Tag Archives: Barcelona

Goodbye and Hello

I’ve been stateside now, back in Idaho, for one week. It’s really great to be back at home with my family and friends. But there’s also a feeling of sadness or emptiness too, as I’ve left my other home and family.

Goodbye is such a trite expression. But when we actually have to say it, and really mean it, it’s profound. It hurts. Saying goodbye to Barcelona, my host-family, and the new friends, it’s a feeling I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. But that’s the bittersweet moment of study abroad I suppose. To know that you’ve done something incredible.

So onto the topic at hand, reverse-culture shock.

As I stepped off the plane, the first thing I see are the rolling barren hills of the surrounding horizon. Not more than a hundred yards from my town’s tiny airport is the familiar site of rundown trailer parks and uninspiring housing. There is no architecture. There is no art. There really is no culture to speak of in that regard. Because where I’m from is a simple place. Its history is brief compared to that of Barcelona. So it’s not really fair to even compare the two. But I would be lying if I said if I wasn’t just a tad shocked to remember that I was just in one of the most bustling and beautiful cities on the planet and now here I am in something so mundane and simple.

I was also surprised to see enormous vehicles again, and not a moto-scooter in sight. I suppose what adds to the emptiness of my home is that there are no people just walking about or casually sitting at street-side food and bar establishments. The culture here in the States, even in our largest cities, is for everyone to own a vehicle and drive it. So despite my city of 35,000 being literally 1/20th the size of Barcelona, the traffic felt just as bad.

The day after I got back, I went to the grocery store with my girlfriend. It wasn’t my usual street-front fresh produce stand, but instead a big box store, another icon of American culture. As we perused the isles, I was awe-struck for just a moment that I could understand every single conversation happening around me. No longer was I bombarded with Catalan, Spanish, Chinese, German, etc.. just English. I haven’t decided if I like that or not — but at least now I can be certain I’m not being teased in a language I don’t understand! 🙂

My girlfriend and I are hosting a little dinner with Spanish and Catalan style cuisine at our house, in an effort to maybe bring some of what I experienced abroad, home with us. That’s all we or anyone can do really. By bringing some of it back with you, using it in your life, you can hold on to some of those memories.

In the coming weeks I am applying for graduate school. I definitely believe this study abroad experience will benefit my application and make me standout from others. This truly is a unique and life-changing experience. I look forward to encouraging others as I go on in my studies and career to study abroad — take advantage of opportunities like the Gilman or the Fulbright and a host of others.

A sincere thanks comes from my heart to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Gilman Scholarship Program, and to my family and friends (wherever they are in the world).

Be excellent to each other.

¡Salud!

Leave a comment

Filed under Dustin in Spain, Western Europe

Thoughts on Cultural Shock and the Reverse

W-Curve_Re-Entry_Shock

Above is the chart by which I’m supposed to evaluate my experiences and offer some thoughts on whether or not I agree and why or why not. I’ll simply go through each point in order for clarity.

Phase 1 (Arrival) Everything is awesome when you’re pa… Wait. Everything is new, interesting and exciting. This is true, but frankly I still feel like everything in Barcelona / Catalonia / Spain is pretty much awesome. Perhaps if I were in a more exotic or less developed country I could imagine the ‘awesome’ factor wearing off.

barc_from_tele

A spectacular view from the Teleferic on Montjuic.

 

Phase 2 (Couple weeks in) Differences become apparent and irritating. Problems occur and frustration sets in. I don’t really identify with the chart on this point. I had very little issues adjusting or coping with cultural differences. Probably the only real big issue I had was simply adjusting to the time difference for sleep.

Phase 3 (4 weeks or so) You may feel homesick depressed and helpless. I think I definitely had and still experience this randomly. No matter how much I love Barcelona, I’m still longing for my closest loved ones. This feeling may have been much worse had I not met a great group of people here, and I can imagine that for some this is much more severe. Also, it was nice to know that from the beginning, my girlfriend was coming out to visit.

mekaybeach

My girlfriend, Kaylee, came to visit for 9 days.

 

Phase 4 (6 weeks) You develop strategies to cope with difficulties and feeling make new friends, and learn to adopt to the host culture. Between school, my language exchange partner, Gilman stuff, and my new friends, I’ve never really had a chance to just relax. I suppose that also helped deter more feelings of homesickness.

friends

The International Studies Abroad group I’m in.

Phase 5 (10 weeks) You accept and embrace cultural differences. You see the host as your new home and don’t wish to depart or leave new friends. There is definitely some truth in this. I do feel a sense of ‘home’ at my home-stay. But as I’ve said before, it is still pretty impersonal and I feel more like a guest at a hostel than I do a member of a home.  Certainly, the friends I have made here are great, and I do wish a few of them lived closer in the states, but to say that I don’t want to depart is a stretch. I am looking forward to departing because I have plans and goals that I need to get moving on. I can’t sit around in Barcelona! (Maybe if I was 10 years younger..)

Phase 6 (10 weeks) You are excited about returning home. Yes, I agree. Compared to Barcelona, the city of Lewiston is a sleepy village… I could go for some time in a sleepy village.

Lewiston-Clarkston-Web

The Lewis-Clark Valley. About 40,000 people.

Phase 7 (Week or two home) You may feel frustrated, angry or lonely because friends and family don’t understand what you experienced and how you changed. You miss the host culture and friends and may look for ways to return. Technically, at the time of writing this, I haven’t returned home yet. But I know that I’m going to encounter some degree of these feelings. Studying abroad is an eye-opening, mind-expanding and emotionally challenging experience. I can’t expect people to understand something so profound… nor can I hope to even possess the eloquence to adequately express how it feels.

I can also attest to thinking about ways return already. In fact, I may pursue applying for the Fulbright Scholarship since I am graduating this semester!

Phase 8 (3 weeks at home) You gradually adjust to life at home. Things start to seem more normal and routine again, although not exactly the same. I can only say that this seems likely.

Phase 9 (4 weeks at home) You incorporate what you learned and experienced abroad in your new life and career. Again, I feel like this will be the case. I am sure I’ll be more conscious about recycling and water-usage because of my time here in Spain. I can also see myself drawing on this experience as a selling point for my applications to graduate school and future employment opportunities.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Dustin in Spain, Western Europe

Three days in Barcelona

fuentes2

Hola y bon dia!

My first days in Barcelona have been nothing short of an exciting, yet exhausting, whirlwind. Adjusting to a nine hour time difference, jet-lag, and being in an unfamiliar place has taken its toll on my mind and body. I won’t bore you readers with too much right this second, but wanted to check-in with a picture update!

Originally a bull fighting ring, now converted into a shopping mall.

Many of Barcelona’s large intersections of main streets feature fountains, statues or green spaces.

The ‘block of disagreement’ is a place where tourists gather to marvel at the work of famous artists/architects such as Gaudi. These buildings were designed in a sort of rivalry to be the best.

The Metro, Empty.

Fountains in front of the palace. These have a full color and music accompaniment, similar to the Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas. Better view here in Barcelona.

The palace of Barcelona. It serves as a museum now.

palace1

The old gothic style part of the library at my university (UPF). It serves mostly as an area for quiet study.

On Montjuic (Mountain of the Jews) you can stand at this lookout point and see the port of Barcelona along with much of downtown.

room1

My bedroom in Barcelona. Small? Indeed. However, it is sufficient for sleeping and homework!

The view from the apartment I live in.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Dustin in Spain, Western Europe