As I sit in my apartment, it’s hard to believe that I have spent my first 11 days, and first full week, in Barcelona. The past week and a half has been an incredible whirlwind of adventures and new challenges that I never anticipated facing. I am finding a lot of comparisons of separating and adjusting to my first weeks of college, where you try to prepare as much as possible, but you just have to dive in and experience things first hand. While separating from my loved ones was hard, the changes that were (and still are) happening around me have distracted my mind and kept me constantly on my toes. The phrase “you are neither here nor there” has never been more true, which is totally frightening and exciting all at once!
My initial reaction to my new country was the constant thought of “Wow, it’s all so different, nothing is the same.” Between the language, food, eating times, going out times, the technology, and the pace of life, I could make a case that Catalonia is different than America in almost every way. While I have had a blast exploring my new neighborhoods and surroundings, I keep feeling as if I am not home yet, but that I am on some kind of awesome vacation that will end at some point. It has helped to be mindful that I am a true liminoid, on the threshold of something new, and no longer in my pre-ritual phase. I definitely feel my societal standing in the United States dissipate, as I am now a foreigner trying my best to blend with this new culture. Because of this, I have formed a communitas with those around me from Quinnipiac and my University, consisting of international students. Since many of us come from similar languages and cultures, it has naturally been easier to tackle the many challenges that come with navigating a new culture. However, this comes at a price. While the communitas has been comforting, I am longing to interact with more locals and learn about their stories. As Slimbach states, ““The more we retreat from the culture and the people, the less we learn about them; the less we learn about them, the more uncomfortable we feel among them; the more uncomfortable we feel among them, the more inclined we are to withdraw” (Slimbach 160).
I have definitely faced more than a few challenges in my first week here, such as getting pick pocketed. My phone was taken from me and my wallet was gone as well. My anxiety levels were definitely high, as being in a new country without these items that had been my lifeline for so many years had been gone. While a neighbor returned my wallet a few days later and a new phone is on the way from my insurance company, I learned more about myself in those days than ever. I truly grew as a person and took the situation in stride, constantly reminding myself that I can handle it, and that I will come out stronger on the other side. This quote frm Cesar Pavese really helped me along and keep my perspective in order, in which he says “Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” The situation forced me to get more help from locals and took me out of my comfort zone, which in retrospect really helped me connect to the new community.
The picture I chose is from parc guell, a famous architectural masterpiece that overlooks Barcelona. It shows how big the city really is, and represents how much I still have left to explore. “There is no moment of delight in any pilgrimage like the beginning of it.” – Charles Dudley Warner. Cheers to new adventures ahead!