Before Barcelona: A Different Experience

Studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This summer, I’m spending a month in Barcelona, Spain, the cosmopolitan capital of the Catalonia region. Traveling sparks excitement in most people’s hearts, but my feelings have been a little different than what you may expect.

Everytime I told someone that I was going to study abroad this summer, the replies were generally the same. “You’re so lucky,” they would say, or, “I’m so jealous. You’re going to have a great time.” However, as my departure date got closer and closer, feelings of dread began to arise. When I was a child and my family would go on out-of-state road trips together, I had anxiety. So imagining myself traveling alone across the Atlantic ocean to a foreign country brought feelings of panic. I was very unsure about the trip, but studying abroad is a mandatory requirement for graduation from my advertising program at USF.

I know it may sound spoiled for me to say that I didn’t want to study abroad, but traveling is just not everyone’s thing. But I fear regret even more. I decided to take the risk and step out of my comfort zone, and I committed to the trip.

Until departure day, going to Barcelona was just something that I talked about, but it didn’t really feel real. I knew that I would be anxious on the plane, but I was not prepared for it to be as bad as it was. I flew out of Orlando and into Atlanta, where I had a longer layover. Then from Atlanta, I flew overnight for 9 hours straight into Barcelona. The flight was comfortable and they offered a hot meal, for which I was grateful. But as soon as we took off, I lost my mind. I was the most anxious I’d ever been in my life — I was having a terrible panic attack and could not stop crying. Luckily I had wifi and was able to iMessage my boyfriend for emotional support and a distraction. If not I might’ve had to call over a flight attendant for support, it was seriously that bad. The panic attack lasted almost the entire flight, with the exception of the two hours I was able to get some sleep.

Coming into this trip I had much to worry about: how I would get around, whether or not I would make friends in my program, not getting along with some of my peers, the time difference, navigating a long-distance relationship, and overall being completely out of control and out of my comfort zone. However, I am on day two of my trip and most of these fears have already evaporated. I have already become more confident and have had my first feelings of excitement.

I know that this post may seem overwhelmingly negative, but that is not my intention. I’m trying to represent those of us that aren’t always as eager to or comfortable with traveling abroad. It’s okay to be scared (1) because it is scary to travel to another continent where you know no one and (2) if you never take risks you will never grow. I am excited for my journey and growth here in Barcelona. I believe that this month will make me more independent, confident, and cultured. I’m proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone and looking forward to sharing my experiences with you all.

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