Two Month Check-In: Absurd Amounts Learned

By Parker Schug, April 4, 2022
This may be deja-vu to my last post, but studying abroad is not an easy process!

This may be deja-vu to my last post, but studying abroad is not an easy process!

Before you think I am here to poo-poo on studying abroad, hear me out. The other day, I hit my two month mark of living in Barcelona. Coinciding with my two month mark, my Spanish Studies Abroad program director, María asked if I would be willing to come speak to a visiting chair to share some information about my experience and how Spanish Studies Abroad has impacted that. And while all that was going on, I got to grab dinner with one of my friends from Ithaca College, who is currently studying in Rome, who spent her weekend in Barcelona. 

Yeah, that’s a lot. But here’s where they're all connected. 

I hit a bit of a study abroad burn out point on Wednesday, March 9th. A combination of exhaustion, mal-nutricion of my body (my own doing), rainy weather and homesickness hit me all at once, leaving me at the kitchen counter of my apartment in tears on the phone with my mom. 

This whole process has taught me millions, and I mean MILLIONS of things. I have tried time and time again to get myself on a routine, a sleep schedule and a consistent working out grind. All the while, exploring every part of Barcelona, not blowing all of my money, making friends, applying to internships and staying in touch with people at home. A whole lot of pressure. 

This weekend, following my little burnout, breakdown session, I decided to plant my body in my bed, put on the Netflix movie, Instant Family, and recover. 

I don’t think every person's study abroad experience is the same. But, I can say that anyone like myself is trying to take advantage of every waking moment and it really catches up to you. Luckily, with some sleep, and some time off from Barcelona’s booming nightlife, I was able to do some reflecting. 

So here are some major lessons, thought out from the comfort of my bed, just in time to get back out on the Barcelona streets, in a more moderate, sustainable way for the second half of my time here:

  1. Sleep is an UTMOST important part of studying abroad.
    • Maybe this is bad advice. I’m certainly no professional on this subject. But if I could advise you to do one thing when you’re abroad, it is to take advantage of those nights that you have the opportunity to get a good night's sleep, wind down, drink your tea, watch your favorite Netflix show and RELAX. Studying Abroad is seriously so go-go-go and when you have those down time nights, that is your time to recharge. Those moments will also make this new environment feel more like home in my opinion because it’s a little chunk of you-time, whereas the rest of your time may be devoted to exploring this new city. 
  2. Don’t be afraid to take a night off.
    • Going off of my first point, this was something that took a lot of time for me to learn in Barcelona. I’ve come to understand that Barcelona is a city people travel to, to party! Which I love, I eat up the night life aspect. It’s exciting, social, energizing and incredibly youthful. However, partaking in this lifestyle four nights a week is not a sustainable lifestyle for me. Post some FaceTime calls with my mom, I was reminded how necessary it is for me to take nights off. Consecutive nights off, where my mind and body can recharge and recover. Then the nights that we spend out are much more fun because I have the energy and have had some time off from meeting people and dancing. 
  3. Bring your at home habits abroad.
    • For me this tip is rooted in working out. I have always been the type to release stress through a run, on the spin bike or in a workout class. At the beginning of my experience abroad, I didn’t necessarily prioritize this. This had to do with my FOMO mentality regarding going out and waking up late, but in recent weeks, I’ve reimplemented my waking up and getting on the treadmill routine. This has completely shifted my mentality. I have a clearer mind, a more productive headspace and a more positive and tranquil attitude. All of the other tips and tricks here have come to me because I’ve been more secure in myself in a new country through implementing the routines that make me, me. 
  4. Much more on the abroad wave: REALLY bring your habits to your new home.
    • I know I just explained to you the importance of maintaining your sense of self with your at home habits, but in relation to being in a new space, turn these habits into opportunities to integrate yourself while abroad. This week, I joined a local yoga studio. I did a one class free trial (those are my favorite, if you like working out, basically every boutique fitness studio everywhere offers a first class free trial, in the United States and in Spain, so it’s a great chance to find what you like), but I seriously loved it. Yoga has always been a big stress reliever for me and this beautiful space, and great instructor did just that. Plus, I had to practice my Spanish. Not so much in terms of speaking, but listening. Each new move, the instructor talked us through while also demonstrating. Super super cool! And it made me realize that I can understand a lot more than I let myself believe. Plus, it was a little Catalan community that I now have the chance to be a part of with the membership I just purchased!
  5. And lastly, I must finish this off with some tips for Barcelona studying abroad.
    • Before I get into this, I just want to wrap up this conversation with this: studying abroad is going to have its challenges. There will be plenty of ups and downs. You can read through this list of things to make it a little bit easier, you can listen to the advice of your parents, your friends, your advisors and any professional. The bottom line however is that each person’s experience will be different, you may never struggle or you may have to push yourself through every step of the way. Despite all this though, you are going to grow and change and learn in ways that you had no idea were possible. You will meet people and see things that you would’ve never imagined being a part of your life. You’ll come home with three or four months under your belt of living in a new place and any logical human being can agree that atleast something (if not so much more) positive and beautiful will come out of that. So do it! That’s the best advice I could give anyone considering it.
    • That being said, back to Barcelona! Whether you’re considering studying here, visiting here or you want to save this for your future adventures, here are the spots you must see on your trip to this incredible city. And yes most of these are big tourist spots, but for good reason!
      • Parc de Ciutadella (my favorite on the weekends)
      • Arc de Triomf (walk there from Parc de Ciutadella)
      • La Boqueria (right near Las Ramblas)
      • Camp Nou (see a FC Barcelona game)
      • Park Güell
      • Casa Batlló
      • La Segrada Familia
      • Barcelona Cathedral
      • Playa de Bogatell (right near Poblenou, Sundays are the best because there are so many people playing beach volleyball)