Barcelona, Spain – Estoy Aquí, I am Here! — The North Star Reports – by Katherine LaFleur. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

A special series. Barcelona, Spain – Estoy Aquí, I am Here! — The North Star Reports – by Katherine LaFleur. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

arc de triomf[Photo 1: Arc de Triomf, Barcelona’s own]

Saturday, the 3rd of January, I began my trip. Driving the 164 miles from my house to Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport’s first terminal, it still hadn’t sunk in that within hours I would be immersing myself in a culture quite different from the one I had grown up in. My first flight flew 8 hours overnight, crossing the North Atlantic, and numerous time zones. My second, from Amsterdam to Barcelona was only 2 hours- but it seemed somewhat longer than the much more familiar drive from Duluth to the Twin Cities that takes about the same time. Sunday, the 4th of January, I had arrived in Barcelona, Spain and had begun my 90-day adventure.

park zoo[Photo 2: Parc de la Ciutadella, the huge park very near my apartment here in Barcelona, it features this lovely fountain as well as the city zoo!]

Before departing, I purchased a book suggested to me by my academic advisor/Spanish professor/Chair of my major, The Way of the Traveler: Making Every Trip a Journey of Self-Discovery, and within the first few pages I found writing activities intended to help me look introspectively at the kinds of emotions I was experiencing. On the plane from Amsterdam to Barcelona, I began feeling a bit anxious with the knowledge that I was only hours from my destination. I wrote in my journal various feelings, and after each I tried to trace them back to the source, it was a practice all at once overwhelming and therapeutic. For those of you who have traveled abroad for any period of time some of these may resonate with your experience, for those who have yet to travel- let them serve as an insight to what may precede the excitement and joy that studying abroad allows.

above fountain[Photo 3: The view from the top of above fountain, it’s very common for lovers to write their initials on locks and hang them from various bridges, fountains, public places, etc.]

Here’s what I felt:
Anxious: being away from family seems like a respite- especially when your family is huge and raucous, like mine; but in all reality my family is my everything and being apart from them was actually one of my biggest fears. Realizing I’ll be three months without my friends and my hometown routine was a bit disheartening as well.

Excited: this is an opportunity I’ve wished for since the summer of 2011 when I visited Spain for the first time, I’m so very happy to be able to live here in Barcelona and utilize everything I’ve been studying.

Worried: that everything I’ve studied thus far will be insufficient; that my Spanish won’t be up to par, that my ignorance will shine through.

Exhausted: physically AND emotionally. I tend to avoid goodbyes to avoid the mushy, teary-eyed experience that usually accompanies them, and this trip was no different. But some I couldn’t avoid and they were some of the most difficult. Also, at the time of this journal entry I had already spent 14 hours sentada (seated) in airplanes, airports and a car, and I hadn’t slept a wink since the day before- so I was a little tired.

Barcelona outlook[Photo 4: View of Barcelona from Mirador Montjuïc, or the Outlook on Montjuïc]

Now, I am well rested and feeling fine although I’m well aware I will experience a whole gambit of these same emotions and more during my stay. I’ve already had the chance to explore my new home a little, and am so very excited to learn more and more about its layout, history, food, and people – and how they all interconnect to form the beauty that is Barcelona! I hope to share my findings, musings, and interests with you, dear readers of the North Star Reports, and am more than happy to answer any questions you may have along the way! Hasta luego!

Barcelona Plane[Photo 5: Aerial view of Barcelona from the plane that brought me here!]

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to contribute to The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at)

For all of the North Star Reports, see See also,

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, The Middle Ground Journal and The College of St. Scholastica’s collaborative outreach program with K-12 classes around the world. We acknowledge North Star Academy of Duluth, Minnesota as our inaugural partner school, and the flagship of our K-12 outreach program. We also welcome Duluth East High School and other schools around the world. The North Star Reports has flourished since 2012. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

The North Star Reports will share essays from our student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. Student interns have reported from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world. We will post their dispatches, and report on their interactions with the North Star Reports students and teachers.

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports and The Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open-access policy. K-12 teachers, please contact the chief editor if you are using these reports for your classes, HLIANG (at)


Filed under Katherine LaFleur, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

22 responses to “Barcelona, Spain – Estoy Aquí, I am Here! — The North Star Reports – by Katherine LaFleur. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

    • Josie Thao

      Kat, I’m excited for your new adventures in Barcelona! I love that you are visiting again and deepening your experience a second time and extending the knowledge you already had. One thing that made me chuckle was that you’re right, the knowledge you gained in class will be of no help as you learn your way through a new place.

  1. Stephanie

    Amazing! This is a great idea! Happy Blogging! 🙂

  2. Camila Garcia

    I feel identified with this article since I am an international student and I have been in CSS for the last two years and a half. When you travel and make the new place your second home begin having bittersweet feelings when saying goodbyes. You miss one place when you are in the other, you have two homes.

