in no way an architectural genius, but I know a beautiful building when I see one. The SAI Barcelona crew visited the monastery in Montserrat a few weeks ago and it was absolutely amazing. What made the details more eye-opening was the choir of children that sang in the background. We all just sat in awe as we looked at the beautiful columns, intricate paintings, and amazing sculptures. This was one of the most beautiful buildings I have seen, but you can find unique features of architecture all around the city. I always seem to find something new on my walks to and from school. From the terraces to the exterior designs, there are so many things that are unparalleled to the states. I can not mention the unparalleled views without talking about the sights of Barcelona and neighboring areas. Everywhere I have been so far has had amazing vantage points that cast the city in such a nice way. My favorite place to see Barcelona has to be in Park Guell. Not only are you able to see Barcelona in its entirety, but you can also look at the beautiful work of Gaudi and other artists throughout the park. I love to take the time to just sit and reflect in these settings. Every time I find myself at these sights, I get so overwhelmed at the thought of simply being in Barcelona. I still can not believe how great of an opportunity I have and the things I get to see on a daily basis.
Another way I have embraced my time in Barcelona is through the food. I thought coming to Spain and being responsible for my own cooking was going to be problematic because I am not a stellar cook, but what I never figured was the number of new foods I would go out and experience. Part of making the most of my time in Barcelona and abroad, in general, is being open-minded when encountering new things. I try to never refuse a time out to a new restaurant and I definitely try to get something new every time. If you come to Barcelona you must try tapas and paella before you can say you have truly been to Barcelona. My favorite tapas has to be the patatas bravas which, in translation, means “spicy potatoes.” I love the sauce that is poured over the nicely seasoned potatoes, and what is even better is that it has a bit of a kick to it. I have noticed that not a lot of foods here in Barcelona have a very high spice factor, so if you are into that maybe it is worth keeping a bottle of hot sauce on hand! I have thoroughly enjoyed getting closer to the culture of Barcelona through its food and am so excited to inhale all the food I can before I go back home.
I have found comfort in the friendships and opportunities that I have made while in Barcelona. I work as an intern with the Barcelona staff and I have been able to connect with a lot of other SAI students who are trying to make the most out of their study abroad experience. One way I am able to connect with them is on the SAI supervised Day trips. I love traveling to destinations in Spain that I would not have known about without the detailed planning of the staff. They have helped to immerse everyone into the Spanish lifestyle and bring us all closer together in the process. My favorite SAI trip so far has to be our trip to Montserrat. We were supposed to take the cable car to the top of the mountain but when we got there they said the cable car was shut down and so what was supposed to be a couple minute ride to the top turned into an hour trek up the mountain. We all willingly volunteered to go through with the hike and I think we are all happy we did because it turned out that we all became a lot closer and probably had more fun. Not only do I feel like I have taken in all the friendships around me, I have also been keen on accepting opportunities that surround me. For the past few weeks, I have been able to help the SAI soccer team at their games against other study abroad programs. It has been an absolute blast getting to know the players, taking pictures, and cheering them on as they play.
If I could give anyone a piece of advice about studying abroad with SAI or just in general, it would be to cherish all the things you do. You never know what could come out of going out to a restaurant, taking a few moments to appreciate architecture, or connecting with new people. Accept all the time you have here with open arms, and make every moment worthwhile!
Sally is a Spring 2022 Barcelona student from East Tennessee State University.