What a week it has been here in Spain. It has easily been one of the most overwhelming weeks of my life, with more highs and lows than I could have ever imagined. Leaving for Spain I really didn’t feel much emotion. Even when my mom cried at the airport, I didn’t feel overly sad because I felt like I would see her in a week or two. It didn’t hit me until we were sitting in the airport in Barcelona waiting for API to pick us up. Activity between communitas began immediately and I quickly realized that I was one of the only people that didn’t come with a large group of friends. This did not help the transition process, because everyone was distracted and enjoying the company of people that they were already comfortable with. This caused my mentality to go from feeling very little to feeling like I made a mistake. I know most people say that this feeling hits you a week or two in, but for me it hit me the first nights. I found comfort in Slimbach’s words stating: “Smooth transitions and trial-free sojurns are rarities. No matter how well prepared, broad-minded, or full of good intentions we may be, entering a new culture knocks our cultural props out from under us. We spend decades learning ‘the ropes’ for effective functioning within our own society. Then, without warning, our mental programming is upset” (pg 152). These words could not hold more true to my situation during the first few days here.
I am happy to say that I am now quickly adapting to life in Barcelona. A week in and I feel as though I have already started to finish up my separation process. I don’t facetime my family as much, nor do I rely on others to help me get around. I know that I am becoming more comfortable because I have begun to enjoy getting lost and experiencing the unexpected. Of course I miss home, however I am beginning to appreciate my surroundings more. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I am ready to take advantage of all it has to offer. I believe part of this can be attributed to finding some true communitas. Although all of the API students here can be considered communitas, I believe that the students I have met who have come here alone are my true communitas. We have supported one another through this transition, and now are moving forward by making travel plans and enjoying European life. My greatest weakness during this process was my tendency to take everything personally. I have to keep reminding myself that many communitas act unfriendly not because they dislike you, but because they have friends already and don’t feel the need to branch out. This leads me into my greatest strength, which is said ability to branch out. I am fairly outgoing and have become close with communitas from all over. This has eased the transition for me because no matter what I do, I always have someone who wants to join me.
The only aspect of separation during this liminal state that I have not completed is the acceptance of my new culture. The party culture of Spain is very overwhelming. People do not leave to go out until 2 in the morning and yet somehow make it to work the next day. I have also had a hard time with the forwardness of Spanish people, especially men. We have been approached numerous times by aggressive men, and one of my roommates was even assaulted. This has been really scary for me, as I am a very trustworthy person. I love having conversations with strangers, but here when I am approached I am on guard and cannot enjoy these simple interactions. By facing these challenges I have learned that I may be too trustworthy of a person. I think it is because I
am compassionate and try to look for the best in people. I have also gained a greater appreciation for the respect in American culture in comparison to Spain when it comes to women as well as theft.
In Slimbach’s text he mentions that in order for this strangeness of paradoxal living to wear off, one must put in work. In order to “find imaginative ways to invite the unknown and cultivate a network of close-knit and supportive [international] friends” I have simply been putting myself out there. Getting lost, taking the metro and walking around alone have allowed me to feel more confident in myself. The more I am exposed to my host culture, the more I appreciate it. I will continue to do this throughout my time here in Spain.
The picture I have chosen to represent my journey thus far is of Placa de Catalunya. It is the city center of Barcelona, and an area that I am comfortable navigating myself. I was the first of the communitas to figure out this area, and am the only one comfortable to travel there alone. This shows that I am somewhat comfortable with my new surroundings, but also shows that I have much to learn, as it is one of the easier touristy areas to navigate. By the end of my time here, I hope to be able to navigate the entire city without question.
Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Pub., LLC, 2010. Print.