My time in Barcelona has been an experience I will never forget. Whenever I reflect upon the last few months, a nostalgic happiness fills my heart as I remember all the moments that have pieced together a beautifully vivid painting of unforgettable memories.
With respect to academics, I could not be more grateful for all I have learned in Barcelona. Largely facilitated by the teaching competence of my professors, I feel as though I have greatly increased my knowledge of some of the most important works in the canon of Spanish literature. However, what has made this learning experience particularly unique is the fact that I was able to study these groundbreaking and intellectually stimulating writings in the original Spanish tongue of their creators.
My favorite class of the semester was "Literatura hispanoamericana del siglo XX", or "20th Century Spanish-American Literature", thanks to Bernat Castany Prado, the phenomenally erudite professor who teaches it. With his vast and impressively deep knowledge of literature and philosophy, Bernat inspired me with his lectures, which skillfully interweaved both of these fields. In fact, my Spanish friends and I would often joke that Bernat is immortal, as though he has somehow lived through every century in human history. In Bernat's class, we covered five principal topics: The Avant-garde literary movement, Vicente Huidobro and Creationism, Pablo Neruda, César Vallejo and, finally, a portion of Borges. Bernat was so effective as a professor that I now feel not only comfortable with, but also interested in discussing and learning more about each of these five themes.
Apart from the academic experience, I will remember Barcelona for its impeccable food. I noticed that, in general, the quality and affordability of food in Barcelona is impressive. Because of my enthusiasm, I quickly compiled a list of my favorite restaurants, and whenever anybody visited me, I made certain to take them to some of my preferred spots. Concretely, my favorite breakfast/brunch restaurant was Can Dendê, with its pulled pork pancakes and fried green tomatoes, my favorite lunch restaurant was Norte, with its pheasant burger, and my favorite place for dinner and tapas was Vinitus, especially for its paella del día (paella of the day), its pescaditos fritos (fried little fish), and torrija for dessert. If interested, I will be happy to share the restaurant list I compiled upon request!
But most importantly, Barcelona has a special place in my heart because of the unique individuals with whom I have been fortunate enough to cross paths. From the moment I arrived in Barcelona, I remained focused on one all-important question: what can I do to ensure I get the most out of this opportunity? For me the answer was always clear: I need to integrate myself into the local culture. With this in mind, my overarching objective was to befriend at least one or two local students with whom I would be able to keep in contact upon returning to the United States. While I certainly relished the ease with which I could travel to other countries while in Europe, I had always considered that a friendship with a local Spanish student would be more valuable to me than all the traveling and sightseeing I could possibly do. While memories of things seen are trapped in time, friendships have the potential to last a lifetime and may become fountains from which new memories continually spring to life.
Conscious of this objective, and also of the preciousness of my limited time abroad, I decided to be proactive in meeting local students at the University of Barcelona. During the first few days of classes, I made the intention to introduce myself to some of my classmates and, slowly but surely, I began to become familiar with many students. Little could I have known how much these efforts would pay off. While I had always thought I would be fortunate to befriend even one or two local student, I ended up meeting someone who has become one of my closest friends. One day before my 8am Sociolinguistics class, I met a girl named Anna Del Valle, and we immediately hit it off. To add to our excitement, Anna had always wanted a friend from the United States, and I from Spain.
During the course of the semester, Anna and I kept closely in touch, and I hung out with her and her friends on multiple occasions. At the end of the program, I introduced Anna to my parents and my brother when they came to visit, and, on my second to last day in Barcelona, Anna's parents even invited me to their house for an exceptional good-bye dinner. I could not be more grateful for this friendship, especially in light of the fact that whenever either of us decides to visit the other's country, we will have someone with whom to spend time and "pasarlo bien.”
While there is so much more I would love to share about these months abroad in Barcelona, I wanted to emphasize these particular factors, since, from a personal standpoint, they represent what I will remember most about the experience. As I write, I am enjoying my last 12 hours in Barcelona taking in final impressions of Plaza Catalunya, delighting in some of the incredible food I will dearly miss, and playing paddle with Anna before saying goodbye. Nonetheless, despite the sadness that has accompanied these final moments, I can rest easier with the hope that I will soon return to this city and reconnect with the culture and people who now hold a very intimate place in my heart.