When I first decided to study away, I had no idea where I wanted to go (besides somewhere in Europe) or with which program. In a meeting with my advisor, I said that I was thinking about Italy. Since I was studying Spanish, she laughed and instead suggested IES Barcelona Business and Liberal Arts. She said it would be perfect; I could take my business, my general education, and my Spanish classes PLUS live in Europe. And you know what? She was right.
Spending a semester in Barcelona was more than I could have ever imagined it and there are three reasons why.
1) My host family was phenomenal. My mom was a teacher, my dad a doctor, and they had three boys ranging from 12-16. They welcomed me, and my two roommates, into their family with arms wide open. We had dinners together every single night, where they challenged us to work on our Spanish (even though they knew quite a bit of English), played video games with the younger brother, and even had a family ping-pong tournament. When I was debating whether to live in an apartment or a homestay, I was worried that I would feel trapped in a family dynamic and that it would be weird to leave to go on trips or to go hang out with friends, but that wasn’t the case. They had hosted before so they knew how life would be with study abroad students, and in fact, they encouraged us to go to cultural events and to get out of the house as much as possible. I do not think I could have asked for a better living situation if I tried, and I will definitely stay in contact with them. They’re my Spain family!
2) The history and art of Barcelona are impressive. If you had asked me about art before going to Spain, I would have said, “ehh it’s ok”. Ask me now, and I will tell you all that I know about European art, especially the work by Gaudí. I would never have called myself an art enthusiast before going abroad, but now, I love art! My turning point was learning about and seeing the Block of Discord (which consists of three houses designed by Gaudí, Puig i Cadafalch, and Domenech i Montaner) and La Sagrada Familia.
3) The friends I made are lifelong. We all shared one of the key personality traits that I need in a friend: adventurous. Each and every person I met, had plans to do and see things and to enjoy their time however that meant to them. But in all, we shared a magical experience that no one else will quite understand. We stayed up all night to see the sunrise from the Bunkers, ate patatas bravas every day for a snack, flew cheap flights at 6am, found local festivals to attend, bought more souvenirs then we could really bring home, etc. The only sad part is that since we went with a study abroad program (versus one at our home school), we are all scattered across America, which makes seeing each other a bit of a challenge.
Thinking back, the only part I would change, would be coordinating my travel plans with the friends I made. Many weekends, one set of friends would travel while the others were in Barcelona and then it would flip. It made it hard to just live in Barcelona with a normal lifestyle. That being said, studying away isn't really a normal experience and you learn that you have to put your wants/desires first to make your dreams come true.
Overall, I was very impressed with my study abroad experience and now as my next semester is approaching, my only question is: can I go back?!