This past summer I spent 5 weeks in Barcelona, Spain with ISA programs taking classes at the Universidad Internacional de Menédez Pelayo. In Barcelona, I lived with a host family in the Eixample district and took two classes which count as credit towards my Spanish major: Spanish Art and Architecture and Spanish Film.
During my stay abroad I had a lot of time to evaluate myself and tune into how I was feeling to evaluate what in my life really made me happy and what I wanted to pursue. Going abroad alone was at first a little scary, but it pushed me outside of my comfort zone to be a more confident and outgoing person as I navigated a new city and made new friends. Miles away and in a different time zone from my everyday life in America, I really could reflect on what were things I geniunely missed and cared about. I also realized what objects were and were not important to me, as I was living out a small suitcase and so it felt nice to de-clutter my life of material objects and focus on just what I needed.
One factor that really influenced my time abroad and made this program a more transformational experience was living with a host family. My host mother and father were originally from Argentina, but had been living in Spain for 8 years because their 3 children all lived and worked in Barcelona or Malaga. It was interesting and insightful to talk with my host mother, Marta about her experiences in living Europe and South America and she encouraged me to think about different cultural identities outside of what I knew in America. She also pushed me to try new foods I normally would have never tried before (including dishes that were typically Spanish and were native to Argentina) which I actually really enjoyed even though it was a bit outside my comfort zone.
A part from my actual host family, I did share a room in our apartment with another ISA student who coincidentally was also named Katie. Though we were strangers before moving in together, I feel like living with her made my experience in Barcelona so much more fun because I always had someone to adventure with and try new things and share my experiences with. It helped me grow as a person to have an unbiased second opinion who I could bounce my thoughts and ideas off of and I feel so fortunate to have developed such a close friendship with Katie in the short amount of time we spent together.
At the end of my trip, after classes with ISA had ended, I made the decision to hike the Camino de Santiago, a week long 113km pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella in the northern corner of Spain. Though this was technically not apart of my program, the experience was something challenging and exciting that contributed to my overall experience in Spain. I am not a very athletic person so I really pushed myself and worked harder than I have in a long time and during my hike I had a lot of time to reflect on my experiences in Spain and how I wanted to proceed with my life when I got home. My hike on the Camino was something I will remember for a lifetime and is something I’m incredibly proud to have been able to do on my own.
Ultimately, my experiences in Spain are things I will remember for the rest of my life and I have forever fallen in love with the city of Barcelona, its culture and its people. Moving forward, I hope to translate my more technical Spanish skills along with this cultural appreciation into hopefully a career as I will be graduating in the Spring. I also feel confident that I can communicate to employers my passions and values, as those were two major things I was able to reflect on when living away from America.