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Readjusting

Time January 5th, 2015 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

Its hard to believe that I have been back in America for a  little over two weeks now; upon arriving home I haven’t had much time to stop and fully grasp the experience that I had in Barcelona.  I came home to family and friends bombarding me with the infamous question, “how was your experience?” I respond the same way each time, “it was amazing.” Seems as though that’s all I can say because in some way it feels like a distant dream that I just left a whole other country and a different way of life.

I have to be honest and admit that I immediately became extremely frustrated with being back, constantly annoyed by all of the “American norms” that I have always been accustomed to. For instance the small things such as when to eat dinner, or huge things such as  the lack of fresh food that is available. Whenever I spoke to close friends I found myself comparing my life in Barcelona to my life in America, or more specifically Minnesota (which is where I live).  I could tell that people were getting annoyed with me continuously talking about how Barcelona was “soooo much better” than living in America.  Of course I had no intentions of making people feel uncomfortable or even making it seem as though I disliked America, I guess it became my way of coping with the realization that my time abroad officially ended.

As the days go by, I am starting to get back into the swing of things. Such as working at my job prior to leaving, and spending time with family and friends; In all I know that the road to readjusting  will not be easy especially because I am not the same person that I was before having my abroad experience. It is great to know that I will be able to share my story of how living in a whole new country changed my life!

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Traveling back to America

Time December 22nd, 2014 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

I left my place in Barcelona  at 5:45am; still numb to the feeling that, that was the last time I would see my residence. Instead of taking a taxi to get to the train to head to the airport, I decided to walk. I wanted to soak up the fresh morning breeze, and embrace the feel of the cobblestone streets underneath my feet before officially saying, “see ya later Spain!” Upon arriving to the airport, it felt as though I was in a trance it hadn’t dawn on my that I was returning to America.

I had three connections to make on my way back to America; Barcelona to Madrid, Madrid to Philadelphia, and Philadelphia to Minnesota. It was an unbelievably long trip,  and once I made it to Philadelphia the first thing that shocked me was hearing English.  I had become so accustomed to hearing either Catalan or Spanish, that I sort of forgot about how it feels to be surrounded by all English speakers. I became frustrated, because I no longer  was provided with the challenge of having to understand a different language (a bit ironic huh!).   I was in full denial and still couldn’t admit to myself that I was no longer in Spain.

Overall the whole trip was a blur, I mostly slept on the plane and when I was awake I couldn’t help but think about my life in Barcelona for the past four months…a multitude of memories rushed through my mind, I continuously found myself smiling because of the wonderful things that I had experienced. This was a shock to me, because for some reason I expected myself to cry, I quickly realized that there was nothing to cry about! Through everything that I learned, all the people that I met, and even the obstacles that I faced this experience has meant so much to me and is something I will forever talk about.

Once I arrived to Minneapolis, Minnesota I walked down the stairs and went through the doors leading to where the baggage claim was. The first face I noticed, upon the many other people waiting for the arrival of  their loved ones, was my moms. She had a huge smile on her face, and was holding a camera (typical)! it was at that moment where I said to myself, “Shaketta you are now back in America, now go hug your momma.” It was weird to admit this to myself, and I knew the transition wouldn’t be easy, but knowing that I had a story to bring back with me, made the idea of my return a bit more bearable.

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Advice from a “so called” Alumni

Time December 22nd, 2014 in College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

I have been dreading to write this blog, its hard to believe that my trip abroad is near its final few days.. I have been in a complete worldwind of emotions this past week, consumed by papers, presentations, and projects…I didnt have much time to grasp the fact that I will be back in America soon!

Instead of boring you all with a sad senopsis as to why I dont want to leave Barcelona, I thought it would be most  beneficial to share some advice to all my fellow peers getting ready to study abroad this spring,,,or to anyone who is thinking about going to another country for an extended period of time. Im no expert or anything when it comes to living in a new country, but there are some really cool things that I have learned engaging in a cross cultural environment.
1.). Here are a few things that I suggest you do before arriving to your host country

  • Check the typical climate of your host country: the best thing that I ever did, for instance I learned that Barcelona was not always hot and there could be both rainy and cold weather. This prompted me to bring coat, while some of my friends had to rush around during the cold weather to try to buy a coat!
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Study abroads impact on who I am now?!

Time December 1st, 2014 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

I came abroad expecting to have an instantaneous change; I imagined a type of metamorphosis to occur within the first few weeks of being in Barcelona. This was such an unrealistic expectation, because as I near the end of my stay here abroad I am now starting to see how I have changed!

