I am officially back in the United States and all I can think about is the home and life that I created in Barcelona. Being back has been different, and I feel as though there is a lot to be done, but I am still trying to get through the clutter of jet lag and figure out where to start. Processing this entire experience has been hard, especially with these last four months feeling so unreal. I've spent the last four months volunteering with kids who know nothing about the world I come from, and some of them could hardly even imagine it. I go to an amazing university and have always prided myself on being smart, so it was incredibly humbling to meet 4 and 5 year olds who can speak 3 languages, meanwhile I'm still trying to perfect my Spanish, which I have been learning since elementary school. While abroad, I am so proud of myself for overcoming the language barrier. My Spanish has gotten so much better, and after awhile, I was no longer afraid to just put myself out there and try to talk. I feel like I learned so much more by just trying, even if what I was saying did not come out perfectly. When I get back to GWU, I do want to continue this kind of work and service, so hopefully I am able to find some type of volunteer work with kids that will work with my schedule. Barcelona taught me so much and it gave me so much, and I can't wait to give back.
My time abroad is quickly coming to a close and I am feeling very confused about it. I am excited to be returning home to my friends and family, but I am already missing the home that I have created and found here in Barcelona. Volunteering has helped me see Barcelona from a different perspective, and although my schedule with classes can be hectic, I love being able to squeeze in the time to do something that matters to me. Studying abroad is a privilege, and I live in a country that has created walls and boarders, blocking people from the opportunity of creating better lives for themselves, and here I am, in Europe, in a different country nearly every weekend. This experience has been eye-opening and has truly made me face privileges that I was not even aware that I had. I am proud of acknowledging that because in a world where I constantly feel as though I am a minority and I know the struggles that I face because of that, I had to step back and realize that there are people who really do have it worse than me, and that there is so much for me to be grateful for. I feel like working with these kids has shown them that the oh so amazing life that I live in America is not far off from theirs, and that if I am able to do something like study-abroad, they can too. Volunteering has greatly enhanced my study abroad experience because it put me in a position to interact as a local, not just a tourist. Volunteering placed me into someone else's world, and it gave me an opportunity to see life from their eyes. Although my study abroad program is not over quite yet, one way that I plan to continue showing my commitment to my community is by helping other students from backgrounds similar to mine realize that studying abroad is something that they can do, and helping them achieve that.
I am about halfway through my time to study abroad in Barcelona, and I have no idea where the time has gone. I have continued volunteering at the local elementary school called Dolors Almeda and I feel like interacting with the students there has continued to teach me a lot and make Barcelona feel even more like home. For me personally, volunteering has had its moments when it was a little harder due to the current political climate in Barcelona. With the big trial going on and Catalunya wanting its independence from Spain, there have many protests and demonstrations throughout the city. This causes a great impact on the metro and other means of public transportation, which makes it harder to get around. Also the fact that you never want to get caught up in the protest, so just being extra aware of where you are at all times has become increasingly important. Either way, volunteering has given me a chance to really get to know some of these students, and I think it has helped a lot in terms of their perspective of the United States and what it means to be American. With the students being so young, a lot of them have very big and grand ideas on what the United States is and it is so funny to hear the things that they associate the United States with the most. I feel like I've been able to give them more and more information on a place that a lot of them hope to go and visit one day, so I really hope that it lives up to what they are expecting. I also think that volunteering with these students has changed the way that some of their parents look at and see Americans. I feel like there are a lot of stereotypes surrounding Americans and this idea that we come here just to enjoy the beauty of their home without really getting to know it and contribute to it, and I feel like me coming in and helping teach their children and me trying to learn and understand their language and culture has truly gone a long way. I am very sad to see time going so quickly because I absolutely love it here, but I am very excited to see what these next two months have in store.