What I’ve Learned About American Culture in Barcelona

Sarah Baigin Thiel is a student at the University of Kentucky and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Barcelona, Spain.

My roommate, Jess, and I enjoying the most delicious gelato in Lake Como- the perfect day trip from Milan, Italy.

Time is flying by this semester, and I truly can’t believe I’ve lived in Barcelona for two months already. While being a student in this city and learning the day-to-day routines of the local people, I have learned so much about myself and Spanish culture, but also my own American culture. I never expected that going abroad would teach me so much about my life at home and the culture that I have always known.

Obviously, there are many cultural differences between Spain, the United States as a whole, and my own home state of Kentucky (go CATS!). For example, the language barrier is a big one for me, along with how late we eat meals here in Barcelona and lack of personal space with the locals. However, I would have to say my favorite difference that I definitely want to incorporate into my life at home is the slower pace of lifestyle. So what does that look like in my daily life in Spain?

Dalkey is a suburb just south of Dublin, Ireland, and the view from Killiney Hill is absolutely incredible.

I sit down to have my morning café con leche and take my time walking the 30 minutes to school. Going out to eat with friends is a luxury. We sit for an hour or more just talking and sharing a meal together instead of scarfing down our food and racing for the check. When we’re on ISA excursions we have to stick to a schedule, but everyone takes their time in every moment to stop and really enjoy whatever activity we are doing. Once I began to get into a routine of embracing this slower pace of life, I realized I had so much more time to think about what I actually enjoyed doing in my free time and how much more peaceful my life could be if I took the time to slow down and savor the present moment.

Through my International Business classes, I’ve learned a lot on the basics of U.S. culture- we’re fast paced and thrive on efficiency. We’re focused on individual success with a “time is money” approach. After taking time to reflect (which I seem to do a lot while being abroad!), I realize how easy it is, especially being a college student in America, to feel rushed in your life. From racing out the door with your breakfast to go, to rushing through your school days to get to your “dream career”, we could all benefit from finding time in our days to chill out and slow down.

I climbed the many stairs to Sacre Coeur in Paris, France to catch the unbelievable sunset with a little glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, as well.

One of my biggest takeaways from this experience so far is learning how to enjoy the present moment. My hope upon returning home is that I’m able to savor my numbered days left studying for exams in the library and Saturday morning breakfast dates with my friends, among other things. Through traveling and exploring new places of the world, we are forced to be fully present in our surroundings and to the people we are with. I’ve found that by really focusing on slowing down the pace of my life, I’m able to be open to learning more about myself and the world around me. Time is flying by so fast, so we might as well stop to enjoy it just a little bit more.

Your Discovery. Our People… The World Awaits.

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