Me Encanta España

Guest Post By: Sydney Kuehner, a Junior studying Marketing. She studied abroad through ABLA Barcelona in Barcelona, Spain, during Spring Quarter 2022.

In my application to ALBA, a study abroad program in Barcelona, Spain, I wrote “I know I will soak in everything I learn in the classroom and from the city.” This was an understatement. On so many levels. I had no idea that it only took 2 ½ months to completely fall in love with a culture.

As context, I knew very little about Spain before landing in the Barcelona airport, except that they spoke mostly Spanish and that I had to try paella before I returned home. On the drive to my apartment for the first time, I was in awe of the color and the life that seemed to radiate from everything around me. I have always been a city girl, but the close community that this metropolitan area has built with more than 1.5 million people stands out from every other place I have visited in the world. From the way that baristas in coffee shops became excited to see me after two visits, to the many instances where someone was so kind after I completely messed up a sentence in their language, was indescribable. I had so many wonderful encounters where locals would teach me how to say a phrase in Spanish that I didn’t know.

This warm welcome continued in the classroom where I had the opportunity to learn from professors who lived all over Barcelona. ALBA focuses on offering small classes, so I was able to really get to know my teachers as people. I am so grateful for this as I got to learn about Spain from Spaniards. My Spanish class only had two students, and my instructor started calling the other student and I her American daughters by the end of the quarter. ALBA also has incredible excursions where I got to see small towns like Sitges and Girona, but I also got to do things like cliff-jumping in Costa Brava (safely of course, don’t worry mom.)

However, this experience was made complete by the extraordinary people I met. From my two roommates, who I didn’t know before going, to people from different schools and locals I met along the way. People I never would have gotten to meet if I had not chosen to go abroad. I made friendships I hope will continue for years to come.

These new relationships made traveling even more exciting as we got to go to places like Morocco, the south of France, Andorra, and ALL over Spain. While I had initially planned to visit a bunch of countries around Spain, I fell in love with the Spanish culture, and I ended up going around the country to places like Madrid, Sevilla, Tarragona, Mallorca, and San Sebastian. I have had so many people ask me what my favorite place was, and I honestly couldn’t tell you. When you travel around Spain it feels like you are going to different countries. The rich culture and history of Sevilla isn’t comparable to stunning San Sebastian in the Basque region.

So not only did I try paella and learn more Spanish while in Spain; but I saw the beauty of the Spanish culture, learned from locals, made long lasting friendships, and I got to see more of the world. If only I could tell my past self what an incredible adventure was in store for her!