Guest Post by: Mackenzie Thurlby, a Senior studying HR and Marketing. She is a Global Business Center Scholarship Recipient and went on the Foster ALBA program in Barcelona, Spain during Fall Quarter 2018.
When I first arrived in Barcelona, the most striking thing was how lively it was in comparison to anywhere I had ever been before. As I rolled my luggage through the corbelled streets I heard the sound of laughter and chatter coming from the people around me as live music echoed though the alleyways. I went up to my new apartment for the first time and with the balcony doors open I could hear and see all of the action from above. I knew about the Catalonian independence movement, but I didn’t expect there to be demonstrations taking place right outside of my window. I went to sleep that first night to the sounds of chanting and speeches over microphones. Luckily that was not a regular occurrence, but it was the beginning of my understanding of Catalonian culture. I would come to learn how resilient, passionate, and proud Catalans are- a very valuable lesson.
After that first eventful day, the rest of my time in Barcelona was something like a whirlwind. Between adventures like hiking through the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains or walking along the ancient roman walls of Girona, the three months that I spent there felt way too short. I learned just how quickly the people in your study abroad program can start to feel like family when you spend every day together (including Thanksgiving). I learned that the best view of the sunset was from the top of old military bunkers on the outskirts of the city. I learned how to make traditional Spanish dishes like paella and crema catalana. Most importantly, I learned to live like the Catalans. I learned to be resilient as I faced the challenges of adjusting to living in a new country, to be passionate about this opportunity to study and travel, and to be proud to be a part of the culture, even if only just for one quarter.
On my last day in Barcelona, once again I rolled my luggage across the corbelled streets. It was a holiday in Spain so everybody was outside walking around and doing their Christmas shopping. It was easily the busiest I had ever seen the city and it felt like the perfect send off. I smiled to myself about how lucky I was to get to be a part of the chaos, to live in a city so full of life, and to feel alive.