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First Impressions

by Katarina Hedstrom

Last Updated on October 8, 2014 by


I’ve been in Barcelona for just over a month now and in these short weeks, I’ve already learned so much (cliché). Here are just a couple of the things that I’ve experienced in this first crazy, busy month!

Not everyday is life changing

I am not Blair Waldorf, which means that even though I’m in Europe, there are nights where all I’ll do is watch New Girl in between doing my Spanish homework. There will be Friday nights where I don’t want to spend 30€ so I stay in. But don’t get me wrong, even though there aren’t bells and whistles, every single day is an adventure. Sometimes that adventure means getting lost on the metro or in the streets, and sometimes it means I get to hike up mountains. Whatever it is, every single day I’m growing and maturing.


I grew up in a small town of 8,000 people so living in a city of over 1 million has been a slight adjustment. Yet it hasn’t been the thousands of people I see every day that has the biggest impact. It’s the 30 students in my classes, from dozens of countries that have left me amazed. There are students who know four languages and have studied abroad twice already. Or my favorite, the Germans, who know words in English that I don’t even know the definition of. A girl from China asked me how long I have studied Spanish, and after hearing three years, she was shocked that she knew as much as I after only studying for two months. Everyday I see how much room for improvement I have.

1€ = $1…right?

The conversion rate is slowly killing my wallet. The fact that Europe doesn’t believe in coupons is just the beginning of my money stress. Whether it’s buying a cafe con leche, withdrawing cash, or reserving a plane ticket, it takes me until after I’ve bought it to remember just how much I’ve actually spent. On a good day 1€ = .799 and on a normal day 1 = .75 aka everything is actually 30% more than it’s actual price rage. In my finance class our professor uses examples with the exact conversion for that day so at least I know when I can get an extra $2 when withdrawing cash (and yes I get way too excited over it). So yeah that 50€ flight looks like a great deal, which it is, just not as great as you first calculated.


Back in my first few days here, I learned the hard way that people simply do not hit the panic button as much as Americans do; in fact, I’m pretty positive they never do. When I first thought I had lost my phone, as I told my host mom about it, she calmly stated there was nothing we could do for a couple hours because of siesta; no one would answer because they were either eating, sleeping, or closed. Here I was without a phone, thousands of miles from home and she acted as if nothing had happened. And it doesn’t stop there; everyday I see examples of people taking time to just truly enjoy life. On my way to school one day I saw the mail lady stopped for a cup of coffee, and it looked as if she had made herself at home there, her mail carrier sitting right next to her. There’s a cafe close to our apartment and every single day I see the owners sitting down with their customers. Sure, they’re busy, but for right now they need to sit down, take a break, and chat with the people that are giving them business.

Maybe this is a big deal for me because I’m the type of person that loses sleep over things that I’ve only made up in my head, but it’s taken some adjustment. For two hours every day, and on Sunday, life kind of just shuts down. Have errands to run? Too bad, go nap instead. Over here life literally tells you to just stop, and rest, hang out with the family, do whatever, but just take a break from stress and chaos. I like things to be done right away, patience has never been one of my strong suits. But siesta is slowly teaching me that things will pan out eventually, and until they do, I need to just go take a two hour nap.

Prioritizing is not selfish

The number one piece of advice that I got before I left was to be selfish with my time, and to do what I want to do because I only get three and a half months over here. Every day there’s a part of me that is ticking down every minute I am here. I worry that I won’t get everything done. The important thing is to never hold yourself back because no one is following. You want to go out tonight and no one else does? Go anyways. No one else wants to get up early to explore? Go anyways. I constantly have to remind myself that in 10 years, I’m not going to remember the nights I was a follower and unhappily did what everyone wanted, but I’m gong to remember the day I checked things off my bucket list.

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