Starting this third blog post feels particularly hard for me. When told to write about my initial responses to my new surroundings, I feel a little numb and at a loss for words. Barcelona feels absolutely massive. After having taken a panoramic bus tour of the city on one of our first few days here and writing down all of the places I wanted to go and explore, I felt like even four months would not be enough time for me to truly get a grasp on this incredible city. My first few days here feel like a whirlwind. They were spent eating, exploring, learning, talking, and mostly not sleeping (that did not last long). I think my separation mentally is honestly still continuing. There are parts of home I still feel like I am holding onto right now and have not truly separated from yet as I want to. Physically, I am in Barcelona, taking in the sights of my next door neighbor, La Sagrada Familia, seeing all of the amazing food at La Boqueria marketplace, and tasting the delicious cafe con leche, but every night I come home and spend time FaceTiming my parents. I think my mental separation from my parents has been difficult because I have been using them as more of a crutch even from so far away, than I expected to. I plan to try to use my parents as less and less of a crutch as my time in Barcelona continues because I think I will begin to feel more comfortable and confident here and will not need to rely on their support as much.
On page 160 of “Becoming World Wise”, by Richard Slimbach, he writes, “But emotional dependence on cultural similars is double-edged. Although it may provide vital social support, it can easily lead to stagnation in terms of cultural adjustment and learning” (Slimbach, p. 160). So far, I have found this quote to be more than true. Although it has been so nice to be able to lean on my friends and roommates in Barcelona, I find that this has many cons as well. Because I have them, we end up spending most of our time with each other, rather than branching out to meet locals and other study abroad students. Also, we tend to do more “tourist-y” things because that is where we feel more comfortable, rather than going to random local restaurants and cafes in order to broaden our horizons. A fault of mine that I am finding here in Barcelona is that I do not stand up for myself enough when I want to do things other than the tourist things that those around me want to do, something I am already beginning to work on so I do not miss out on also living like a Barcelona local. However, a strong personal strength I have found within myself here is my common sense. I quickly learned how to use the metro, how to find my way to the university by foot, how to behave properly in a restaurant and so much more. I find that my friends and roommates here can even tend to rely on me because of these strengths. It is nice feeling like I can manage and be independent in this city on my own and that I do not need someone else to lead me around.
There are so many challenges that I feel I have already faced in Barcelona, but the most glaring challenge is the language barrier. This was a challenge I expected but not as bad as it has truly been. For example, as a picky eater, when ordering at a restaurant I often like to modify the meal I am ordering. This has been quite a challenge because when they give me a menu in English, I usually cannot translate the ingredient I do not want in my food into Spanish, or Catalan, which is the language most people speak here. Even shopping at the grocery store is difficult, because when I have needed to find something and do not know how to ask for it in Spanish. I am unable to get help. But I have already learned how to solve this because I bought a Spanish pocket dictionary, so today when I needed cornstarch at the market, I could actually say the word in Spanish and successfully have someone help me find it. I have learned that I can be very resourceful when I need to be. However, I have also learned that far less people speak English in Barcelona than I expected, which in a way is also a good thing because it will help me and force me to learn more Spanish. Also, to learn more Spanish, today I signed up for a language exchange program. In the program, I partner which a Spanish student, and they help me learn Spanish as I help them learn English. I am so excited to get started with that because I am hoping the Spanish student can also help me get more involved in local Barcelona as well, instead of tourist Barcelona. Through this student is how I also hope to “invite the unknown and cultivate a network of close-knit and supportive friends” (Slimbach, p. 171).
The picture I have chosen to post is one of me at Parc Monjuic in Barcelona from this past week. This picture portrays my journey so far because it shows how happy and excited I truly am to be in Barcelona through my smile. Also, it shows my thoughts because I am looking Barcelona during these 4 months that I have to spend here. Also, this picture shows the behavior I am taking because I am going out and exploring and trying to see as much of this beautiful place as I possibly can. Even though I am so nervous to see what these next few months have in store for me, I am also more excited than I can even describe. I cannot believe it has only been a week.