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Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone in Barcelona

Posted on March 13, 2020

As an African American from Mississippi, I am excited about the opportunity to live in a different country and experience a new culture. Although this is something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time, I never would have thought that I would have this opportunity. I only know two African Americans that have studied abroad for a semester or longer. However, I do know many Caucasians that have or are currently studying abroad. I am grateful to have this opportunity and hope to be an ambassador for other people of color to broaden their horizons.

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Because I am the only African American in the AIFS program at UPF, I have faced some challenges that perhaps would seem of no importance to many people but have caused me to look hard for something as simple as a beauty salon. My chemical free natural hair requires care that most salons in Barcelona do not offer. However, I was able to find an AfroHair store and with lots of gestures and bits of phrases in Spanish, they took me to someone that could do my hair for me. I used this challenge to explain something new to my study abroad friends and also practice my Spanish skills. I believe that putting myself in uncomfortable situations is how I can grow as a person and acquire different viewpoints that I never thought of. After being in Barcelona almost a month, I have felt out of my comfort zone many times. Ordering food at a restaurant, sending postcards at the post office, and even trying to find the entrance to my university’s library have all put me in a position where I feel uncomfortable. However, now I am able to order food with ease and even gave someone else directions to La Sagrada Familia.

My hopes for my semester abroad are to be able to communicate in Spanish efficiently and have a better understanding of the Spanish culture. All of the classes that I am taking will assist me in achieving this goal. I am taking a pre-intermediate Spanish class and just finished my first test. It went well and I am excited about the rest of material that we will learn in this class. I am also taking a class called Barcelona, the City and its History. Yesterday, we went on a field trip to see Bàrcino, which was a small colony built by the Romans before the Medieval period. It was such an amazing experience to see the Roman walls of the city, the public baths, and the temple of Augustus that were built over 2,000 years ago and are still standing today. In addition, I am taking another class called Contemporary Spanish Art. We also go on field trips in this class, and I’ve learned more about Spanish culture through the art right here in Barcelona. As a future physician planning to practice in a rural area in Mississippi, I hope to be able to communicate and understand my patients that are from different backgrounds than me. This semester, I will be immersed in a new way of speaking, new exposure to food and a new culture of everyday living in Barcelona Spain. I hope that not only will this experience change my life, but will also allow me to positively impact the lives of others.


Author: Katelyn Jackson

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