Why did you decide to move abroad?
I fell in love with travel at a very young age. I found different countries, cultures, and languages fascinating and wanted to see and learn as much about them as I could. (Yes, that affliction that us millenials have named "wanderlust") During my college years I studied abroad in Seville, and I've never been the same. I came back to be a bilingual assistant for a year and stayed for three, (sorry, mom). And then I met a boy on the beach with a watermelon full of sangría. Honestly, what could I do? I love sangría. Four years later, here we are in Barcelona. (Though I haven't had sangría since).
How did you spend your First Month Abroad?
My first memory when the bus dropped me off in Almería that first year, was sobbing all the way to the police station. I had no phone, no internet, just the name of the hotel where this girl I met on Facebook was staying and would meet me. That first month spent abroad was not easy and glamorous, and anyone who tells you theirs was, is a liar. I'm not talking about studying abroad, because that is easy and glamorous. At least in my case I paid for my housing, schooling, events, food, etc, I just needed to show up. When I moved back for an entire year, I was on my own. Very little information existed on line about the program I was doing, to such an extent, in fact, that there were multiple times I questioned if it was even legitimate. It was, thankfully, but I had no idea what to expect upon arrival. Luckily I was able to get in touch with one other girl in the same area, and we bound together and got through those first few weeks, and the rest of the year together. We stumbled through apartment visits, bank appointments, NIE appointments, setting up internet and electricity, and of course knowing when enough was enough for the day and we needed a caña and a tapa, asap. Take away message: just remember, one of the best years of your life could start with you crying in broken Spanish to a police officer.
What has surprised you most about living in a foreign country?
Even seven years later I think the thing that still keeps surprising me is how much I have been adopted into this country, even from the very beginning. People from all around Spain have treated me like family from the very beginning. I expected to feel much more like an outsider, but they truly want to get to know you, to learn about your culture, and show you theirs, and I think this is one of the main reasons I have been here for so long.
Any cultural/language barrier funny moments?
So many I honestly can't even remember them all, somehow my boyfriend's brother seems to remember all of them and use all of the words I still can't remember to say properly any time I'm around. In general I'm a person who has plenty of "foot in mouth" moments in any language, so it gets hard to keep track of certain moments specifically. I recently said at a barbecue, "You should see the things Pepelu does to me at home,"--in reference to someone burping at the table. No language barrier there though, foot straight to mouth.
What are your favorite activities in your new town?
One of my favorite things about Barcelona is that there is always something cool going on and a new place to eat that we haven't tried yet. I'm just really getting into my blog so I'm making it a personal goal to do and try as much of these things as possible. This is an awesome website that a Spanish friend created with lots of events for newbies, and of course Time Out.
What advice would you give to tourists visiting your new home town?
I live in Barcelona now, and right now being a tourist, or a foreigner in general is a tricky thing. Anywhere you go in Spain, you should definitely try your best to speak Spanish, and respect the culture as much as possible. Its okay to not know much, but trying shows effort, and its usually rewarded.
Aside from just being a decent human being, try to steer away from the major touristy points of the city. (Please, PLEASE don't go to the Barceloneta in the summer. I will personally send you a list of better places to plop your towel.) Of course you may have some time already set to see Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell, that's great. But try to find out about local events and festivals happening in the neighborhood you're staying and the best bars and restaurants that the locals love. I highly recommend using Airbnb and staying with people who live here, they are usually the best resources.
What is the one MUST SEE?
I have never been able to nail myself down to one thing, so this will be no different. It is a sin not to see the Sagrada Familia, at least from the outside, if you go to Barcelona. If you want free--see the view of the city from the Bunkers, and the Magic Fountains. Wow, I nailed it down to three!
What do you miss most about home?
After seven years, you adapt pretty well to your surroundings, because if you didn't, you wouldn't have been there for seven years. I've been able to replace nearly everything I once missed, except for family. They are the one thing I think about daily and truly miss.
The million dollar question strikes again! At this point, its hard to tell. I've established my life here at this point. I have a permanent job, boyfriend, apartment, cat and city that I love. But, that being said, my heart is always looking for the next new adventure, and I am open to the possibility of moving somewhere new. Experience has taught me though, that planning the future is the most futile activity you can entertain your brain with. As Justin Bieber and Luis Fonsi once said, "poquito a poquito."