From Barcelona To College Park: A Second Semester Senior’s Reflection

It has now been a little under two months since I returned home from a dream-like semester abroad in Barcelona, and it feels like just yesterday I was jet setting all over Europe, trying new cuisines every weekend and immersing myself in a variety of cultures.

As a senior, it isn’t very common to go abroad this late in the game, but considering that I had always wanted to have the experience, I decided to take the leap before it was too late. Being a double major in broadcast journalism and Spanish, I had limited options in destinations that offered classes that would all count towards my degree. 

Going into my semester abroad, I had no idea what to expect—I was very fortunate to have been able to live in different cities and even in a different country prior to this experience, but I had never lived on my own in a setting quite like this one before.

The fact that I was going abroad didn’t even hit me until I moved into my apartment because prior to that, I had been living in LA for my summer internship. I had only 15 hours or so between my flight back from LA and my flight to Europe for a month-long family vacation, and then I stayed with family in Barcelona leading up to my move-in day—so I never really had time to think about it. On top of that, I packed for Barcelona in May, prior to leaving for LA and back then, it seemed so far way.

The summer went by and next thing you know, I was all moved in to my new apartment with four new roommates and a weekly routine all figured out. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with this enchanting city, where traditions and history meet a modern and hip vibe; where you can walk in one direction and easily get to the beach, or go in the opposite direction and end up on a mountain overlooking Miró’s breathtaking birthplace.

I had a running list of “go-to” restaurants, shops and landmarks, and I felt right at home. Each weekend would bring a new adventure in one of the many European cities I was so lucky to visit and life couldn’t have been more perfect. At the end of the day though, Barcelona took the cake for my favorite city of them all.

If asked if I got homesick, my answer would be simple: I miss the people I left at home, but not so much the place I call home. I was constantly seeing and learning news things; I spent my time doing things I truly loved, so other than my friends and family, I was missing nothing.

Being abroad in Barcelona taught me to refocus my time and energy on things I truly cared about, while also taking a moment each day to just enjoy everything around me. Being a type-A person, I thrive on being busy and prior to this trip, I was very used to filling up my days by the minute with club meetings and activities, homework and generally following a rigid schedule.

Having the opportunity to drop everything for a semester and have a fresh start allowed me to be more adventurous and try things I hadn’t done before—I started hosting my own podcast and writing articles, and I wouldn’t make many plans after classes and the gym, which gave me the flexibility to wander aimlessly around the city, each time finding something new.  I focused on being in the moment and I truly felt like a local.

To my surprise, the end of my time abroad came much sooner than I anticipated—after six months of being away from home, it felt like just yesterday I had started my journey. At the same time, I was ready to go home because I was certain that I had made the most out of my trip. I had learned how to live my best life and was ready to apply my new outlook on life to the future when I arrived back home. I was ready to embrace my last semester as an undergrad in College Park and all of the bittersweet moments that come with it.

I also wasn’t returning to the “same ol’ Colly P.” There were new restaurants when I got back, the hotel was all finished, and I was going to be living in my sorority house—something I had never experienced before. Having been away from home for so long, specifically College Park, combined with the emotional rollercoaster that is second semester senior year, I have been able to appreciate the little things so much more: the beautiful campus we have, the hangout spots I’ve made some of the best memories in throughout my four years, and all of the different UMD traditions we have.

Looking back on the timing of my abroad experience within my four years at the University of Maryland, I have no regrets and I would 100% do it all over again if I could. My biggest piece of advice is to find time in college to go abroad—whether it’s during a short-term break, a semester or even a year—I promise you won’t regret it.