I am Taariq Adams from Fort Washington, MD and a student at Towson University, double majoring in Electronic Media & Film and Mass Communication. I am currently a Junior, expected to graduate in 2018.
Earlier this summer, I was part of a faculty-led study abroad program for Summer 2016, “Global Competence and Communication in Barcelona, Spain.” It all started when I came came across a flier for the program when I was in Van Bokkelen Hall. It caught my eye and made me want to look into it more. In the description, it said the purpose of this program was to understand the importance of global competence, knowing how to act as a representative of your home country when traveling overseas and on the side, learning about Barcelona’s culture and history.
I chose to participate because, as an aspiring journalist, I will be expected to go to unknown places and adjust to different customs and to work with the people there. I took this course as a means to improve my communication and social skills. I also went because at the time, I had never been anywhere overseas, unlike the rest of my family. At the same time, I wanted to see what it was like to be away from home for a while, so this was for personal character building too.
After participating, I can easily say that my experiences were above and beyond my expectations. Not only was I given an idea of how important global competence is and not only was I taught how to act as a representative of my country, but I was taught how it correlates with Barcelona’s culture and why it would be wise to understand cultures different from our own. Through this program, we immersed ourselves in Catalan (Region of Spain we traveled to) culture and understand how different it is from our own. However, were were also taught that it is okay to be skeptical of cultural norms and on what the people believe.
For instance, as the result of many wars and conquests throughout history, Barcelona has adopted a collectivist mindset, meaning the people see themselves as one whole, not as individuals. This seems to have contributed to Barcelona’s desire to gain independence from the rest of Spain. I personally disagreed with that idea because the risk to Barcelona’s economy is too great. The people will then have to sustain themselves without outside easy to obtain Spanish funding and I don’t believe Barcelona is capable of doing so, not yet anyway.
Throughout the program, we participated in lectures discussing global competence and Barcelona’s history. We even went on many tours around the area, each of them being unique. These tours included the Salvador Dali Museum, the Picasso Museum, Montserrat and one of the most ambitious and most beautiful cathedrals I have ever seen: The Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia.
Outside of lectures and tours, we were also expected to explore and immerse ourselves in the local culture, as well as communicate with the locals. During the program, my favorite spot for free time was Plaça de Catalunya (a local town square).
It was next to a large shopping district as well as a local marketplace and there were many restaurants there, though I did not end up eating at most of them.
We were also expected to take care of ourselves. This meant buying our own food and navigating around the area ourselves. I cannot say what everyone’s main concern was, but not getting lost was one of my main concerns, especially because every street corner looked exactly the same. Unless you knew where all of the landmarks were, you would surely lose your bearings. However, I was prepared for this with the use of Citymapper, an app on my phone which operates as a GPS. This app maps out specific cities around the world and it became my best friend throughout the program. That, and Barcelona’s subway system, which I ended up using as my main method of transportation.
Before the end of the first week, I had developed a schedule in which I would get up, fix breakfast, take the subway to the study abroad center where lectures took place, take part in class, come back, complete homework assignments, get dinner and buy groceries. I was also living with a roommate, so we supported with each other by splitting chores and helping each other however else we could; whether it was regarding food, supplies, navigating or homework. I was enjoying my time in Barcelona, so much so that the two weeks seemed to just fly by.
Even though it’s over, I still want to go back and see everything that I had missed out on. I’m sure anyone who travels abroad would feel the same.
To read more about Taariq’s time abroad, check out his personal blog!
Are you interested in one of our Faculty-Led programs? Check out our Minimester and Summer 2017 offerings!