After her first trip abroad, she returned to her college town with a deep passion for traveling and experiencing new cultures. Six weeks in Spain was everything she’d hoped for and more – from making friends from all over the world, improving her speaking ability in another language, gaining a new family, and more. This week’s featured blogger is Kaley Rector, an International Education Ambassador at the University of South Alabama, who just recently returned from a summer in Spain.
After returning from my study abroad in Spain, I found a quote that couldn’t have been more fitting: “Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.” This quote, by Pat Conroy, explains for me what I can’t put into words. This summer was more than just studying abroad, it was about my own personal journey, a journey to figure out what I wanted to do in life.
I lived with a host family in Cuenca, Spain, a province in Castilla La Mancha, but had the opportunity to travel to other major cities in Spain on the weekends. One trip in particular always sticks out in my mind because of the cultural experiences I encountered. Some of the other students from South Alabama and I took the Alvia, a high speed train in Spain, from Cuenca to Barcelona on a Friday morning and got there within five hours. We stayed in a hostel to save us some money and, even though it wasn’t the cleanest place in the world, it was located right around the corner from La Sagrada Familia. In the end, we wanted location over quality, so we paid for what we got.
After we saw the inside of La Sagrada Familia, we ate at a restaurant down the street and called it a night pretty early so we would be well rested for the next day. Saturday turned out to be one of the best days I could have ever imagined. Churros with chocolate for breakfast and a view of La Sagrada Familia…I honestly would have been satisfied with that alone. The whole scene seemed surreal, and even though I was two weeks into my trip, it still felt like a dream. We spent the entire day seeing everything we could – we visited Park Güell, ran into the Castellers (human towers), just happened to come across locals doing the Sardana (a traditional Catalan folk dance) in front of the Cathedral in the Gothic Quarter, ate seafood paella, got to see a gay pride festival, threw a coin in the Ciutadella Park fountain, and so much more.
Even though we had planned out our weekend of all the things we wanted to do, the things we ran across were so culturally influential and important that we couldn’t pass them up. Seeing and experiencing these “off the beaten path” events made my experience ten times better and more memorable. I felt as if I was truly seeing the lifestyle of locals in Barcelona, even if only on a small scale. Since I’ve been back, I realized how much experiencing a new lifestyle or a new culture, and just meeting people from other places, can truly change you for the better. My trip to Spain made me realize my passion for learning about others and their cultures and has ultimately made me strive to do whatever possible to go abroad again in the future.