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Hola amigos! Studying abroad here in Barcelona has truly been the greatest opportunity and greatest journey I have ever embarked on. I have learned so much, made many new friends, and I’ve been able to step outside of my comfort zone and experience life in another culture.

Coming to Spain, I did expect to experience culture shock and some difficulties adjusting, but luckily, I have been able to learn as I go and adapt quickly to the changes between here and the United States. Learning the differences between the cultures and being fully immersed in the culture has been an amazing experience thus far, but also has led to some uncomfortable moments.

Although Barcelona is quite a diverse city, being a Black American woman has led to a few challenges. I personally love traveling and I have gone to very homogeneous cities and countries where everyone looks similar and no one looks like me. In those places, I expected to stand out, to be asked about where I am from, my culture, and other questions based off of how I look. Coming here, I knew there was more diversity and many people with differing skin tones, so I expected less stares and less questions. I personally do not mind when people ask to touch my hair, but sometimes it is uncomfortable because people become so fascinated and I am always unsure what they are thinking. Sometimes the stares feel judgemental(even when I know they are not), and in these moments it is as if I can literally feel the eyes on me. This makes me feel slightly self-conscious, as if I need to blend in or hide myself more. I am aware that I look different than most of the people around me, but the unwavering stares make me even more aware of this fact.

Although these uncomfortable situations have happened, it is not constant and not at all often, and I have only been met with love and warm welcomes. I am grateful for the time I have spent here so far, and although I may have these few uncomfortable moments, I am always making amazing memories here in Barcelona, smiling and laughing with old and new friends all around the city!

Julia Hilt

Julia is from Illinois Wesleyan University, and studied abroad through a Customized Program in Spring 2020.