My parents, my teachers, my peers, my future employers - all people who wanted or will want to know why studying abroad was so important to me. I had two main goals in coming here, learning more about myself and challenging myself to thrive in another culture. The first step was convincing my parents. I can't say it was easy, but after they saw how passionate I was about going, they couldn't say no. (In reality, I might have given them the puppy dog eyes.) I told them that I didn't move away for college and I needed time to become independent. I wanted to become fluent in Spanish and finish up my gen-eds and Global Business minor.
Once I got the [hesitant] "okay", I started to ask students who had already studied abroad about their experiences. Not only these students, but my teachers and advisors also pushed me to go. So here I am!
But now that I am here, what am I going to take away from this experience? Back at home, I worked myself to the bone and I have realized the importance of stopping to appreciate the little things. I have so much free time here, but I've been using it to reflect. I like just sitting at the park and admiring...everything. This is the biggest thing I'm going to bring back, the ability to step back and take a breath. Work and no play will drive you crazy; there is so much more to see.
Being in Barcelona also helped me learn a lot about myself and the culture I am immersed in. First of all, I detest cold weather a lot more than I thought I did. Last week, we got a taste of snow, and I can honestly say I miss the 25 degree (Celsius, that is) winters of Tucson, Arizona. On a deeper level, I find myself missing the stress of being at home. Odd, I know. I love that everyone here is relaxed and laid back; I love that there is so much to see and I never tire of it. Another thing I've noticed about myself is how interested I am in the people here. For my photo assignments, I always end up taking pictures of people on the streets. I like watching the way they interact with everything around them, and noticing the little details that differ between natives and tourists. For example, you will never see any local walking around with wet hair or eating while on the go.
"Spanish culture" isn't something I can generalize about. In every area of Spain, there is a different way of life, which could be due to the autonomous regions that exist here. I really identify with the Catalan culture. It might be because that's what I am exposed to being in Barcelona, but even when I stepped off of the plane, it felt different than when I first went to Madrid. And through living in Barcelona, I have come to realize how much language has an influence on a region's culture. Here, the Catalan language is as big of a symbol as FC Barcelona (the fútbol team).
I've only been here for two months and it already feels like home, and although I'm not ready to leave anytime soon, I can't wait to bring back everything I have learned.
Nadine Merheb is the Spring 2013 CEA MOJO in Barcelona
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