2021 Intern, Lily A., reflects on her final experiences and countless memories abroad in Barcelona as a Digital Marketing Intern over the summer.
From self-isolation back in the UK, nursing a roaring headache brought on by an unlucky scrape with the devilish disease that I’d evaded for the last three months abroad, it would be easy to catch myself over-romanticising Barcelona like many before me.
My camera roll is full of smiling, once strange now familiar, faces; patatas bravas glistening under paprika-spotted sauce; looming sandstone figures carved delicately centuries earlier, and screenshots of flight tickets, train tickets, map routes and local government updates. The latter group, although unlikely to make an Instagram post nor last long when my phone runs out of storage, was just as pertinent to my experience and arguably allowed the rest of it to happen. It also acts as a reminder that, although I was having a jolly good time, I was also living independently and responsibly in a foreign country and managed to do it pretty well.
My last month was a bizarre transition stage back to my ‘normal’, or at least ‘previous’ or maybe ‘English’ life, as I began making preparations for my return back home. I finished up my articles with the help of teachers at the school, where I was now both blogging and working in reception. I had final dinners and drinks with friends; as well as more personal goodbyes, like the last-time-I-have-to-climb-up-these-awful-stairs-to-my-flat goodbye. In a fit of patriotism, I gifted my classmates a teabag each (I’ve always found goodbyes awkward).
I also got to show off my Spanish lifestyle to friends and family. I met up with friends from home in Menorca, where I could show off my tan (Barceloneta Platja’s own), and Spanish speaking skills, in exchange for a few nights on their sofa bed. My parents made it to Barcelona on my last week, which was a lovely opportunity to show off my favourite restaurants in the city (i.e. the ones that had made me wince slightly at the price list but still rubber stamped as WORTH IT). I finally explored the insides of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia and Casa Battló as well as Sitges, a lovely beach town swarmed by Barcelonans on weekends, and Montserrat, a mountain-side monastery very popular with clearly insane cyclists.
It felt strange to see Barcelona, and Spain as whole, from their perspective. It had lost its novelty for me, it had become background noise to the vibrant life that I had created within it and could have carried anywhere in the world. However, seeing their eyes flash towards a piece of architecture or the faces brighten at a busker brought back all those emotions that I had had in my first few weeks. Awe. Wonder.
Now at home, everything feels different but the same. My dog’s fur feels thinner than I remembered and my own bed has never felt so luxurious. I reason that it must be me that’s changed, which is probably true. I’ve come back with a whole stack of memories, speaking another language and enough self-responsibility to survive three months away from home.
Therefore, my fond nostalgia for Spanish life is not just because I’m having a worse time in quarantine. It’s a feeling that will last, alongside the lessons I’ve learnt and friendships I’ve made.
– Lily Alford
2021 Journalism Intern in Barcelona, Spain