Whoever Believes Creates

Guest Post By: Isaac Smith, a Senior studying Finance and Entrepreneurship. He is a Global Business Center Study Abroad Scholarship Recipient, and he studied abroad through ALBA Barcelona in Barcelona, Spain, during Winter Quarter 2024.

When asking someone from Spain what makes their lives different, one answer stood out, “Here in Spain, we know how to enjoy life”. It took me most of the trip to understand exactly what it meant. 

On the surface, this looks like people sitting on the street and grabbing coffee outside with friends in the mornings, sharing tapas in the afternoon, and dancing as one in the evenings. I found my flat on the third floor with a balcony looking out to a busy street below, yet not busy in the way I would have expected. The streets lacked cars but were full of people: bikers, walkers, rollerbladers, delivery drivers. Organized chaos. 

ALBA organized excursions every Friday, taking us to beautiful places, one of which was a hike along the coast of Costa Brava, translating accordingly to “brave coast”. One of these brave people I met was an older man, bathing in the sun next to a good friend. I learned he had picked up his life and moved to a remote shack on the beach, 10 feet from the high tide with no electricity, running water, or cell service. He relies on people such as our guide Inez for supplies and company. As others in the group swam, I sat and shared a conversation.

I mentioned I was from Seattle, and he quickly became excited as, long ago, he was given a book about Chief Seattle. He said this book made him reconsider how we think about land, something not to be bought or sold but to be shared. He asked that I write down an aspiration and hang it up in his shack. At the turn of every new year, he collects the papers collected from thousands of travelers and symbolically throws them into a fire. 

 The thin walls on a beach in Costa Brava remain the guardian of my biggest takeaway from my time abroad. “Quien cree, crea” or whoever believes, creates. 

My aspiration was to find peace in my own life and learn that ultimately peace is a mindset. Being present for a meal or a conversation certainly changed my outlook on how I live my life. Whether it’s in government-led for-profit initiatives for affordable housing or brilliantly designed urban infrastructure, all cities have something to learn from Barcelona and its people. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to go abroad and would recommend the experience to anyone looking for a change of perspective.