By James Matthes
Having been previously told that studying abroad is something I should not pass up, I was somewhat prepared for the adventure that awaited me. Whether I actually comprehended the degree to which this opportunity would affect me is another story. Dunwoody College of Technology’s first ever study-abroad program: Spring 2018. Ten students. Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.
Barcelona could not be a better place for studying architecture. The city has layers upon layers of unique architectural beauty. From the 1st century Roman ruins in the Barrio Gotic to the new contemporary revival happening in Poblenou’s 22@ district, Barcelona is a living history of architecture and design. Of course, one cannot mention architecture and design in Barcelona without mentioning the Modernisme movement. The works and influence of Montaner, Cadafalch, Jujol, and of course Gaudí are seen at almost every turn throughout the city.
Even in the shadows of these iconic projects, there is still thoughtfulness and detail everywhere. The tiles that you walk on, to the handles on the doors and the lampposts that light your path; everything designed and all connected by the grid of chamfered-corner blocks that Ildefons Cerdà designed in the 19th century. The thoughtfulness put into everything in this city will continually amaze me.
There is something to be said about fully immersing yourself in a culture and the benefits that come along with it. Although my classmates and I were studying in English every day, everything we were doing was centralized around the Catalan culture of Barcelona. Living as a resident and becoming as close as I did to the everyday life of this city helped me to see the other side of Barcelona, the one I didn't get to observe from books and the internet when I was back home.
I personally can see changes in myself, and ways that I have grown since I first arrived in Barcelona. My comfort level when interacting with people there grew exponentially and has only become greater since arriving home. The trip not only broadened my worldview and taught me to become comfortable in uncomfortable situations, but it taught me more things about us as a human race. It has connected me to a different culture and a different people and helped me to see the similarities that we all have. I am truly convinced that the experiences I was able to have will only help me to become a better student, professional, family member, and overall, a better person.