I’ve been here only just over a week and yet it feels like I’ve been here an eternity. The first days consisted of an orientation session with my program, API. After being picked up from the airport and brought to the hotel, we took a walking tour of the city and learned the basics of the city (using the metro, what to do in emergencies, etc). We then moved into our apartment and were sent on our ways. Living in an apartment on your own in the middle of a foreign city has certainly been an experience!
Stepping foot in Barcelona was surreal. At this point it still doesn’t feel real. Slimbach hit the nail on the head when he said “immediately upon arrival, the foreign setting confronts us with a steady stream of new sights, sounds, and smells” (152). The sights I’ve seen, the people I’ve met and the food I’ve eaten have all been so different and so awesome. I live in an apartment in the Gracîa neighborhood, an area with a smaller feel with cobblestone roads, local bakeries and cafes, parks, and many locals. It’s a great place to live and meet locals. But I still can’t help feeling like I don’t belong. I try my best to blend in by dressing more European and attempting to speak Spanish (although my accent is quite terrible which might be giving my disguise away). I can see the locals stare at us as we walk by and I can understand some of the comments they say about us in Spanish. Although this is the minority of the people of Barcelona; a large majority are overwhelmingly kind and happy to help me struggle through carrying out a basic conversation in Spanish. I’m hoping that the locals in the area around my apartment eventually warm up to us. At the same time I hope that I learn from them and will eventually be able to blend in more. As of now, I’d say I am in what Slimbach describes as the contact phase, slowly transitioning over to the disintegration phase. Most is still new to me but I’m beginning to notice similar trends in local behavior. There’s no doubt that “entering a new culture knocks our cultural props out from under us ” (Slimbach, 152). I recognize that I need to welcome this and take advantage of this phase I am in to grow as an individual.
The separation itself was surprisingly uneventful. The morning of departure day my parents, sister, and myself got up early and drove to my sister’s school to move her into her dorm. After that was done, we grabbed some food in Boston and took off towards Logan Airport. Both my family and I were pretty okay with the whole situation because we both know studying abroad is an experience of a lifetime. Other than checking in with them to let them know my flight arrived and talking to them once more to give them an update on how I was doing, I’ve remained off the radar with them. And it’s going better than expected, although even from the beginning when I shared my separation letter with them they were accepting of that. I think the main reason I’ve been so successful thus far is due to the communitas around me.
Communitas has played a huge role in my study abroad experience these past two weeks. Everyone has been extremely supportive and helped me to feel more comfortable. All of us have been going pretty much everywhere together – going out to eat, flying to the Netherlands, walking around, all done with just about all 11 of us. And in these two weeks I have definitely been able to recognize the fact that communitas can be a double-edged sword. While doing everything together is going to make me feel more comfortable and at home, that can be detrimental to my growth and prevent me from successfully continuing on this Rite of Passage. I’ve tried to combat this by going out and exploring on my own multiple times. As mentioned in previous posts, I also hope to travel to another country on my own. I can’t rely solely on my group of communitas here, and I know that. I intend to slowly become more independent and try to speak more with the locals in the area rather than stay with this group at all times. One issue I can recognize is that I have been prone to using my phone more than I wanted to. Whenever I find a place with Wi-Fi I immediately take my phone out to connect and check social media. That is going to be a big problem for me and it’s something I need to work on in the coming weeks.
The picture I have chosen to post here is of my friends from QU and me one night in Barcelona. I chose this photo because it shows the importance of communitas in my journey thus far. Being a homebody, I know the liminal phase is going to be the most difficult phase of my passage. The support I’ve had with all of my “communitas” here has helped me cope with being away from home.