In pondering this question more, I am brought back to a conversation I had a few weeks ago with  a dear friend…

My friend Lars (who came to visit me from the South of Spain) said to me,,,

“Ketta you look different, seem more confident”

I responded with the look of confusion on my face, “huh, how so?”

Curious to understand what it was that my friend  meant, also how is it that he saw this mysterious change, and I couldn’t?

“I don’t know, I can just tell, for Christ sake you are wearing a classy sweater out!”

This was definitely not the explanation I was looking for, seriously how could a sweater define the impact abroad has had on one’s life?

Even though his explanation was not sufficient, Lars was right I did feel more confident! Being in Barcelona I have begun to learn so much more  about not only myself, but also life in general!  So in this blog I would like to share a few of these new insights…

First and foremost CONFIDENCE, something that I have always struggled with! I’m not sure where this new confidence came from but I cant remember a time where I felt this comfortable in my own skin. For example, there are days where I would go off on my own  to random cafes and meet people, also I even started wearing my naturally kinky hair (which anyone who knows me know, that this is  huuggge); facing the huge challenges that come along with being in a foreign country,  has given me the strength to truly get outside my comfort zone! ( I now feel invencible!!)

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Second, I’ve learned that I no longer have to please people. What I mean by this is that, back in the states  I never realized how much I would get so caught up in what other people thought about me.  Here in Barcelona  that has not been the case; In fact I am now a firm believer that it is a waste of time trying to please others!

Third, but certainly not least, NO WORRIES!! There is a saying here in Barcelona, “No Pasa Nada” which means “don’t worry about anything,” it is  used quite often, and what I believe is the essence of this culture.  Here in Barcelona you will find that a lot of people  don’t get stressed over things quickly.  I remember before leaving the states, my mom said to me , “Shaketta please don’t stress yourself, breath!” I have to admit that I use to constantly worry; Barcelona’s culture has consistently reminded me not to be fixated on the small things, and instead enjoy the present moment.

Three months ago I was not the girl  that I am today,  so I feel tis only right to give a huge thanks to the place I have now come to know as my home!…

Thank you Barcelona!

 

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Dreams do come true!! (PARIS)

Time November 24th, 2014 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

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#TBT

Time October 30th, 2014 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

As I enter the second month mark of my time here in Barca, I am not even close to wanting to go back to the states. I have fallen deep in love with this place!  Everything from the cobble stone streets, to the many people I have met; I can honestly imagine myself living here permanently! (sorry mamma).

For so long in life ( I say this as if I am old) I have been searching, craving, and desperately needing something that would help me see more of who I was! It only took about 8 hours across the Atlantic Ocean for me to have this new clarity! Well before I get to deep let me quickly change the subject,  In honor of Throw Back Thursday, here are some unseen photos that consist of many different adventures, random nights, and photos that I simply forgot to upload!!

(That one time I thought I was cool jumping inside a Volcano, this was a day trip to Olot)

 

(Part of the Ifsa- Butler crew hiking towards Tibidabo, which is a mountain overlooking Barcelona)

 

(This is just a really cool gate/doorway thingy….)

 

(Danielle and I, went to a wine tasting festival where we ate more cheese than having the actual wine; so we thought it would make us look fancy if we took a picture with wine)

 

(This was such a magical night, the closing ceremony of the La Merce celebration)

 

( Oh and this is the entry way to the H&M here in Barcelona„„its casual)

 

(Me and a few friends went on a random walk around Monjuic, and I had to capture this beautiful building)

 

( I had to also get a picture in front of it!…same building as the previous picture)

 

(Sometimes we pour wine through a colander…..the only explanation I will give for this picture)

 

(Eating like royalty in Montblanc, where we had our own private room and fancy chairs)

 

( Correrfoc, which literally means “running with fire” in Catalan; Danielle and I were brave enough to attend this event during La Merce! though it was really cool, we had to get away from the main area because the fire got to close to us)

 

(Had to add this pic, this was my first day not only in Barcelona, but in my room!!!!)

 

( One day some friends and I decided to have a movie night, but before that we had to stop at a market to get random snacks….)

 

(A magical piece of cheesecake from a wine festival, that I have yet to find again…..so sad)

Well until next time family and friends!!!

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In the midst of History

Time October 23rd, 2014 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

History was by far my least favorite subject in school and quite frankly I still don’t get thrilled when having to learn about historical figures who died a bagillion years ago!! To some people this may be an insult due to the fact that history is essentially the core of our being, unfortunately it just never tickled my fancy (interpret that however you want).  This past weekend has shifted my whole perspective, as I found myself completely blown away by the lavish mysteries of the past!

