The Boiler Up Barcelona program has been one that I will never forget and better yet be forever grateful for. I went into this program expecting a journey in a culture I ultimately knew nothing about, but it was so much more than just that. To say it was a journey would be an understatement, and when adding the classes that I took into the mix of it all I learned more than I ever thought I would. After four weeks in Barcelona, 16 days of class, and a countless number of adventures along the way, I have come out on the other side as someone better, and I mean that in more ways than one.
First and foremost, I have come out an adamant promoter of studying abroad in college. This is the time to change your life and no matter how hard it may be to get there, wherever you may want to go, work as hard as you can to make it happen. Being someone who pays for school, including this program, entirely myself, I know it's not easy. But, I also know it's worth it. Studying abroad is an experience I truly believe in and so many students don’t have an understanding of the impact it can make on you. No matter where you go or how long you’re there, every program has something undefinable to offer, and something that you could never learn in a classroom at Purdue. Being able to share my adventures and lessons with others to help show them how life changing this experience has been will be something I will take full advantage of.
How has it changed me though? What will I promote? Well this program has first off, humbled me in such a way that has allowed me to see the world from an entirely different view point. Being a white, American girl from a very nice town who then was blessed to attend a very nice college you could definitely say I was very naïve and sheltered from the world that surrounded me. The second I stepped off the plane in the Barcelona airport, though, this sheltered world of mine was shaken and I have never felt more out of place and unintelligent in my life. At the time it was terrifying and unsettling, don’t get me wrong, but today I am so grateful for every moment that I had no idea what to do. I have been in situations where I felt out of place, but never to this extent, and this completely changed my idea of those who come to America from a different culture and what they’re experiencing. I hate to admit that I would regularly get annoyed at those who didn’t speak perfect English, or act in a way that America considers socially acceptable. I judged those that were going through a challenge that I could never understand until I went on this trip. I am forever grateful to have my delicate little bubble broken and being thrown into a world I didn’t belong in because I now am a better person, a better friend, and a better guide to those who need it. Because of Boiler Up Barcelona I am able to not offer judgment but instead an actual understanding and a desire to help those who were brave enough to break out of their own bubble and immerse themselves in something new, no matter the challenges that come with it.
What I found truly enriching was that once I finally found comfort in being uncomfortable, I also found a desire for more. It took time for me to get past the frustrations of having no idea how do something as simple as order a meal, as well as the utter confusion of the cultural practices that I saw and become immersed in every single day, but eventually that frustration turned into understanding and that confusion turned into curiosity. Being able to engross yourself in even just a small part of a different culture is something so different and something that teaches you so much. Whether you are in a different country or in your American bubble, there are dozens of cultures right at your feet that have so much to offer you and teach you. Barcelona, for example, taught me how to just slow down and enjoy the life around us. While I don’t think I’ll ever be able to walk at the pace they do, I have learned to take the time at a meal to just talk to the people I’m with and enjoy the food in front of me. Not only will I do that, but I will step farther to try new foods that I would have immediately turned away from before hand, and I can assure you I would have never done this before this experience. This is only one example of the affect Barcelona’s culture will have on my life. On top of allowed this culture to affect my life, it also provided me with an understanding that will help me in times where I’m faced with this culture again. This understanding is an asset that could help anyone in things such as business as well as just day to day. And this is where I truly appreciated the classes I was able to take while being immersed in the culture. Being shown how I can apply these new found understandings and experiences to my life and my future will be with me forever.
Dr. Smith told us more times than I could count that, “being in Spain is the class and there is no better way to teach you than this.” This could not be more accurate and brings me full circle. I am a more understanding, less judgmental, curious, enriched, fuller, and better person and I owe it all to going out of my comfort zone and engrossing myself in a culture that I, in no way, understood or belonged. Study abroad, it’s so much more than a simple adventure.