Maria Hanna ’18 – 116 Days Photo Essay on Study Abroad Journey

The view from El Turó de la Rovira: Barcelona, Spain

The sun was just beginning to set, painting the sky in cotton candy hues. My legs were exhausted and my breathing was growing ragged as we raced against the clock to reach El Turó de la Rovira before the last remnants of daylight slipped below the horizon. Stumbling through the thick vegetation that had crept into what I am now certain was not a real path, I wondered what we had gotten ourselves into. It had taken us over an hour on the bus (although about thirty of those minutes were spent on the wrong bus), as well as a substantial hike from where the bus had unexpectedly stopped running, to reach this point. We were hungry and exhausted from a long day of exploring. I was on the brink of voicing this complaint to my friend when I turned around and caught my first glimpse of the view, and the words instantly died in my throat. It was a blending of worlds, the point where the watercolor sky meets the mountains, and the mountains meet the city—the city that would be my home for the next four months. The feeling as I looked out over Barcelona for the first time was indescribable; everything seemed small and manageable, yet vast and impossible at the same time. There was so much to explore, yet I already felt at home. The reality that I was finally in Europe, a dream I had nurtured since childhood, hit me with such finality that it was simultaneously terrifying and exhilarating. In that moment, I knew I was leaving every ounce of comfort and familiarity—my family, my university, my favorite foods, my first language—across an ocean, and moving forward into a world of discovery and opportunity, inevitably accompanied by a great deal of confusion. But I was ready for the challenge, and so began the best four months of my life.

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