I had the opportunity to go on a day trip with my program (IFSA-Butler) to three striking places in Catalonia; Montblanc, Monestir de Poblet, and Terragona. For those of you who a geographically challenged like me, I will try to explain briefly exactly where I was!

Okay so imagine a map of Spain (like an “e” shape); Now Barcelona is in the northeast part of Spain (get it? got it? good!); Catalonia, like I have said in a previous post, is an independent community made up of four different provinces,  Barcelona being one as well as Terragona.  Approximately two in a half hours south of Barca (Barcelona) you will Find Terragona, and within this beautiful city you will encounter a small, stunning, medieval town called Montblanc. Lastly, the Monestary of Poblet is located no more than five miles outside of Montblanc!  Now that I have officially made you all even more confused I shall proceed!!

Saturday morning we had to meet our directors bright and early at 8am! Side note: In the sum of three days I had a total of nine hours of sleep (no Bueno) and I was feeling terribly sick!! also I was absolutely miserable which explains my half smile in the following picture!


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I Survived My First Month!!

Time October 8th, 2014 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

I Survived My First Month!!
My first month here in Barcelona has been absolutely amazing, I have seen so much, met so many new people, and ate so many tapas that I can barely fit some of my jeans.   The first couple of weeks consisted of me solely getting use to the idea of living in Barcelona! A lot of times I found myself in absolute disbelief, thoughts such as “wow you made it” and “I am actually here!” continuously crossed my mind.  I wanted to explore everything, I kept feeling as though I was going to run out of time, so I practically went anywhere just to see more of the city.  I guess you can say I was in a touristy state of mind, but as time continues to pass I am starting to realize that this is my new home for the next few months.   Instead of going through each thing I have done thus far, I thought it would be fun to show pictures that highlight some of my most memorable moments here in Barcelona so far!

1.) My first time looking from the balcony of my room, I fell in love. This was such a profound moment because my heart melted and I could hardly believe that I had made it to Spain!

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SO MUCH LOVE

Time September 26th, 2014 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

I had the amazing opportunity of witnessing a special event that took place in Barcelona, called “La Diada.” I don’t know much about history, but what I have learned is that La Diada is a day festival to remember the defeat of Catalonia during the Spanish War. Catalonia is considered an autonomous community, made up of specific provinces; Barcelona being one of them.  This year was especially significant, because Barcelona (Catalonia) have hopes of gaining independence.  In moving away from all the political side of things, I want to specifically give recognition to the beauty of community not only within this event, but overall in Barcelona.

The streets were full, and no matter where you walked you saw everyone representing the Catalonia flag.  Before I even started my day, I went out on my balcony and sat in awe as I watched the streets. It seemed like thousands of people passing by, waving their flags, singing, and holding hands.  I have NEVER seen so much love from that amount of people in a very long time. The main attraction of this day consisted of people dressing in the colors of red or yellow; and thousands of people standing in the streets of Barcelona to create the flag.  This alone was absolutely astounding, because it didn’t matter what age you were, practically the whole city was there.  I saw first-hand what it meant to love your community, it was simply beautiful and something I cannot put into words.

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(September 11, 2014)

My favorite thing about being in Barcelona, is seeing what love and care truly looks like from a community! No matter who you meet, you will be greeted with a smile and a kiss on each cheek, it is things as simple as a greeting that reflects care. In America, we are all about personal space, but here that concept doesn’t exist, at first it made me feel a bit uneasy but now as time goes by I am able to see that people here are comfortable with one another.  In pursuing this further, it amazes me how so many things here reflect the appreciation for community.  I have seen that even if you go out to eat at a café, they will never ask if you want the bill, you can stay in a café as long as you would like with family or friends, and it is your responsibility to ask for the bill (“la cuenta porfavor”). Now, to many of us Americans that seems ridiculous, we don’t simply stay in a place to talk, laugh, and really enjoy each other’s presence for too long because everyone has things to do! Well in Barcelona it’s the complete opposite, they embrace relationships and communing with one another for as long as possible.  This is not to say that certain Americans do not have this value, but it is safe to say that we are a more individualized society.

Barcelona is such a loving community and I can literally feel it.  I find myself wanting to watch more romantic comedies, or tell someone that “I love them,” it’s like I have been bitten by sum love bug and I have to admit that I’m liking it.   As the days go by I become more and more captivated by my new home; though it’s been such a short amount of time I know that I have made the right decision of coming here.

So now because Im feeling extra mushy as I write this I want to give a shout out to all my family and friends and say that I LOVE YOU ALL!!!

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The first Seven Days

Time September 16th, 2014 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

It has officially been a full week of living in Barcelona, Spain! I’m not quite sure where to start on explaining how I feel, what I have done, and learned thus far. I guess the best way to describe my initial feelings of my first week are in some ways similar to how an infant feels during their first week of life. I’m sure the baby feels overwhelmed and excited by the concept of a different world outside its mother’s womb; as well as the feeling of helplessness because it’s hard to communicate with others. So in so many words I feel EXACTLY like an infant fresh out of the womb of America!

Sorry I know that is probably an awkward analogy, but it is truly the best way to sum up my first few days here in Spain. Everything about Barcelona is so different from the world I was accustomed to; the language, food, and the overall way of life. I know this is quite obvious being in a whole new country, but I guess I hadn’t really thought about the, “newness” of it all. I have learned so much about my host country in such a small amount of time, I could literally write a novel titled, “The first Seven days in a New Country.” Unfortunately I don’t have time for that, on the bright side I can share some of the major things that I have discovered about Barcelona which is FULL of rich history and beautiful architecture.

I had the honor of seeing some of Barcelona’s prestigious attractions; La Rambla which is a famous street that consist of many theatres, stores and cafes, as well as beautiful modern buildings. Another amazing place that’s not too far from la Rambla is the Boqueria Market, which is by far the most beautiful market I have ever seen full of fresh food! I have learned that a lot of neighborhoods have their own markets, but nothing compares to the Boqueria. Other places include the Gothic Quarter which is the center of the ancient city of Barcelona. This place dates back to Roman time, and is full of medieval buildings! Words can’t even express how beautiful this part of Barcelona is. I can seriously go on and on about the striking places of Barcelona, but that would be impossible.

One of my absolute favorite things about Barcelona, is hands down the food (CLASSIC); it’s only right to talk about the food because it’s a huge part of the culture here. Despite not knowing what I am eating most of the time, Spain knows how to do it right when it comes to food. Everything from the Tapas, (best described as appetizers before the main course) to the deserts, is like a blast of fresh flavors that I feel as though America has robbed me of! You can literally find AT LEAST five cafes on every block and not to mention the multitude of restaurants.

I am absolutely infatuated by my new home, but I must be honest, there are also some struggles that I have faced this first week. The language barrier is an obstacle within itself, which interestingly enough there are two, both Spanish and Catalan. Also not knowing how to distinguish between the different streets and having to be THAT girl who pulls out a huge map every few minutes, and ultimately being uninformed about certain social norms. Overall it has been quite the adventure so far, I know this is just the beginning and I’m extremely excited and somewhat nervous about what else Barcelona has in store for me!

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IS THIS REAL LIFE?

Time August 25th, 2014 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

Disbelief, scared, nervous, curious, anxious, and excited are only some words that describe  how I feel as I prepare myself to leave for Barcelona, Spain in five days!! Yes FIVE DAYS I will walk into what will be a very life changing experience. I thinks its funny how when talking about this trip I mention how I am “preparing” to go abroad,  what does it even mean to “prepare” for this trip? I mean there is no actual formula, special potion, or pamphlet you get to really prepare  yourself, your family or your friends when getting ready to leave the country.  Though  I was given some logistical tools and advice from our program directors and friends who have gone abroad, I have to be honest and say that there is NO WAY that I truly feel “prepared.” As I sit here writing, I have came to the conclusion that it is okay to feel this way, also that it is okay not to know what to expect, what to pack, how to pack, what new relationships I will make in my host country, how I will maintain  old relationships, and ultimately the overall impact a trip like this will have on my life.  I know that was a lot, but these are the very concerns that have been on my mind for the longest. Now as time gets closer reality is beginning to hit and I cant help but to ask myself, “Is this real life?”  You see I grew up in poverty, around poverty, and some of my relatives still reside in that environment. It didn’t make sense for someone with my background to even have the opportunity to go to college, let alone ABROAD to study in a whole new country!!!!  Telling you all how I feel is impossible, there is not even a word that will fully grasp what I am feeling, but what I will say is that despite any and everything I know I am embarking on a special journey.  This experience is not just for me (that would be selfish) this will be a testament to every person who grew up in my situation;  had a dream that circumstances made seem impossible to let them know that your dream can be your reality!! So I guess the answer to my question is YES, THIS IS REAL LIFE…

See you soon Barcelona, get ready because KETTA IS GOING INTERNATIONAL!!!!!!

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