You don’t realize it at first, but you feel it. It’s there in the back of your mind, but you forget about it as you get off of the Metro to walk to class.
Then as you’re buying toothpaste in Corte Inglés, it starts to tickle your brain again, but you brush it off as you pay the cashier and realize you need to go to the ATM and withdraw more money…again. Yikes. Then one day, as you’re walking down Passeig de Gràcia looking at a bunch of ugh, tourists taking pictures of La Pedrera and waiting in line for Casa Batlló, it hits you so hard that you almost drop your Starbucks (yeah, some habits die hard…or you know, never). You’ve suddenly become aware of the trees full of green leaves, the fact that you’re no longer wearing a jacket outside, the sun that used to be such a rare sight, and then – wait. What’s the date? April. It’s APRIL. Somehow, without even noticing it, three months have come and gone and you’ve only got one month left in Barcelona. No. LESS THAN A MONTH! Suddenly, that Barcelona Bucket List that you made back in January seems impossibly long and WHY are there SO MANY unchecked items on it???
I began writing this post before I left Barcelona for Semana Santa (“Holy Week” a.k.a. Spring Break) and now that I’ve returned, the realization that my time here is almost at an end has finally sunk in. Do not worry, this post is not about the details of my stages of grief, but rather, it is about what happens after culture shock has subsided enough so that you no longer get driven insane whenever you hear “vale” again (and again).
It’s true what they say, humans really are creatures of habit. However long it takes you to finish going through culture shock, and you will no matter how well-adjusted and open-minded you think you are, at some point shortly afterward you will establish a routine. You’ll have your classes, you’ll memorize the metro routes, you’ll have favorite places to eat lunch and go out at night, you’ll make new friends. Basically, you’ll create a new life for yourself in your new city. And that’s fantastic! It’s what you set out to do!
However, falling into a routine also runs the risk of losing the fervor with which you flew into your new country. In other words, you run the risk of waking up one morning in April with only two weeks left in your program and realizing that there is still SO MUCH of Barcelona left to see and explore and experience! Fortunately, in my case, I (somewhat) had the foresight to take all of the items from my Barcelona Bucket List and disperse them throughout the calendar on my computer. This way, I was able to see and do all of the things that I wanted. Well, all the important ones at least. I did end up having to delete quite a few items, because I am studying abroad after all and there actually are presentations, papers, and exams that I have to work on and study for. Priorities, right?
Anyway, I guess the point that I want to make is be sure to make the most of the time that you have in whichever city you choose to study abroad in. Take advantage of every opportunity that is available to you that you won’t have again back in the States. Because remember: you’re not going to be there forever. So, adapt to the new culture and become a local, etc., but also go check out that museum that you’ve been putting off seeing, or that gallery or park or movie or festival or whatever! Because the next thing you know, you’re going to be on a plane heading back home with a pocketful of spare Euro coins.
P.S. Take TONS of pictures of EVERYTHING. You can never have too many pictures.