Take me back to early Sunday mornings strolling through barrio Les Corts for hours on end. Take me back to typical 9 PM dinners with my host mom as my roommates and I fought over that pasta of hers we fell in love with. Take me back to Parc de la Ciutadella, where I never failed to find the perfect bench facing away from the Barcelona sun and crack a book open until the sun began to set. Take me back. Of course I fell in love with Barcelona. Everyone warned me that I would. “If you leave, you’ll never want to come back,” they said. And they were right!
I was certain that Barcelona would leave an unforgettable impression on me. I had been dreaming of this trip since I was fifteen. So when April came along and I thought of my time abroad coming to an end, I could not bare to say goodbye just yet. I hadn’t seen all I needed to see or met quite enough strangers that soon turned into life-long friends. More importantly, I did not feel like I had left even the slightest mark on the city that had left a permanent mark on me. It was my turn to give back a little of the magic that I had been lucky enough to receive. That’s where Make-A-Wish Spain came in.
When given the opportunity to extend my stay in Barcelona, from the Spring 2016 IES Study Abroad Program to the Summer 2016 IES Internship Program, it was one of the easiest decisions I have ever had to make. Each and every member of the IES Barcelona staff made me feel confident in my ability to pursue yet another three-month journey in this city — with them as my academic gurus and unwavering moral support system, of course. Ana and Maria, coordinators of the IES Barcelona Internship Program, reviewed my résumé, cover letter, and career goals and thought I was great fit for Make-A-Wish Spain, a nonprofit organization aimed at granting the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions. I learned so much from my time at Make-A-Wish Spain. I had the pleasure of working alongside some of the most kindhearted people I have ever met as they taught me the beauty and the power that lay within each child’s wish. I worked in multiple departments such as Social Work, Communications, and Fundraising and even had the chance to work with a few wish-kids and families. In all honesty, that was my favorite part of this experience — seeing how one child’s wish can turn into a whole family’s source of hope, strength, and joy.
After seven months of immersing myself in the Spanish culture and three months of working towards this beautiful cause, I said a heartfelt “see you later” to those spontaneous strolls through my neighborhood, dinners with my host mom, afternoons at the park, and 9-2 shifts at Make-A-Wish Spain. It was difficult accepting the fact that my time here was up. Though brief, it taught me more about myself than any other experience I have been fortunate enough to have. After studying abroad, we admit to finding new versions of ourselves — independent and adventurous versions that may have been hiding within us all along. That’s one half of my seven-month "self-discovery” process. Finding the other half, the one now guiding my life choices and career path, was all thanks to the IES Study Abroad/Internship Program and Make-A-Wish Spain. Without them, I would not have found my passion for nonprofit work. I’ll never be able to thank them enough for changing my life the way they did. I only hope that more students get the opportunity to study and intern abroad through IES Barcelona, and that in doing so, they learn not only about this beautiful city but about themselves as well.