I arrived in Barcelona on January 11th. I remember everyone asking me if I was nervous before leaving home. My response was always “I’m unsure”. I heard a lot of stories about people getting homesick or not being able to assimilate into their host country. Luckily for me, this hasn’t been an issue. Being a native Spanish speaker allowed me to adapt to the culture very easily.
Since arriving here I have discovered a newfound appreciation for the simple things in life. Routine trips to Mercadona, a local grocery chain, have become almost therapeutic, and getting a haircut for a third of the price back home has been a huge bonus. Additionally, strolling around the city has been a great way to spend my free time. I’ve found that I have a lot of unstructured time, which can easily slip away if I don’t make a conscious effort to use it. To combat this, I make a point of taking a walk whenever I find myself with nothing to do. Although I could easily hop on the train and be home in five minutes after class, I prefer to soak in the sights and sounds of the city during my walk back to my apartment.
Being here I have been volunteering at a local school teaching English. I was interested in volunteering to take up time and meet some locals. Thankfully, one of the courses in my program had a volunteering portion that allowed me to do this. I remember my first day of volunteering there, I was told not to speak any Spanish, or Castellano, which is what they officially call it here in Spain. When introduced to the class I would be with the whole semester, which was the older group of students around my age studying business, just like myself, I was told that I could speak some Spanish to help. After introducing and speaking about myself for a bit in English I spoke in Spanish and they all immediately gasped. Being more reserved prior to this they loosened up and got more comfortable around me. They proceeded to tell me I needed to learn curse words in Catalan, one of the official languages of Barcelona, because it sounds eloquent. They tell me things about the city and places to visit, some of them even speak up to 6 languages and attempt to show me how to speak those. It’s a very diverse group with people from all over the world including, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Morocco, China and many more. It has been a really enriching opportunity being able to interact with them being locals around my age.
Overall, my time in Barcelona has been life-changing and I feel like there’s still so much more to discover with only a few weeks left. Despite being here for a few months, I still find myself saying, “We’re really in Barcelona right now,” and I can’t wait to see what else this amazing city has in store for me.
John Rangel (’24) is a Business Administration Major studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain through CEA Study Abroad