  3. David Miller

    I am very jealous that you get to have this experience, and wish you the best of luck! I do have a couple questions to ask you as well. After being in Barcelona about a week did you at all experience a culture shock? One last question is how do you feel your emotions will be the last few days you are in Barcelona?

    • Hi David! First of all, let me apologize for responding so late – I’m still figuring all this out! As for your first question: yes, absolutely I’ve experienced culture shock! Moving to a new city is a tough adjustment, let alone a new country, and with most everything here being primarily in Catalan I’ve found that my basis in Spanish is helpful but not always enough. As far as how I’ll feel once I have to leave – I’m sure it will be a mix of emotions similar to how I felt when I arrived: something along the lines of bittersweet. I’ll be excited to get home and see my loved ones, but I’ll also likely be reluctant to leave my new home as it definitely has it’s benefits compared to good ol’ Duluth. Ciao! 🙂

  4. Kyle Hellmann

    I’m sure the journal you are writing in will be a great way to keep your memories, very cool idea! What a great experience to have and I look forward to reading more of your blog entries

  5. Kaitlyn

    This sounds like such a wonderful adventure for you! I find that the emotions you are experiencing are the same ones that I felt during my much shorter trips abroad to Italy and Germany. I especially can relate to being anxious about leaving your family. I come from a very large and loud family, and being away from them was difficult at the start of my trip. I hope that you have a wonderful time in Barcelona! Keep your excitement level up!

  6. Katy Goerke

    J’adore Barcelone! How is the Catalan language treating you? I remember as a fluent franglaise (like Spanglish with French) speaker Catalan was a relief to my jet lagged eyes. But I wonder what it looks like to a Spanish speaking student. Enjoy the Mediterranean and the sun!

    • Zach Friederichs

      I recognize all of those same emotions from when I travelled abroad to Quito, Ecuador for a semester. It was probably the most overwhelming time in my life and was worth every single second. And although those feelings will come and go I remember being exhausted for the duration of my journey (in a good way). Never relax and take every opportunity you come across! Enjoy!

    • Hi Katy! I’m a beginning French student, and have studied Spanish for an extensive period, so Catalan is an exciting mix! I’m hoping to learn more about it and maybe pick some up through an intercambio program that pairs international students with locals!

  7. Kyle Stepka

    This is a very cool story and it would be awesome to be in your position. I have a couple questions and one of them is how awesome are some of the connection you have made with the people over there? My last question is what is the weirdest thing you have seen over there?

    • Hi Kyle! As far as connections I’m forever grateful for my roommate, Zoe, who goes to Ohio State but originally is from the Virgin Islands. She’s the first person I’ve ever had to share a space with, really, and she is everything I could have asked for! I’ve also made a few really good friends through my classes both at UPF and ESCI. I haven’t made many local friends as of yet, but every day I’m working on it to enhance my experience further! As far as the weirdest thing I’ve seen here in Barcelona… I guess it would be just how many people use selfie-sticks! I’m not used to that at all, and they are EVERYWHERE here.

  8. Daniela Rojas

    It is hard being away from home I totally understand what you feel. But Barcelona is a great place! The people from there are really friendly and they will make you feel at home right away. You will have a great time while you are there and you will be able to see so many amazing places that you might not even have time for all of them!

  9. Ada

    It sounds like you will have an amazing adventure filled with self-discoveries and memories. I can’t wait to read more!

  10. Andy Lawrence

    You are one lucky girl to be able to go on this trip. I completely understand feeling those emotions when saying goodbye to your friends and family I left far away from home when I moved to college. I hope you have a great experience in Spain. One question I have is what are your plans when you are there in Spain?

    • Hi Andy! While I’m here my main goal is to take classes and I was hoping to be in some with locals to be able to assimilate better. Through my program I have quite a few mini-trips planned which is amazing, and will allow me to visit other places in Spain as well as in France! My roommate and I would also really like to travel around Europe during our ‘free weekends’ as classes here only run Monday – Thursday and it’s apparently very common for students to travel during the weekends!

  11. Austin Kindt

    It sounds as though your adventure has just begun! As hard as it is to be away from home, traveling gives you a new perspective on life and many memories! I can’t wait to read more about life in Spain.

  12. Tyler Winkelman

    This sounds like fun and exciting adventure! I would love to travel to Spain right now instead of the cold winter in Duluth. What a great experience to have and I look forward to reading more of your blog.

  13. Emily Schiro

    This sounds like the most amazing adventure to experience. I agree with some of the other people who commented about being jealous of the great opportunity you have received. I enjoyed the explanation of what you were feeling because it bring me directly into what you were going through. I can only imagine what it was truly like.

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