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By msotomayor12

I have officially been abroad for one month and life is starting to fly by. This week in particular went by inconceivably fast. However, there were several times when my world came to a halt, which made me appreciate just how lucky I am.

For example, my Dad decided to completely surprise me on my birthday this past Wednesday. When I came back from class, I walked into my homestay and my Dad popped right out behind a wall. I am still unsure whether my first reaction was pure shock or disappointment that I did not think my Dad would manage to do something like this again (He surprised me last year in D.C. with my family in tow.)

You know the corny saying “Time flies when you’re having fun?” Well it was my 21st birthday. Even though I was not in the U.S. to fully embrace legality, I did feel a new sense of adulthood. It was as if every part of me realized I was no longer sitting at the “kids table;” I could finally share a quality glass of wine with my Dad in a public place. It’s an awesome feeling.

Unfortunately, I could not spend the weekend with my Dad because the GW Madrid program had already planned a getaway to Barcelona. We boarded the AVE, Spain’s high-speed train, which got us there in two hours. (I mention this because I really hope America invests in these soon. They are incredibly convenient and amazing!)

What I did not expect from Barcelona is its charm. To put it simply, I was in love. I forgot how wonderful everything becomes when I’m in the sun, by the beach, and in the presence of palm trees. Even though I was dressed in winter clothes, it was only natural for me to rip off my shoes and sink my feet in the sand when I got there.

Without the weather making it already obvious, Barcelona is completely different from Madrid. It is a city rich with history that prides itself in their Catalan heritage. It is also the center of modernism. If it was not obvious enough, Antoni Gaudí’s architecture is sprinkled throughout the city. We visited his Sagrada Familia Cathedral, Parque Grülle, and La Pedrera, an eclectic apartment building. His artwork is so unique and “out there,” it is just waiting to be Instagramed.

While I have visited Barcelona before, I saw it differently this time around. For some reason, it just did not meet my expectations three years ago. This time, I realized how unique the city truly is. There are buildings that transport you from one century to the next with only five blocks separating them. There’s a clear difference from the old world and the modern one so the range of activities is unbelievable. Plus, there are so many places to visit that it is impossible to see it all in one weekend. I was surprised to rediscover another Barcelona than when I last left it.

As I always say, sometimes having big eyes (like I do) does not guarantee I’ll see more right away. I’m actually the worst when it comes to finding things. Most of the time, what I’m looking for is right in front of me, but I’m oblivious to it. I guess that makes for more authentic and appreciated surprises.