Two years ago, if you would have told me I’d be on this adventure, I would have called you crazy. Traveling to Barcelona, Spain to stay two weeks with a family I barely knew—when did I get this kind of courage? With the support of the nine other girls from my school and our chaperone, I make my way toward my host sister, who I haven’t seen since she stayed with me six months ago. The host sisters and their families greet us with signs and dos besos (two kisses), an unforgettable welcome to a completely different culture.
As we make our way through the parking lot trying to find the car, I take in the new atmosphere, trying to comprehend that I am in Spain. We finally reach the car, which being European, is much smaller than most cars in America. I regret over packing as I watch my host father shove my luggage into the trunk, trying to make it fit.
Finally we are on our way to my new home, which is not the typical suburban house I am used to. My host family’s two family home is on the outskirts of the city, and the houses are very close together with a view unlike any other. I never knew it was possible to be able to see the sea, the mountains, and the city from one house. But it is not until later that I learn just how exciting the city of Barcelona is. The streets are lined with apartments and shops, each building with a unique architectural taste. Mopeds and public transportation flood the streets. As we make our way down Las Ramblas, a long street and popular tourist site, I enjoy the street performers and many souvenir shops. When we finally reach the end of the road, I catch my first glimpse of the famous statue of Christopher Columbus pointing toward America.
Perhaps the most remarkable sites to see in Barcelona are the works of the late architect Antonio GaudÃ. The detail of his works is too much to take in at first glance. The most famous of GaudÃ’s designs is La Sagrada Familia. Construction on this incredible church began in 1882 and it continues today. As I stand in awe beside the enormous church, I realize pictures do not compare to the view I see now. The height of the bell towers and the detail of every square inch of the church is nothing like I’ve ever seen before.
Also located in the heart of the city is CASP, the school I attend during my stay in Barcelona. After climbing to the sixth floor, the principal welcomes all the Americans and next we are off to class. Somehow the only lesson I fully understood was English.
I am happy to hear that the school has planned excursions for the American exchange students. Our first stop is the Church of Saint Ignatius. This is a beautiful church in the mountains. Next we make our way to Montserrat to see a historic monastery and view the holy statue of the Virgin Mary. Our next excursion is a tour of the older parts of Barcelona. I really enjoy the aged character and the peaceful atmosphere of the beautiful neighborhood.
Looking back, I can’t imagine my first European trip happening any other way. I learned so much about the Spanish lifestyle and communication in general. I feel much more open to other cultures and I can’t wait to travel abroad again.
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