What the First Day of Moving to a New Country Feels Like

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When I visited Barcelona for the first time in December of 2012, I drank water from a fountain that would guarantee my return to the city.

Originally written on Saturday, 1 August 2015.

I am writing this from my new apartment in Barcelona, Spain. I almost didn’t think that I would make it. Since making my decision official to move to this country and to leave my hometown in California, I have mostly been riddled with anxiety. Thinking about my move would induce feelings of nausea and fear moreso than excitement.

Yesterday morning, my mother dropped me off at the airport, and like a grown adult, I literally cried because I was so scared. I also have a convenient fear of flying. For the next sixteen hours or so of my total journey, my emotions vacillated between, “I’m so excited, and this is an excellent decision,” to, “What the hell am I doing?! Moving abroad for one year is so permanent, and I am going to be completely alone. I am crazy.”

Yet, when the plane landed in Barcelona this morning, I felt overcome with joy– like I was coming home. I wanted to cry. I had made it. At the airport, I felt alive, invigorated, and like myself- knowing that I am the type of person who, at heart, loves being abroad. I felt like this was the best decision I had ever made.

On the shuttle bus ride from the airport to Plaça de Catalunya, where I would be meeting my new flatmate, my thoughts were more on the wavelength of, “I don’t belong here/Who do I think I am coming to my ex-boyfriend’s country/I’m so far away from home and this is so permanent.” Arriving at the bus stop and waiting for Nuria, my flatmate and ex-boyfriend’s friend, was the longest fifteen minutes of my life. I couldn’t help but start picturing what my ex’s life was like here and how this city and country molded his personality. It was, for a lack of a better word, weird.

Nuria then arrived, and we went to the apartment. It is in the neighborhood of El Raval, which is right in the heart of the city. There is a cute plaza about two meters outside of my door that has restaurants with outdoor seating, Halal markets, and Pakistani cell phone shops. The apartment is very small; it contains a tiny kitchen and living room, three bedrooms, and a minuscule bathroom in which the shower and the floor are the same thing. The room that I am staying in, however, is actually quite large, is very bright, and has a little balcony that is about a foot long. On the walls are a paisley/mandala-looking print tapestry in shades of brown, red and orange in addition to a tapestry of a bejeweled Ganesha. The room is fully furnished and even comes with a yoga mat.

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First picture upon arriving in Barcelona

Nuria had to leave to go see her family for the weekend. After her departure, I took a nap for about four and a half hours. When I woke up, I met two other flatmates, Miquel and Omar, a Catalan guy and Argentinian guy, respectively, who happened to be packing for a vacation.  They were both very friendly, helpful, and free-spirited. My fear of feeling utterly alone began to substantially subside. At one point, the guys even had a couple of friends over, too.

One of the guys who came over, however, told me a story of some British friends of his who came to Barcelona for an English teaching course (what I am doing). Apparently, they couldn’t find work in Barcelona and had to teach in another city in Spain. He told me that I should also be open to living somewhere else in Spain to have a more immersive cultural experience, because apparently there are a lot of foreigners in Barcelona. His words started to fill me with doubt: why did I move to a city that already has a lot of English speakers trying to work as an English teacher and wanting to practice my Spanish? Or worse, why did I move to a country that has such high unemployment trying to find a job? I felt like my dreams were crushing a little bit.

However, I was actually aware of some of this information (particularly Spain’s economic crisis) prior to moving here- but I knew in my intuition that things would work out in some way or another. I had to remind myself that, for example, even if I don’t find work as an English teacher, maybe I will find a job doing something else! Maybe if I don’t find a job, I will be able to go to school! Maybe I will live somewhere else. Who knows- life can be beautifully unpredictable, and things usually work out in the end how they should. I had to remind myself to not let other people’s doubts bring me down; that clear intentions, confidence, and flexibility- not worry- lead to the best situations in life.

Now, Carles and Mariano have just left for their trip, their friends have left, too, and I am at the apartment by myself. It’s 11:00 P.M., and I’m not tired. I am hungry but am feeling too intimidated at the thought of leaving my house and trying to find a place to eat, so I am eating a sandwich that I bought at the airport yesterday. I am using this blog to express all of the intense emotions that I have felt in the past twenty-four or forty-eight or I don’t even know how many hours it has been since my mom dropped me off at the airport.

I am also using this blog to distract myself from feeling alone. I think there is a difference between feeling alone in your home country and feeling alone abroad. Alone abroad means that your mom or a friend isn’t just a fifteen minute drive away; alone abroad is: “I am foreign, and anyone who has known me for more that a few hours is thousands of miles away from here. I am trapped.” Those are the thoughts that I am trying to avoid. So here goes my deep breaths, my taking life one breath at a time, my recognizing that in just two days from now I start my English teaching certification course- and will meet lots of other foreigners just like me who probably feel similar emotions to me-, and recognizing that everything is going to be okay.

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