The Study Abroad Chronicles – Part 1

Nice to meet you Barcelona, my name is Maddie.

img_1605By the time I landed, I already felt like Barcelona had defeated me. Two rain filled layovers in JFK and Heathrow, and the small debacle of missing my third flight depleted me of all my energy and left me with bags under my eyes and only adrenaline to keep me going. When I stepped off the plane in my final destination wearing yesterdays clothes, and in dire need of a shower, the Spanish sun poured in through the airport’s glass windows and warmed my skin, offering me glimmer of hope (along with some much needed vitamin D). I could put it simply and say that this week has been hectic… but it has been anything but simple. It’s been complex and exhilarating, scary and wonderful, and when days turn into nights and the sky goes sherbet orange and gold with flecks of pink, it is magical.

Our flight took off early at 6am, which meant driving to LAX at 3am and saying goodbye for five months to my tearful parents around 4:30am. I had three connecting flights that added up to a grand total of 27 hours of traveling due to my help-me-I’m-poor college budget. Then something amazing happened… by the grace of god an angel at American Airlines upgraded our tickets from economy to BUSINESS. The moment I discovered I was in business class is quite honestly a contender for the best moment of my life. Never will I forget the complimentary champagne, the warm towelettes, or the reclining chairs, and never again will I be able to afford it. I slept for five hours straight.

Upon arriving in London, the line at customs and the wait at baggage claim ensured that we did indeed miss our flight. We ran frantically from one side of the airport only to be sent back to the other side, had our tickets changed twice, got stuck in an elevator, dropped suitcases down escalators, laughed a lot and finally made it to our gate with one minute to spare. I fell asleep on the flight over but when I woke up and saw the ocean and the sun from my window I nearly cried. We had arrived. (Best part: taxi driver holding a sign with our names on it – just like the movies)!

img_1478The apartment I share with two roommates is very quaint and European looking, which is obvious, I guess, considering I am in Europe… but you know what I mean. Think red, yellow, and blue Catalan futbol flags hanging from apartment windows, miniature appliances, teeny tiny shops that sell nothing but bread and pastries for a euro, men in fancy leather shoes, and lots and lots of people smoking cigarettes in a way that makes them look really sophisticated and not at all like what you grew up learning in the D.A.R.E. program at school.

My roommate and I share a little bedroom with two twin beds pushed against opposite walls separated by a big window and nightstand with two drawers. The window opens up with no screen and we like to stick our heads out and look at all the people down below.  Our walls are paper thin and at night I can hear people on the street walking home from bars and clubs chanting, “¡Barcelona!, ¡Barcelona!, and even though I’m trying to sleep away my jet lag, I don’t mind it at all. It is exiting knowing that the city is so alive and that soon I’ll be walking home chanting from the streets as the sun comes up too.

This morning I woke up before the sun was up and went out to the balcony in slippers and a giant wool coat – I like watching the old Spanish women pull open their shades and seeing the square windows of the apartments across from me slowly go from dark to illuminated as they wake up to water their plants and hang their laundry from the line. The sun finally started to rise and I could clearly see that Barcelona had not defeated us, it’s challenged us, and we are so ready.

xx Mads


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