by Carter Harrington
I had no idea just how much I would grow from the experience of studying abroad in Barcelona this past quarter. Of course, prior to going I thought to myself, what’s not to like about finding yourself in a different country with new students and living in a completely different culture? My older sister studied abroad in Rome seven years ago and still considers it the highlight of her college career. Because of my sister’s great experience, my parents encouraged me to find a program, with the caveat that all credits transfer back to my college.
Choosing Barcelona was a no-brainer since it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world and spring quarter is the best time to be here for sunny skies and time spent meandering on the shores of the Mediterranean, and of course, taking those wonderful classes that ALBA has to offer with an incredible staff of instructors and professors. I really enjoyed my classes—delving into Spanish culture, re-acquainting myself with the Spanish language, and learning more about the history of Spain.
Living abroad challenges you on so many levels. While it’s great to be fortunate enough to study in a foreign country, it’s also a daily challenge to live with an entirely new group of people—but I was lucky to have great roommates—adjust to a foreign currency and a language that is hard to understand because the Spaniards talk so fast, eat different food at very late hours, allow enough time to study, and plan out a busy weekend travel schedule.
Speaking of weekend trips, I absolutely loved the times I chose to stay around Barcelona and explore some of my favorite areas, such as Gràcia, Montjuïc, and Barcenoleta. My weekends away were truly memorable as I spent time trekking through the Pyrenees, rode bikes and listened to great music in Amsterdam, met up with a childhood friend from Finland in Nice, France, spent a weekend in Munich at a spring version of Oktoberfest, cruised all over the picturesque island of Mallorca with fellow study abroad girls, and closed my traveling with an epic trip to historical and stately Budapest. All these trips were beyond memorable and I loved each one for very different reasons.
My recommendation for students who choose to study abroad is to pick a place that is a bit out of your comfort zone. When you get through the uncomfortable part, you emerge as a well-rounded person who has a greater appreciation for people living in different cultures. I will never forget this experience and I am so grateful to have spent a quarter in the fabulous city of Barcelona.