Coming home after a year abroad in Barcelona, Spain

by Daniel Alexander

The moment I stepped on campus as a freshman I knew I was going to study abroad. I have dreamt about going abroad for as long as I can remember. Fast forward to August, three years later, and I was in my room packing.

Due to my International Business/Studies major, I decided to go to Barcelona because there were many classes offered for my area of study. I was so excited! I already had friends in Spain, I loved the food, the people, the language, the climate… basically everything. I had zero worries.

When I arrived on the first day of my pre-semester class, I was so excited to meet the other BCA students from different colleges, because we all had a common interest in the Spanish language. I never had that within my friend-group before. A few days later, I met my host mom, and she became my best friend!

Over the course of the semester, I toured around Barcelona and I studied (a lot) for my classes. I will admit that classes were more difficult than I anticipated because most of my classes were lectured base, with no PowerPoints or online materials.

Every day after class I would wander the city with my friends until dinner time (which was at 9:00 P.M) and then go home and study. The things I ran into throughout Barcelona were amazing and every day was something new. Each day, I fell further in love with the city and my host family. Before I knew it, the fall semester ended. As a year student, I went home over winter break and then returned to Spain before the spring semester started.

When the spring semester ended, I stayed in Spain for an extra two more weeks to visit my friends one last time. I did not want to say goodbye to any of them. I did not want to leave the beautiful city I came to know as my home or my beautiful host family that made it feel like home. I knew I would be returning to Barcelona in the summer of 2019, but a whole year would have passed since then and saying goodbye was especially hard.

Coming back home after studying abroad was difficult for me. In a way, it was the same sensation as when I had to leave all my friends and family in the U.S. to go to Spain. I was conflicted because I was so excited to see my family, but I also was so sad to leave a place I spent so long in; a place where I made myself a life. I remember I basically cried every hour of my eight-hour-long flight home.

My return flight landed at JFK. I chose this location so that I could spend time with my grandmothers since I hadn’t seen them in such a long time. I remember crying as I gave my Grandma a hug, but I do not know why. I was particularly dramatic that day, and I cried every time I saw one of my family members. Although this was an emotional moment in my life, two days later I was back in my home state, Maryland, beginning an internship.

The first few days in my parent’s house were rough. I remember wanting to fall asleep every night at 8:00 P.M. because I felt like it was 2 A.M. After a week, my body adjusted to the jet lag and I was so busy with work and other things, that I felt fine. However, once school started, I began to realize I missed Barcelona again. Sometimes my host mom sends me photos of her grandchildren and I think to myself, “Oh my goodness, they are getting so big. They are growing so fast!”  Sometimes when I am doing homework, I remember I used to watch TV at this time with my host mom and we would catch up and laugh about what we were watching. I miss my host family, taking the metro every day, and wandering around the city when I got tired of studying. Most of all I miss the culture, the way of life.

During the fall semester of my senior year, I began talking to my friend who studied abroad for two semesters in Germany about how I felt. She told me she also had similar feelings. To help us feel more connected to our overseas experiences, we developed a cultural appreciation club called Connect, to help people network and experience new cultural facets from around the world. We are starting this project from scratch, but I am excited for what we have in store for it!

I’ve changed since my study abroad experience. Of course, I reached a whole new level of Spanish fluency, but I also transformed in more ways than my language abilities. Studying abroad made me more appreciative of the people in my life and the people I choose to make memories with. It made me more organized and more independent because navigating a city and different campuses required a lot of time management and planning. However, what changed the most was that I learned to enjoy life more.

In Barcelona, everyone always says “No pasa nada,” meaning nothing will happen, it’s okay, no worries. They say this when you are late, when you break a plate when you cancel plans, when everything you think went wrong did go wrong, because for them that’s life, and all these unforeseeable events are perfectly okay. In Barcelona, I learned to stop worrying about silly things. I went out a lot and wandered around the city with my friends, and I studied in cafés with my friends. I had a great, work-life balance and although coming back was difficult for me, I would cry non-stop on my returning flight a thousand times again because I knew I had a great experience that molded me.

About the Author – Daniella Moreira, Academic Year 2017-18 BCA Barcelona, Spain & Elizabethtown College student

Daniella is an International Business major and International Studies minor. During her senior year at Etown College, Daniella worked as a peer advisor in the BCA Central Office to help inspire other students to bridge the world!