July 2021, the Thierfelder kitchen dinner table.
“Quinn, what is this obsession with Barcelona? You do realize they hardly even speak Spanish there, right? Why would you go to a Catalan city to learn Spanish?” asked my mother, cutting her grilled chicken.
“I don’t know, Mama. I just have always had this romanticized dream of living there,” I replied.
At the time, I truly did not know when or why the Barcelona seed had been planted in my mind. However, months of reflection later, a certain brochure comes to mind. One Wednesday of sophomore year, a spokesperson from School Year Abroad visited my Spanish class to encourage us to apply for a transfer term of high school to a Spanish-speaking city, promising rapid language development and memories of a lifetime. He handed us brochures for the Barcelona exchange program. Having never traveled to a Spanish-speaking country before, I was obsessed with the idea of immersing myself so deeply in a different culture and the opportunity to practice my Spanish language skills. And the kids on the brochure, enjoying jamón ibérico under Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, just looked so dang happy.
Memories of Cheetah Girls 2, the feeling of the Spanish sun against my skin, the scent of patatas bravas wafting through Mediterranean Sea-salted air, and visions of discotecas and moonlight vespa rides flooded my senses. Thus, while planning where I would spend the fall of my gap year, I bought Frommer’s Guide to Spain and drew hearts in the margins on page 237: Barcelona.
I decided I did not want to do an organized program for my gap year, meaning I did not want to move to Barcelona with a group of other American gap year students. I knew that moving to a foreign country would bring challenges whether or not I had the support and structure of a program, and I really wanted to throw myself into the deep end of the living-abroad experience. Having just graduated from a boarding school of 800 students, where everyone knew everyone’s business and our time was structured to the second, the idea of relocating to a foreign country, where I could build a life entirely on my own (or at least 3 months of one) and meet people with different experiences and cultures than my own enthralled me. So, I found two roommates online, and I booked a flight to Barcelona.
I found a yoga studio that offered a 200 Hour Vinyasa Yoga Teacher Training course, which would include eight hours of training every weekday for one month. I had occasionally practiced yoga throughout high school, but I preferred more high-energy forms of movement, such as dance, spinning classes, or running. The latter forms of movement served as ways to get outside of my brain and away from my thoughts through exercise, and I found yoga’s focus on meditation and push to go inwards daunting. However, one of my goals for my gap year is to learn to undo some of the high-strung and perfectionist qualities I developed in my four years of what I call “trying to get into Duke,” aka high school. I was enticed by visions of myself finishing my YTT as a new, incredibly zen person, and I was happy to have a month of yoga school to provide structure as I got settled in Barcelona.
“Okay,” my mother said around her grilled-chicken chewing, “I’m still not convinced Barcelona is the best place to learn Spanish, but I do think it would be an amazing experience nonetheless. You should
totally do it. Just don’t get pickpocketed.”
This post is the first in a two-part series. Read the second part.