Transforming Discomfort into Drive
Sydney, Spring 2024, Barcelona
February 20, 2024

I have been living in Barcelona for slightly more than a month. During this time, I’ve marveled at the stunning architecture, picturesque landscapes, monuments, and museums. Exploring diverse cuisines and traveling to new countries has broadened my culinary experiences and cultural perception. These experiences have been truly phenomenal, though the memories that will stick with me most of all, are those involving connections formed with locals and new people.

I recommend connecting with Uber or cab drivers in new cities (and your host city!) They are usually able to offer very personalized recommendations. They are normally locals and have seen it all!

I think that the most important aspect of studying abroad lies in embracing assimilation. Since being in Barcelona, my mind has widened profusely. Interacting with individuals who bring diverse and unique experiences has undoubtedly challenged my worldview and understanding of different cultures. My decision to study abroad in Barcelona was driven by my passion for the Spanish language. I actively practiced Spanish throughout middle and high school, but I hadn’t been enrolled in a Spanish class since my freshman year of college. Presently as a junior teeming with excitement about rekindling my Spanish abilities, I eagerly entered the grocery store to pick up dinner ingredients. However, when I greeted the cashier with, “qué tal tu día?” they immediately responded in English.

Defeated, I took my things. I returned to my apartment, and sulked about fitting in.

In retrospect, I should not have let my experience at the grocery store discourage me. After all, trying is an essential part of the learning process: especially with language. Now when similar instances occur I say, “Lo siento, pero me gustaría practicar mi Español.”

I began speaking to the owner in a vintage shop in Barcelona in his native tongue. He was playing music from bands formed in America and some from Britain. After connecting due to our mutual love for music, he offered me a discount on a jacket and some new music recommendations!

I encourage everyone to take a language class while studying in a foreign country. I believe that hearing the language more often has significantly improved my comprehension. Additionally, I encourage students to take advantage of cross-cultural learning opportunities. SAI offers two marvelous programs called “My Local Family” and “Service Project” which are perfect avenues for forming real relationships with locals. Social connection is essential for creating a community abroad and being away from home.

It has only been a month, but learning from others has inspired new passions and helped me feel like I am a part of my host city as much as a local person. Social connection has made me happier and allowed me to get the very most out of my experience. You may have an awkward encounter or stumble here and there: brush it off! It is important to keep trying because you will quickly advance!

Finally, I encourage students to sit outside and merely observe life happen. This is how I began as I was more timid upon arrival. I was able to pick up on common phrases and words and put them into practice. Now I am more comfortable approaching others in their language!

Written by: Sydney, Spring 2024 Barcelona student from University of South Carolina 

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