As I am finishing up my final exams at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, I’ve been spending a lot of time reflecting on the ways I’ve grown throughout the past semester and the experiences that made it all possible. On September 1st, I landed in Barcelona with not a single idea of how I would spend my time abroad. I was not traveling with anyone I knew, I had never taken a trip alone, and I had never even been in Europe before. The idea that I would now need to navigate living and studying in a new city was a bit nerve wracking, but also exciting.
Coming out the other side now, I can look back on an unforgettable semester studying in Barcelona. Besides the expected adult skills that come along with the independent lifestyle of college, I wanted to share the most memorable takeaways I’ve gotten from this trip and will incorporate into my life moving forward.
1. Balancing work with rest
The culture surrounding work and managing one’s time in Barcelona highlights the importance of balancing your work with the other meaningful aspects of life. For example, the siestas, which some may use to catch up on sleep, cut out a portion of the day for families to come home and eat lunch together. Typically, stores will close from 2 pm to 4 pm in order to allow shop owners to pick their kids up from school and have a break. I also found people to be very understanding when I had to reschedule or cancel something due to unforeseen circumstances. Overall, I feel that I have been less stressed when compared to my previous semesters due to this cultural understanding. Next semester, I hope to set aside more time for taking care of myself and resting when necessary.
2. Enjoying my own company
6 months ago, I would never sit and eat lunch at a cafe by myself. Whenever going out to eat, or doing some sort of activity in public, I felt like I needed someone to accompany me. However, I’ve now taken trips to Dublin, Vienna, Portugal, France, and other cities by myself! I remember texting my mom the first night I went out to dinner, not sure of how to approach the situation. As I’ve spent more time by myself, I’ve felt my independence grow tremendously. While I have enjoyed many trips with friends, I no longer let the fear of being alone hold me back from a new experience. I’ve also become more comfortable with making friends in my hostel, or striking up a conversation with the person at the dinner table next to me. Going out of my comfort zone in this way was very rewarding.
3. Be present
At the beginning of the semester it felt like I had all the time in the world to explore Europe. As I started taking midterms, and now finals, I cannot believe how fast the trip has gone by. I’ve been asked so many times, “Are you happy to go home or do you wish you could stay longer?” I respond by explaining I will be happy while I’m here, but there are also things I will enjoy having again when I go home. I’ve learned to appreciate things as they are, however a moment presents itself. Things come and go. Changes happen every day. The more I practice being present, the less I worry or regret.
I can think about the Spanish I’ve learned, the classes I took, but what will stay with me when I return home are these lessons, among many others. I am so grateful to be able to experience living in another country and visiting so many other places, meeting so many people. In the future, I will look back on this experience with nothing but fond memories. And of course, SAI helped make this all possible.
Written by: Kailyn, Fall 2022 Barcelona Student from University of South Carolina