I have a fuzzy recollection of how I felt the first time I stepped out in Barcelona. First, non-jam-packed seeing as I had just come from the highly dense country of Hong Kong and was still reeling from the effects. Second, keen because I’d done little research about the city but I’d heard good stories from people who’d visited; I had medium expectations and wanted to be surprised, hence the keenness.
Now having spent a mere three months in the enchanting metropolis of Barcelona, I have to admit that my grasp of its culture and allure is only a fraction of what this region of Spain truly has to offer. Prior to my study abroad experience, “Catalunya” may as well have been a foreign concept to me, but now I’ve had the opportunity to immerse myself in the vibrant streets and diverse communities of Barcelona, I find myself going on and on about the city’s unique charm and character.
Barcelona, as a friend put it to me, is a ‘moving city’. People go in and out of the city and for non-locals, there’s limited consistency so the people you meet tend to eventually leave and be replaced, and so is the cycle of Barcelona. But I think that’s exactly what makes it the wonder it is, the diversity of the people who go through it and the vastness of the experiences available in the city.
Here, I learnt to live and let live. With so much on offer in this vibrant city, I quickly learned that not everything would align with my interests and values. This means I had to learn to carefully select activities and experiences that would serve me best while still appreciating the unique qualities of Barcelona that might not personally resonate with me, so here I really worked my muscles of exploration and self-discovery
I also learnt to appreciate the beauty of balance – to embrace the grandiose celebrations while finding joy in the simple moments. The city is alive with an endless stream of exciting events like the vibrant carnivals and the colorful celebrations of Sant Jordi’s Day. But it’s also the small, unassuming moments that are just as magical – the feeling of the sun on my skin while biking through Barri Gotic or stumbling upon a group of elderly Catalonians dancing to traditional music outside Catedral de Barcelona. All in all, it was an immersive lesson on how to appreciate every single moment as it came.
I think this is an experience I’ll be talking about for a while. I found not only a city but a country that would keep me engaged and inspired, with so many treasures both well-known and hidden waiting to be explored. I’ll miss Barcelona not only for the things it gave me – from great food and wonderful friends to ample Ryan Air flights to other destinations – but also for the things I was able to give back to it: a new perspective, a different culture, and a heart filled with gratitude and awe.
I have a vivid recollection of how I felt as I left Barcelona. First, grateful as I’d come to love the city’s quirks and beauty. Each time I stepped out, I found something new I could look forward to visiting or an unexpected street event to stumble upon. Second, sad as I realized I had to say goodbye to the great friends I had made and the alternate reality that studying abroad had allowed me to create. Third, and my best feeling of all, excitement thinking about what I would be able to check off my list the next time I came, because it was for a fact, I would be returning.