A special series. Barcelona, Spain – The Joys and Jolts of Immersion — The North Star Reports – by Katherine LaFleur. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal
They say bad things occur in groups of three. If such is really the case, I can certainly identify the grouping that made this last week a rough one; the start of the trimester, my laptop breaking (or so I thought), and the strange rash/bug bites that I found one morning and unfortunately still have to look at. It seemed like everything hit me all at once and I found myself beginning to feel incredibly discouraged – more so than I ever anticipated. I’ve never had a issue with confidence thanks to an incredibly supportive upbringing and amazing role models, and I’m a huge advocate of the idea of “faking it ’til you make it”- but this week I felt a pang of self doubt slowly grow with every new challenge I had to face abroad.
I realize now that it’s due to the fact that I’ve taken for granted the ease with which I do things at home. If I have a problem, well, first I ask my mom to help me and if I have no luck there, I move on to the next logical step. The point is that with any issue that arises, typically, I know where to go, I know what I need to do, and I know exactly what I need to ask for in order to get the results I desire. The kicker with studying in another country, especially one where the native tongue is not that of your own, is that any process contains many more bumps than it would at home, think: highly inconvenient surprises.
Starting classes meant maneuvering a new campus, learning a new system (schedule, expected behaviors, resources, cafeteria, etc.), and many misunderstandings on my part that led to some perhaps unnecessary difficulties. Issues with my laptop meant I had to find an Apple Store, make a ‘reservación’ with their Genius Bar on a website only offered in Catalan, and make the trek uptown trying to find the mall that housed my salvation. A strange set of red bumps on my elbows and chest resulted in a bed bug scare, an ER visit, and a prescription for antihistamines and a hydrocortisone cream. Most of these interactions were carried out in Spanish, I should add and each challenge left me with a growing urge to throw myself the world’s biggest pity party. Had it not been for the support of my loved ones back home and the friends I have here I probably would have gone through with it in grandeur.
What I’ve learned now after having gone through it all is this:
Things are rarely ever as simple as you’d expect.
[Musea Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC), is housed in the Palau Nacional and is a fabulous art museum with works ranging from Roman periods up to modern exhibits.]
Life is hard, have you heard? Life abroad is no different, perhaps only a bit more difficult because it’s unfamiliar. After everything was said and done, I came out the other end with a new laptop charger, a prescription, a regained love for language and confidence in my abilities to take care of myself – not to mention a better understanding of Barcelona and it’s metro system. It’s easy to forget how strong we really are when faced with intimidating trials in a new place, but what I’ve found is that it’s never more important to remember your past successes (a kind of mental pep talk?) and that our support systems are there for a reason; to give advice, encouragement, and well, support. The difficulties faced have reminded me of how easy I have it at home and have given me a much better understanding of those pesky tourists that flock to our beautiful city every summer. They’ve also served as a reminder that with every emotion I encounter during my trip, it’s worthwhile to take a minute and identify not only what I’m feeling but where it’s coming from. Am I really drawn to tears by the fact that I have to wait an extra 20 minutes to get help, or is it more so that I haven’t gotten much sleep, I’m going to miss dinner, and it’s interfering with my plans for the night? Overall, they’ve served as a much needed, albeit frustrating, dose of reality and although I would have preferred to have done without it all I do consider myself stronger now having gone through it all.
Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu
See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports
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 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 publishes edited essays from our students, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. Students have reported from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing reviews of books, documentaries, and films, projects on historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and analysis 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: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org The NSR is sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal and The College of St. Scholastica. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact chief editor Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu