William Duncan (Barcelona, Jan. 23)

While choosing to attend Hampden-Sydney College was a difficult decision to make, the decision to determine my study abroad location to be Barcelona, Spain proved to be oven more challenging. As I don’t know what I want to do after college, I have been set on studying abroad for some time now. I’m biased towards warmer weather, so I knew I wanted to be somewhere close to water and in a warm climate. I had never been out of the country before and I knew I wanted to see Europe, but I was unsure where I wanted to spend the majority of my time. However, my selection process might have been a little different from others who chose to study abroad. I had to complete one more level of Spanish for my core curriculum requirements, so I began to narrow down places where I could take Spanish classes. Then, I looked at climate, culture, history, and environment, rather than at specific programs. I wanted the best cultural experience, rather than the best study abroad program. After comparing Madrid, Valencia, and Barcelona, I decided that Barcelona met my requirements for what I was looking for in a host city. This masterfully designed metropolis, full of historic artwork and architecture by the famous Gaudi, inhabits the shore of the beautiful Costa Brava and is the capital of the passionate Catalonians. While Madrid and Valencia both are fantastic options, I felt Barcelona was the place I needed to call home on this eye opening experience.

When I was planning for my trip abroad, I saw that Barcelona had a heavily athletic aspect of the city. Being an avid sports fan, this called to me: I am dying to attend a game in the historic Camp Nou stadium to watch one of the richest fútbol clubs in the world, F. C. Barcelona. I can’t wait to see the best player in the world without requiring a television—Lionel Messi. I want to be engrossed with the fans and experience the same passion that they feel, I want to bear the bitter cold temperatures in the signature Barcelona scarves to watch their famous blue and red jerseys fight for victory, I want to be at a small, local bar, cheering Neymar Jr. on to net another flashy goal. As a foreigner, how else am I supposed to truly absorb what it’s like to live in Barcelona?

Barcelona’s stunning coast called to me as well. I work as a sailing instructor for Camp Sea Gull in Arapahoe, North Carolina, but I’m sacrificing that summer work in order to experience sailing off the coast of Spain. I wanted to be somewhere where I could share my passion for this sport with. Barcelona has such a rich sailing culture. Its ports are lined with an excess of sailboats: day sailors, schooners, and massive yachts bob gently in the harbor. I feel like this is a reasonable substitute for my summer job.

Regardless of the endless experiences that Barcelona has to offer, I will admit that I was extremely nervous upon arrival. I am the only Hampden-Sydney student in Barcelona. I knew nobody in my abroad program. My biggest fear was that I might not meet enough people to be comfortable in this new environment. Not only am I not a great speaker of Spanish, but I have never lived in a city as large as Barcelona. One can imagine the culture shock of going abroad for the first time, but an unexpected culture shock was added when I realized how large Barcelona actually is… then again, that’s not saying much when compared to Farmville.

I made my biggest fear my main goal for my time in Barcelona: I want to meet new people from different places. I have lived in the Southeast United States for all of my life, and while I love it more than anything, I think that I should expand my horizons and meet people from many places around the world. I feel that being able to open myself up to new people is a trait that I will be able to use for the rest of my life. Two weeks into the program, I have found that there are many other students who are looking to do the same. I have found a fun group of friends who are from all around the country and are looking to experience Barcelona culture in the same ways that I am. They bring different outlooks on life and their different passions make this experience more exciting. I would not think to try some of the things we’ve experienced if not for these new friends and I could not be more excited to see what else Barcelona and the rest of Europe have to offer with my new friends at my side.

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