When I arrived at the Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat Airport, my nerves were as high as the departing airplanes. I found myself questioning what lay ahead: if everything would be okay if the promises of an unforgettable experience abroad were true, and if I would connect with others in my exchange program. After completing the immigration process, communication became easy through WhatsApp, the most widely used texting app in Spain. The driver, Laura, welcomed me and three other students from various regions of the United States, along with one student from Canada, on the morning of July 1st, 2023. Laura was tremendously friendly and charismatic, embodying Catalan cultural identity. She, along with other strangers that I encountered during my journey, helped me navigate the city of Barcelona, and ISEP, the exchange program coordinator Maria was notably helpful along with her teammates. They provided advice, resources, and tools to help me get around the city, interact with locals, avoid tourist traps, use public transportation, and feel comfortable during my stay in Barcelona.
Firstly, ISEP’s coordination impressed me. The program organized different strategies and events during my stay. There were trips to explore the remnants of the Roman Empire in Barcelona and learn about the city’s history. A coastline hike along the Garraf Cliffs and a visit to Sitges and Vilanova showcased the stunning azure waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Additionally, the program arranged dinners that brought everyone together, allowing us to enjoy traditional Spanish food like tapas and socialize with other students who shared the goal of maximizing their time in Barcelona where these city brings the enjoyment of social life, nightlife, cultural events, social operability of sexual gender expression, easily public transportation, safe streets, great public safety, affordable prices in local restaurants and local markets make the most to really enjoy it.
Secondly, my exchange program equipped me with the necessary tools to adapt to a new educational environment. The Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF) staff helped me achieve my educational goals by encouraging class participation and reducing my shyness. The Spanish education system emphasized student engagement through participation and group work. This system boosted my confidence in presenting myself during work presentations and class discussions. UPF made my experience unforgettable, such as through a Law and Art class that included an excursion to the Contemporary Art Museum of Barcelona, where I enjoyed the contemporary art that the city of Barcelona offers by designs inspired by Gaudi, Pablo Picasso, etc., made my studies to be more joyful and not as boring in learning law in an art class.
In conclusion, my study abroad experience exposed me to different lifestyles and cultures, showcasing the abundance of cultural life in Barcelona with fewer restrictions that allowed for a sense of freedom. This experience made me realize that seemingly small steps, like filling out paperwork, can lead to unforgettable life experiences. This experience of being in a different city, where you might not know nobody might sound scary. Taking that step can lead to growth and gaining unforgettable memories, as I did when I visited beautiful natural places, where I shared with new friends and chatted with a cold cup of red sangria along with tapas in sunset rooftop is one of many memories described in this short essay contributed to my personal and educational growth experience during my time abroad.
Javier Villanueva Reyes (BS Political Science) spent the Summer 2023 semester studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain through ISEP. Javier had the following to say about studying abroad, “There is no life-changing rather than this experience while you are studying in college. If you study abroad, it is going to inspire you to go back to enjoy the world at its fullest because studying abroad is garaging educational values while living life at its highest.“
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