Jessica: Hola Yessica
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Barcelona, etc.
I’m Jessica, I’m 24 years old, and I’m from England but grew up in California. Now I’m living in Barcelona. I was studying abroad here and loved it so much that I decided I wanted to come back. So as soon as I finished my degree, I did! Everybody thought it was a little bit crazy, but I would have kicked myself for not taking the chance. I work as a translator for website and a freelance travel journalist right now.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I first started a blog when I was studying abroad in Sevilla, Spain, because all my friends did it too and it looked cool! Of course, we all gave them up by the second month. I sporadically posted entries every six months or so. Nobody read it except my mum, of course, because it was basically an itinerary with a few photos.
When I moved back to Barcelona, I had all intentions of actually maintaining it. That didn’t go so well either.
But it wasn’t until about a year ago that I actually started posting regularly and actively running the blog, and trying to produce content that people other than my mum will like reading. It’s been a lot of fun, and it’s definitely exceeded my expectations! (And my mum still reads it too).
I’ve still stuck with my blog’s silly study abroad name, but it’s a fun reminder of how far I’ve come since I first landed in Spain.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Yes! One of my more recent ones is my favorite – “Barcelona’s Secret Bats.” I was biking home from work and noticed tiny bat sculptures on the fancy lamps on the main street. I thought it was strange, as I hadn’t heard anything about bats and Barcelona. But if they were on an important street, I figured they must have meant something. I did a little research and found out all about the secret history behind them.
Lots of people talked to me about it in person and in the comments on the post. It turns out nobody knew about the bats! I was secretly really proud, because I thought it was such a fun little story and I felt like an “insider”.
Real-life bats showed up to a picnic I had with friends the other day and someone said, “Look, Jessica – another bat for you! I keep looking for them now too.” It felt so cool to know that my friends had liked my piece and remembered it. I’m smiling just thinking about it!
Tell us about the ways your new life in Barcelona differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
Well, I moved to Barcelona two weeks after finishing my university degree. I think anything would have been difficult and strange, because it’s a big transition from a sheltered college environment to the “real world”.
Apart from that, in my first year here a lot of major things went wrong. I was definitely shocked at how tough everything was, and I was also surprised that living abroad wasn’t the dreamy, wonderful experience that people talk about.
I know if you look at my blog, you might get the impression that my life is one big party punctuated by trips to exotic locations. That’s what I expected before I moved here too as it’s all I’d read about on expat blogs, so I was confused when that didn’t happen.
Of course, when I was struggling with culture shock and adjustment issues, I didn’t really feel like sharing my unhappiness by running a blog or posting photos. So now I’m probably someone perpetuating an unfairly positive look at living abroad!
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Barcelona? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I was definitely not fully prepared! If I had known how hard it was going to be, I might have been too scared to come (although I’m glad I did now). But, you know, I really don’t think that there was anything I could have done differently at the time because a lot of the hard stuff was just bad luck.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I think my favorite was when I was trying to describe Project Runway to a friend. It’s an American fashion design reality competition, and sometimes they have really, really weird challenges. One particular week they had to go to the pet shop to buy materials to make clothes out of.
My friend was absolutely appalled. He asked how they could show people making clothes of out dogs on television!
Of course, they weren’t using animals to make clothes – it was stuff like dog beds or cat toys! But it was both a funny language miscommunication and a look at how crazy American culture seems to outsiders. To him, it totally wasn’t out of the question that Americans would put that on T.V.!
Although to be fair, somebody did make an outfit out of human hair on that show, so maybe he wasn’t too far off!
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Barcelona?
- Be patient. Things in Spain sometimes take a while to get started, and everything is tough in a new place with two languages to learn (Catalan and Spanish).
- Make time to enjoy the city. My first year here was so stressful that I didn’t really get out and do much. Now that I make a conscious effort to go to things in the city, it’s a lot more fulfilling.
- Get a bike. Seriously, biking around Barcelona is so nice! Summer bike rides to the beach down the tree-lined streets are one of my favorite things to do.
How is the expat community in Barcelona? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I’m not sure I’m really part of an expat community. I certainly don’t know very Americans or Brits here. There are things that go on, but I made a conscious effort to find non-English speaking friends so I could improve my Spanish when I got here. Also, a lot of expat groups I’ve found tend to be geared to older people, like young families, parents whose adult kids have moved out, or retirees. It’s a cool support network, but my life is just at such a different point.
I do, however, know a lot of young people like me – people who were doing study abroad or Erasmus programs in Barcelona and loved it so much they decided to stay for longer. It’s pretty easy to find like-minded people, though I wouldn’t say I’m part of an expat community.
How would you summarize your expat life in Barcelona in a single, catchy sentence?
Hmm..good question! My life in Barcelona has been both everything I ever dreamed of and everything I was really afraid of. I don’t know if that’s catchy, but it’s true!