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Halloween! One of my favorite holidays! Not only are you able to stock up on a ton of candy, you have the chance to dress up and be anything you want to be for a day. I remember when my Brother and I were Power Rangers for Halloween- the Zeo kind, oh yeahhh. I was the Red Ranger, he was the Gold Ranger and we even got some of those $1 Spring Valley Swap Meet plastic ninja swords (do they still have those?) to go with it. We were pretty much invincible. Those were good times.

As I started to reminisce about all of these memories, I realized that this past Halloween was the first one I celebrated outside of the United States. And now that Halloween is over, it means that the Holiday Season is here… Yet, I am so far away from home that the “Holiday Season” doesn’t even exist in the country I’m in.

I was speaking with my family recently and my Brother was telling me about the plans for Thanksgiving when I, all of a sudden, said, “Wait, can we do this too?” I don’t know how I forgot I was across the globe but I guess I got so into the conversation that I felt as if I was a part of the plans. My question surprised me but I didn’t think much of it. I’ve been away from home for so long that missing an event or celebration doesn’t hit me as hard as it used to. I’ve come to realize that one of the best parts about family is that you’re able to grow, separate from each other, and still come back to find the same love that was there when you left.

This is what college is about too- Learning, Independence and Growth. Of course you’ll be sad the first time you leave but the more time you spend away from home, the more you learn what you love the most about it. You learn to appreciate it more and it makes coming home that much sweeter. For example, my Mom’s culinary specialty, her world-famous Chorizo con Huevo, tastes better and better each time I have a plate. No lie. I now appreciate every single last tortilla-full (because you know you can’t use utensils for that- what’s your preference, De harina or mais?)

Being away from home is always tough but don’t let it hold you back from enjoying where you currently are. If you’re going to be gone for so long, you should at least return with some cool stories to tell your family and friends right? So until I’m back in my Momma’s arms, be sure that I’ll continue to learn as much as I can about the beautiful city of Barcelona so I can come back and tell the family every last detail.

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One thing I love about Barcelona is the diversity. The immigrant population here is very high and so everywhere you go, you see people from all over the world. For someone born and raised in San Diego, I feel at home. You see, as you walk down the street from where I live in San Diego, you have everything from Vietnamese Pho Restaurants to small Mexican Food spots (“Taco Shops” as we call them in Southern California) where you can indulge in tastings from around the globe. As hard as it is to believe, the food isn’t even my favorite part- the way you’re able to interact with people whose cultures seem completely different from your own is what I treasure the most.

I’m finding this same kind of interaction taking place in Barcelona. For example, in addition to the great culinary selection, I’m able to make friends with people who come to Barcelona from all over. Take my barbershop for instance. As I explored Las Ramblas, an area of Barça that is always filled with locals, tourists and street performers, I found myself down a side street where I discovered a barbershop that, just like in San Diego, had a sign with several languages- Punjabi being the largest. I was shocked at first- they only charged 6 Euros! I swear, haircuts over here usually go for somewhere around 20-25 Euros and just because something is cheaper, it doesn’t mean it’s of less quality! My barber is great at what he does and he never lets me down.

His name is Azem and he came to Barcelona from Pakistan when he was a teenager. Whenever I come in, we tell each other about the previous weeks and sometimes swap stories of life in an immigrant family. Even though our stories are different, I am finding there are still many similarities in the ways we interact with our families and how we go about our lives in the city because of these experiences- it’s interesting to see how they compare. After the cut and the conversation, we say good-bye, dap and I head out until next time.

Last Friday, some friends from my study abroad program were in need of a haircut so I showed them to Azem. I usually go during the week when it’s much slower and was surprised to see how busy it was. It was Friday so I’m sure the line was filled with gentlemen trying to look nice for the festivities of the weekend.  As we wait, one of the guys hooks his phone up to the stereo and starts playing some hip-hop music. As the beat comes in, I like it, I’m bobbing my head and then that distinct Punjabi flavor takes me by surprise. It brought me back to that Jay-Z & Punjabi MC collaboration back in the early 2000’s. Needless to say, the nostalgia alone was enough to make me a fan. It was great to hear a different take on hip-hop and I honestly liked it. I didn’t get a chance to find out which artist it was but I’ll ask Azem about it next time I see him.

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Wait, what?  Summer is almost over?  It is completely impossible for it to already be August 22.  Time has clearly played a trick on us all.  AHHHH!

Good news is, I’ve had an INCREDIBLE summer!  Bad news is, I haven’t been able to tell you all about it ‘til now…. But here I go!

Ok, so this summer I had the ridiculously, amazing opportunity to say, “Psh… summer?  Who would ever want to stop studying for three months?” and take a summer class…. In BARCELONA!

That’s right!  I went with the Harvard Summer Study Abroad to Barcelona, Spain to learn about Barcelonan art, architecture, and culture.  I got to speak all sorts of Spanish, pretend to know Catalan, eat yummy food, travel to Paris and Rome, soak up the sun on the beach… oh right, and go to class.  Of course.

When I went, I knew absolutely none of the other kids on the program.  They were all rising sophomores and juniors from Harvard, but for whatever reason I’d never met any of them.  I love meeting new people, so this didn’t bother me, but I still did not know what to expect.

It was one of the best summers of my life.

Me in front of the Sagrada Familia!

We lived in a summer student housing residence in large singles.  Not only was each single relatively big, but each had its own full bathroom and kitchenette!  Our classroom was located in the historic main building of the University of Barcelona, and we got to learn all of the ins-and-outs of the city’s super-efficient metro.   We only had class Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of every week, so this meant four full days every weekend to explore and travel!

In Madrid!

An average school day went as follows:

  • 9:15 – Wake up to enjoy the Residence’s complimentary breakfast of croissants, fruit, and expresso (I am now an addict).
  • 10:15 – Leave the Residence to walk to the metro station.  Wait a maximum of four minutes for the metro to arrive.  Ride to school.
  • 11:00 – 1:00 – Learn about Barcelonan history, art, architecture, and city planning.
  • 1:00 – 5:30 – SIESTA!  This means eat, sleep, explore, shop, go to the beach, do homework, etc.
  • 5:30- 8:30 – Itinerario, which was our term for class-led field trips around Barcelona to see the buildings that we had learned about in class.
  • 9:00ish – Dinner.  Because Barcelona is a pretty touristy area, the food can be expensive.  We went out to eat some, but we mostly utilized the kitchenettes in our rooms, which meant LOOK OUT WORLD!  I LEARNED TO COOK!  That’s right, I can now make eggs in every style you can possible imagine (including poached, thank you very much), and a mean orange chicken.
  • 10:30 – If we didn’t have a lot of work, a lot of the times we went out.  Barcelona has all sorts of cool things to see at night, and why would you want to miss out on such an intrinsic part of the cultural experience, right?
Beyond all of that, I also made some incredible friends, who I know I will stay close with during the next three years of my Harvard experience.

The whole group with a view of Barcelona in the background

Now that I’m home, I can’t wait to go back to school!

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