KelsieGleason's Travel Journals

KelsieGleason Kelsie Gleason

  • 28 years old
  • From Illinois, United States
  • Currently in Barcelona, Spain

Visions and Revisions: Discovering the Culture of Barcelona

This journal will serve as a collection of my experiences, observations, and reflections over the next four months of cultural immersion in Barcelona.

Adios, Barcelona

Spain Barcelona, Spain  |  Apr 29, 2011
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The day I’ve been dreading has finally arrived—the last day in Barcelona. Back in January when we arrived, April seemed so far away. Four months seemed like an eternity, and I thought that maybe I’d be ready to go home by the end. I couldn’t have been more wrong. These last four months have flown by and I’d give anything to be able to stay here even for just one more month. It is so weird to think that only four months ago I was standing with a group of strangers in the entrance to O’Hare airport and now those strangers have become my family. Looking back on the first time I met my homestay family I remember thinking to myself how small the elevator was, how small the room was. I remember asking myself if I could really live in a room with literally a foot between the beds, one armoire, and 5 hangers. I remember meeting the family and even though they seemed nice I was still pretty terrified of living with strangers that only spoke Spanish. We couldn’t find towels in the bathroom, so Hillary and I used t-shirts to dry off after showering for a full week rather than ask our host grandmother where the towels were. Now Carmen, Hector, María, Hectito, Alejandro, Tano, and all the extended family have become my second family. We eat dinner with them, watch football with them, play video games with them, gossip with Carmen, make fun of Hectito, and show them stupid American videos on YouTube even though they don’t understand them. We’re invited to the family parties and take “cousin photos” with them. I’ve come to love my cozy little room and the crazy apartment full of people. I have loved getting to know this family and I never would have imagined I would get this close to them. They have really made my study abroad experience special and have taught me so much. I have learned more in the past four months than in the past three years of “traditional” classes. The city has been my classroom as much as my actual classes at BIC have been. I’ve explored every inch of Barcelona, found cheap grocery stores, found the best parks, found the best neighborhood benches from which to people-watch, and found the best restaurants to eat at. I’ve become so close to the Argentineans down the street that I’ve even met their families and they’ve met mine. They know us by name, give us dos besos every time we walk by, and have memorized our food and drink orders. I have successfully mastered public transportation and have ridden every metro line, the city buses, the tram, the funicular, the cable car, the renfe, and the FCG. I can get anywhere in the city without getting lost, thanks to my favority hobby: wandering the streets in hopes of finding new awesome hangouts and sights. I love finishing class and just walking around the streets without a destination in mind, finding new neighborhoods, parks, and stores. Four months ago I couldn’t do anything without a plan. I needed to know where I was going, when, and what I would accomplish. If it wasn’t “productive” I wouldn’t do it. Looking back, I can’t even believe how tightly wound I was when I first arrived. I spent my life at IWU running from one club meeting to the next, to work, to sorority functions, to exec board meetings, to soccer games, to band rehearsals or performances. I spent more time in the science lab every day than I did sleeping. Barcelona has taught me that there are more important things in life and has really made me reexamine my priorities. It has taught me that it’s okay to spend an entire afternoon sitting on the beach or reading on a park bench. It’s okay to slow down and enjoy the moment, to make time for yourself, to do something fun even if there’s no specific goal to be accomplished. During my time here I’ve also learned to step outside of my comfort zone. I’ve asked complete strangers for directions when I’m lost, started conversations with strangers in bars and restaurants, and flown to other countries without planning anything except the flight and the hotel. I’ve found concerts, art exhibitions, movies, and markets to go to and met Spanish people to have my own “intercambio” with. While adopting the Spanish/Catalan culture as my own for the past four months I’ve gotten the chance to reexamine my own values and the values of the US as a whole, and find out what really matters to me. After this semester I have a completely new perspective and list of priorities. If I was able to live out of a suitcase for an entire semester, I probably don’t need an entire room full of material possessions that I didn’t even miss. I don’t need a big room, a full-size bed, a tv in every room, or even an elevator in every building. We give way too much value to money than it’s actually worth. There is a difference between living to work and working to live. It doesn’t matter what other people think of me (and I’m pretty used to being judged now after all those weird looks we got on the metro at first). The list of what I’ve gained from this experience goes on and on, and to be honest I’m still in the process of figuring it all out. Plus, expressing it in words is nearly impossible. My heart is breaking at the thought of leaving tomorrow morning, and I’m one of the few people that haven’t cried yet. It’s not that I’m not sad or even that I’m ready to leave (because I would stay here forever if I could). This city has become my home and leaving here hurts more than I ever thought possible, but I guess I’m just too rational about it. I’d rather celebrate all the great memories we’ve made here over the past four months than be depressed about leaving them behind. I’ve learned so much in one semester, experienced so many new things, met so many wonderful people, and have so many great stories to tell, and I will have these memories for the rest of my life. Our time here is over, but I guess everything has to come to an end at some point. Nothing is permanent, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past 20 years it’s that change is inevitable. I’ll miss this city and these people, but we’ll stay in touch and I’ll come back again someday. It’s time to move on to the next great adventure (and there will be many to come), but I will never forget this adventure and I will always have a little part of Barcelona with me. Thank you, Barcelona, for the best semester of my life. Adeu.

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