Kate Hoffman is a student at the University of South Carolina and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Barcelona, Spain.
I never thought I would spend a Thanksgiving in Spain, nor that it would be filled with such lovely people. This past Thursday, we all gathered around the table at a restaurant in Barcelona to enjoy a big turkey dinner, pumpkin pie, wine, and wonderful conversations. I truly felt thankful for these hilarious, fun-loving students that I was privileged to spend a semester with. We came from all over the USA to study in this spectacular city, and I couldn’t have asked for a better group. During our “friendsgiving” dinner, I was reminded of all I had learned, experienced, seen, and discovered during my all-too-short time in Barcelona. Studying abroad is this crazy, insanely fun period in your life where you are able to see and do so many new things and meet so many new people. This semester could not have flown by faster or have been more exciting. I was able to travel to many new places, and I learned more about the world and about myself.
On the night of Thanksgiving, I sat down at my computer and compiled a list of some of the revelations I had made this semester, ideas that I hope I will not forget even as I return home in January.
1) People are people, wherever you go. From the Andalusians, to the Irish, the Berbers, and the French, we all share the dream of living long, safe, and happy lives. It is only when you travel that you realize just how similar other people are to you; we share basic values. Although our governments sometime encourage an air of divisiveness between us, traveling helps you see beyond the propaganda spread in your own country. I was finally able to have my own opinions about a place because I had actually been there, not because I had read about it or seen it on TV but because I had actually talked to the people there.
2) Solo traveling can be a rewarding experience. Before I came to Europe, I had never really traveled anywhere by myself. Although taking a completely solo weekend trip is still on my bucket list, I feel completely comfortable flying on my own, using public transportation, and figuring out how to navigate a new city while solo. I am so glad I have these skills now after living and traveling in Europe. After this semester, I can’t wait to plan a solo trip back to Europe one summer in the near future.
3) After seeing so much of Europe during my time in Barcelona, I realized how little I have seen of my own country, or even my own state, South Carolina. Some of my best memories have been just stepping out of the door of my apartment and getting lost in the city. I stumbled upon new neighborhoods, parks, museums, and restaurants, all because I made the time to explore. I hope I will remember the joy of taking time to sight-see; I want to take time to be a tourist in my own city! When I get back to South Carolina, I am definitely going to plan a road-trip around my own state because there is still so much I haven’t seen.
4) Traveling is truly one of the greatest adventures you can undertake. I never would have believed I would meet so many different kinds of people from all over the world in my classes, out in Barcelona, on planes, trains, and in hostels. You can learn a little from everyone you meet, and sometimes they can change your perspective about something you always took for granted.
This semester in Barcelona is one I will never forget. I have definitely changed for the better. I am still in disbelief that the semester is coming to a close and I will be returning to the states in January, but I will never forget the fond memories I made here nor the incredible experiences I have had. That is what I am thankful for this year.
The world awaits…discover it.