New York may be the city that never sleeps, but Barcelona is the city that never gets tired. In Barcelona, the sun doesn’t set until ten. People go out for dinner at midnight and then meet for breakfast at eight. Excitement always lingers in the air. Some days it’s hard to believe I’m actually here.
¡Hola! My name is Amanda and I just finished my first week of classes at Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona. In my short time here, I’ve walked countless miles around the city, stumbled through the stone labyrinth known as the Gothic Quarter, and biked along rice paddies in the Catalan countryside (my first time on a bike in thirteen years). So far, my study abroad experience has been everything I expected and more.
Here are three things I did not expect.
- A Quiet Resistance
When I first heard about the Catalan independence movement, I pictured angry, violent protests. The streets of the region’s capital, however, are peaceful and the people happy. The Catalan flag dots every block, but I first thought it was simply due to pride. The only sign of possible discord are the words llibertat presos polítics hung and sprayed everywhere.
I can’t stop thinking about this form of resistance and the power of its subversive subtlety. It’s quiet yet so loud. It makes me rethink my perceptions of independence and resistance. In America, we are quick to support freedom and independence, but now I think that might not always be the answer. When I asked a student from Barcelona what his opinion was, he said Catalans deserved their place and their rights, but independence would only cause more problems. Already, the issue has taken on so much more nuance than I had originally thought.
Left and Right: The Catalan flag and “llibertat presos polítics” are everywhere
2. Wanting to Go Home
This surprised me most. The days leading up to the program, I was so excited I couldn’t eat or sleep. I’ve been planning this since October. On the second day of class, however, I was so frustrated and exhausted that the thought of going home dawned on me.
For the first time in my life, I felt limited by language. My head hurt from speaking Spanish 24/7. I struggled to do the most basic things, like order food. I worried I sounded stupid and I felt embarrassed talking to locals with my accent. It was so frustrating when I had so much to say, but didn’t know how.
In Barcelona, people emphasize time spent with others. Dishes are to be shared and drinks taken slowly. Lunch today lasted three hours. I’m learning to take things slowly here and sometimes put off work to explore the city. I’ve developed relationships with people I thought would always be strangers to me.