When I first arrived in Barcelona I scrambled to find a new sense of community, worried that I would feel isolated and far too uncomfortable throughout the semester. Two months into my stay, I am more than thrilled to have settled into this temporary host community composed of new friends, places, and food that have enriched my experience.
- The Arc de Triomf, built for the 1888 World Fair, is just a few short blocks from my apartment and helped me tremendously through my adjustment period in Barcelona, serving as both a reminder where I am studying abroad but also as a directional tool. It is an orienting landmark that has guided me to my apartment, to a gelato place in El Born, and to the university where I take classes, among many other places.
- While I love going for tapas, finding healthy vegetarian foods has played an essential role in maintaining my happiness. Traditional Spanish foods like pan con tomate and tortilla de patatas are so delicious, but having a list of places with a wider selection of foods I can enjoy has kept me healthy (especially with the limited amount of sleep I get here).
- My new friends have made this experience so incredible and have truly shaped my sense of community abroad, providing me with a sense of comfort in this new city, while pushing me to explore the place I am in. My group and I travel to Sevilla, Paris, and Nice, watch dubbed versions of U.S. TV shows in my living room, roam the streets of Barcelona after midnight, and study in cafes on Sundays.
- The coffee here has grounded me (no pun intended!) in the culture perhaps more than any other factor. Almost every day I walk into a cafe and order “un cortado, por favor.” This espresso shot with a little bit of milk is drank sitting down at a cafe for a considerable amount of time—a perfect display of the slow paced life in Barcelona. While I occasionally take my cortados to go, sitting down and drinking in a cafe gives me the illusion of cultural assimilation, a feeling which I thoroughly enjoy.
- My classes, while not the most enjoyable part of study abroad, have served a tremendous role in building my community. Learning about the politics, history, and culture of Barcelona in my Spanish-instructed classes has given me a deeper understanding of the city and its people, making me feel like less of an outsider. My American identity is still very present, but I am no longer oblivious to why there are protests at Placa Tetuan or why late night Spanish TV is not censored, to give just two examples.
I have had to become more flexible in order to enjoy my time in Barcelona because this experience has challenged me to greatly adjust my idea of what defines community.