Kristin in Barcelona: The Short Story
There were the long and winding streets that reeked of a time long gone; there was the quaint, little apartment on Via Augusta that became my short-lived home; there were the absolute characters I was bound to meet on the 6 train; there was smell of an ancient city. It was Barcelona through the eyes of a bright-eyed 19-year-old, and it could not have been any more perfect.
It has been over two years since that first ride from the airport to Plaza Catalunya, and I still remember how strange it seemed staring out the windows during that drive. "Spain," I thought, "does not appear so different from the United States after all!" While the foliage and pavement may have been the same, the similarities and familiarity just about ended there.
What I remember most about Barcelona is the city's glow. My friends and I would take walks around Gracia (my favorite neighborhood) or through Plaza Urquinaona, and the way the streetlights illuminated the cobbled roads was rustic - almost like nostalgia for a time I never even knew. Saturdays were deemed exploration days, and whether it was a nearby vineyard, Mt. Tibidabo, the old castle at Montjuic or the 1998 Olympic grounds, each adventure showed us Americans an insight to the city that we otherwise lacked.
Even more important, however, was the time passed with my Catalonian friends. I always tell the story of the evening I let loose all abandon: it was early on in my trip, and I was going to a concert alone in Poblenou, a part of the city that I had never before visited. Upon exiting the subway station, I had no idea where the music venue was. Luckily, a group of young Spanish students not only showed me the way, but they spent that majority of that evening with me and remained some of my closest friends while abroad.
There was Ana, whose family I then got to know and whose born-and-bred insight of Barcelona revealed to me so many hidden treasures. Another friend, Roser, initially sought me out to help her practice English; we quickly became friends, and her Halloween party was one of my most fun nights in the city. Of course my host mom, Sonia, indulged me with her often-less-than-perfect (but always lovable) Spanish cuisine, she filled me in on all of the best Spanish sitcoms, and she even invited me out for karaoke nights at the beach with her friends. These friendships offered not only companionship, but also the opportunity to broaden my cultural understanding of a place that otherwise seemed so big, so new, and so foreign.
My curiosity could not be bound by Barcelona alone: Madrid, Sevilla, El Pais Vasco, they were all cities I saw and absorbed and that changed me. Madrid's pure majesty, Sevilla's old bullfighting rings and the abrasive straightforwardness of the Basque country: I was awestruck by, quite literally, all of Spain.
Being in Europe offered travel opportunities that seemed impossible in the U.S.A., like the affordability of European travel. I went to Paris for the first time; I visited other American friends studying in London; I met my cousins on our family's farm in Ireland, all of whom opened their home and their hearts to me during my weeklong stay. But you come to find, when studying abroad, that no matter where you go your base city has the tendency to steal your heart.
In my case, Barcelona has yet to give it back. A piece of me will always live in that city, forever consuming tapas in the city center, forever collecting band fliers in Las Ramblas, forever cheering on Messi from the smoke-infested stadium stands. These are the moments of poignancy that I remember, moments that I will not soon forget.