The very, very first word that came to thought when I walked up the metro steps and met my new city was the world clean. Barcelona was very… clean. I was expecting more of a New York City type deal, and there was literally no resemblance at all. The streets were wide, no crowds, no filth, the sun was beaming and the street seemed happy and it also held the promise of a happy semester.
After becoming turned around quite a few times, to be expected, I eventually got the swing of using the tiny maps near each metro station. The thing about the maps are that they only show you literally 2 streets down from where you are, the one in front of you and the one behind you. It is very difficult to get a good sense of where you are without a bigger map. I have found only this coupled with the scary traffic are the only two bad parts about Barcelona. When you have the walk signal, cars will come at you from speeds of 25 mph and slow down last second and stop right in front of you. It’s very scary and I always think the cars or motorcycles will hit me. If these are the only two things to complain about, I think I picked the right place to call home.
On the other hand, my absolute favorite part of studying abroad has been living with my host family. The Canals. They are simply the nicest family with lots of energy and AMAZING food. I live with Dave, Dolors, Alex, Paul, and their cute doggie, Gina. Dave was born in England and Dolors was born in Catalunya. My first day, Dolors welcomed me with a huge bear hug and two kisses, one for each cheek. This made my heart very happy, and I could tell from that one moment, that I was going to love this family. Alex and Paul are the two sons who are both fluent in three different languages, English (from Dave), Catalan, and Spanish. Alex is 19 years old and Paul is 17. They both speak English to the dad and Catalan to the mom. The parents speak Spanish to each other. It really has been a comical past month living with two boys, which is very different from how I was raised. I think that the best part is not how much I can see they love each other, but how I can see how much they truly care for me, as well. I honestly feel as if I am a member of their family. I think that has a lot to do with how I behave around the house, though. I am always cleaning, even if it is not always my mess, and I am always respectful in addition to extending a helping hand whenever I can.
Before I was shipped off to Spain, I had really prepared myself for the emotional rollercoaster in relation to living with a family. I figured there would be times that I would get frustrated, angry, upset, sad, all the negative emotions that lead a person to feeling homesick. However, I can honestly say, that after 5 weeks of living with the Canals, I have not ONCE felt homesick in the slightest. I not only feel so comfortable in their home, I feel loved in their home. I got sick just last weekend, and Dave, my dad, brought me to the hospital at 10pm on a Sunday night and stayed with me until 2am. He paid for the taxicab, and my medications. Alex, my brother, was always checking on me and bringing me hot tea for my sour throat. I think that living with a host family helps me not think about America. It really is heartwarming to have loved ones look after you and treat you importantly. Of course I miss my parents, but not in a dying way. I am definitely no where near ready to be shipped back to America!
Alex is a special member of my family. I have really grown fond of Alex; I would even go as far as to call him my best friend here in Barcelona. He introduced me to John Grisham, who is a fabulous storyteller, which I am grateful for because in America, I never had time to read. So, Alex and I go to the rooftop of our apartment to read or outside on a bench, or simply on the couch during those lazy afternoons. He also brought me to his grandmother’s house one Tuesday where we read there as well. She is a lovely old lady and I think she was spying on us a few times while we were wrapped under a blanket in our exclusive John Grisham club!
Alex also introduces me to all his friends, which is something I really, really wanted before I came. I knew I would be more than interested in meeting the locals and seeing what Spanish life is like, so I had planned on joining community service, which I have, but Alex also helps introduce me to locals, too. I am so lucky to have a host brother my age! Anyways, the language aspect of meeting with these locals has been really tough. As I mentioned before, Dolors is Catalan and communicating with her has been very difficult too, but I mainly get what she’s saying from body language and pointing at what we want. With the locals, it is a bit more difficult, because the range of conversations moves outside of “Are you hungry?” and “Do you want me to do your laundry?” and simple phrases for living. They really could be saying anything in the world, and it’s very hard not to be able to express myself back to them.
I am enrolled in Spanish, beginner of course, but it’s only been a month, and I find Spanish to be very hard. Just like English, there are many exceptions to the rule and phrases that don’t translate perfectly. This is most definitely my hardest subject, and I wish I had not taken it. I really find it frustrating and not worth my time. CEA says that most people regret not taking Spanish, but I am regretting taking it. It really isn’t helping my Spanish and my GPA is going to suffer now.
Aside from Spanish class, all my other classes are going great and I love all five of my professors. My Spanish teacher, Blanca, is actually my favorite. So at least one good thing came from taking that class.
If I could leave anyone reading this some quality advice, it would be to stay healthy, first and foremost, but just as importantly, not to go drink and party every night. A lot of the kids in my program go out to the clubs a majority of their nights. It really isn’t worth it to be run down when you are studying on the Mediterranean Sea! The sights here in Barcelona are gorgeous, and the days should be taken full advantage of. There is still so much I haven’t seen in this city and to see the inside of clubs from time to time are good, but also I’ve found my mood is better and I am much happier when I’m outside exploring.