The last time you heard from me I was heading off to a new adventure in the city of Barcelona, Spain. Having now been in the area for more than a week, I am finally ready to share some of my impressions of one of Europe’s oldest cities.
Barcelona is a land of contradictions. Century old buildings share the same aura with modern architecture, while a conservative older generation is housing young tourists from all over the world. The city is a breath-taking, open museum and beauty is so often times found on the physicality of the city that Barcelonans forget to smile to each other on the streets. The subway’s signage is written in Catalan, yet most Barcelonans have forgotten how to speak it; and the great number of tourists who have made their home in Barcelona has forever changed the way locals go about their city.
Sometimes I sit in my apartment facing an open window wondering what motivates Barcelonans and what makes their city tick. Others, I find myself in the middle of a Mediterranean beach, marveling at how quiet a city of 1.6 million people can be. I have never felt so accomplished and independent, and yet at times I find myself craving the human comfort such a large city can lack to bring. I, too, have become a living contradiction.
I look around me and feel deeply connected to the Barcelonan community. These are the people who struggle with belonging to the Spanish and European identities; the people who wish to be independent from the exterior world telling them who they are and what they should believe in. Having a multicultural identity myself, I can sympathize with these struggles and share with the Barcelonans the need to become the author of one’s own individuality. At the end of the day, being labeled the right way does not matter, for inner peace never comes from society’s ways. I am excited to be a part of this city. I want to learn from the variety of cultures and languages spoken on its streets and desire to add to the diversity of its students. I want to unravel the secret of being autonomous within a larger spectrum, and want to be inspired by the city’s creative and artful individuals. So here’s to living in a city that does not have a typical Barcelonan look: a city where locals buy from the Chinese and live alongside Arabs. Here’s to asking directions from tourists and admiring the local cuisines from all over the world. Here’s to Spain and the city of Barcelona, the so called “land of contradictions”.