You hear it said all the time, “My time abroad changed my life, it was the best experience!” or “Going abroad is really something you should do in undergrad”. But how does it change a person, what impact does it have on them, and how will it help them grow personally? Below are some things I have learned to appreciate while in Barcelona, and how they helped me grow as a person.
To better enjoy my time and see it in a new perspective. I can honestly say that my view on time has changed while I have been in Barcelona. When I first got here, my boss told me a story about when he first moved here. He was talking to some friends about his wife’s work schedule, “She gets out around 6:00 PM during the week.” “Oh that is great, so she has the whole afternoon ahead of her!” Huh? The concept of time is totally different – eating lunch later and in turn dinner later (around 10pm) makes me feel like I truly do have more time. “Afternoon” is considered 2pm-9pm. When I get out of work, it isn’t a dread to go for a run, to go grocery shopping, to go out and do something. At home, eating dinner almost signals the end of the night. You work, go home, eat dinner, and relax for the night. Here, I get out of work and feel like I have plenty of time because that “trigger” of dinner is not there until around 10. When I am walking home from work, I look forward to going for a run. In turn, the time you spend at a meal, or having your coffee “para aqui” makes you really sit and enjoy the time. This also goes into the patience aspect of living in Spain…
Patience. The pace of life in Barcelona is much slower than what I was used to in Boston. There is really no rush for anything, and no pressure to be somewhere at a very specific time. Because of this, I learned to be much more patient in everything. Going to dinner with friends is not a quick meal; it usually lasts around 3-4 hours (starting at 10). This is not a bad thing at all, only something I am not used to. Along with this, customer service is not as important, so you could be waiting for a bill or for someone to help you for a while. The lifestyle is much more laid back which I really came to appreciate after I learned some patience, and learned that it is about time spent with people you care about. There were many examples of this in Barcelona – things like stores closing early during the week or all stores being closed on Sundays. To everyone there, time spent with family or friends is much more important than earning an extra buck. This is something to not only get used to, but to take into consideration when you are thinking about your own life, or the culture in the US. We have something to learn from this! In the end, it is about the people you are with, not the amount of money you have, or how much you have worked in a day.
Language. I have come to view language, and in turn my own identity, in a completely different light while living in Barcelona. Especially in Barcelona, language barriers are something you will come in contact with. Of course, you can “get by” with only speaking English, but from personal experience, it is not ideal. I am living with 2 guys – one from Germany and one who is originally from Girona, so he grew up in Catalunya. He speaks Catalan first, Spanish second, and English third. Language is a huge part of his identity. Speaking English was never something I considered to be part of my identity, but now I do. It was very difficult for me to be out with friends when some of the people in the group did not speak English, and I did not speak German, Catalan, or Spanish. I take for granted being in a group of people here in the US that all speak the same language as me. There were so many times that I wished I could join in the conversation, or talk to someone one on one and just couldn’t because of the language barrier.
Independence. Although this was not my first time abroad alone, there is still something to be said about the higher sense of independence I gained (and you will gain) while abroad. You can move away from home for college to live on your own, pay your own bills, have your own life, but moving abroad for a semester and being away from familiar culture and surroundings gives you a new sense of being independent. This is useful for many things, including confidence when you come back to the US to make decisions and take more control over your life.
I know that I have gained much more than what I wrote above, but these are a few things that stuck out to me. I will miss Barcelona, but my time here has given me so much that I can take back to the US and apply to my life to better myself.
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