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My Barcelona Journey

A group of students from the School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi recently traveled to Spain for an immersive learning experience that provided rich exposure to Spanish culture and cuisine, while affording myriad opportunities to capture their experiences in written and visual formats.

The majority of the trip was centered in Barcelona, with excursions to other locales during the four-week trip. Leading the program were professors Jason Cain, Chris Sparks, Mark Dolan, and R.J. Morgan – all of whom taught courses in integrated marketing communications and journalism while the group was overseas. 

The students enjoyed many cultural experiences, but they also put in a lot of academic work, too, writing in-depth features, gathering documentary photos, exploring international brands and exploring relevant topics in media studies. 

In a place as beautiful and complex as Spain, each day brought new experiences and amazing photo opportunities. Shared here are some of the images and travel essays the students captured on their journey. We hope you enjoy it.

By Dabney Flynt

IMC student

I.

The flight attendant asks me if we want anything to eat or drink. I order a Ginger Ale and Biscoff cookies.

This is like clockwork; it’s comfortable. 

I love airplanes. The second I lift up the window shade, my worries melt away. When I look down on all the neighborhoods, roads, cars and people, I realize how I am just a dot in this world. A mere speck on a planet of seven billion other tiny specks. 

The loudspeaker says we’re one hour out from Atlanta. I look out the window from seat 12C at the little specks and feel small. I feel calm. I feel proud. I’m Barcelona bound.

Exactly one hour before I was supposed to leave for the airport, I was sobbing in my bed.

The outburst shocked my Mom. I lost my shit when she told me I couldn’t take my new suitcase because it would get beat up if I checked it. This simple statement brought my world crashing down because I’d already practiced packing with this particular suitcase. I had every wrinkle ironed out to perfection for my trip, so the great suitcase debacle of May 15, 2023, at the Flynt Household was truly Earth-shattering.

I stormed off down the hallway and flopped onto my bed. The tears came flowing, leaving my pillow looking as if it’d been drug through a puddle ten million times and left outside in a rainstorm.

Here’s the truth: this outburst had nothing to do with the suitcase. 

It was the tipping point for my built up stress. This minor detail that had no great consequence on my life opened the floodgates for my worries (and my tear ducts). Packing for any trip can be a whirlwind, but between leaving the country for the first time and know that trip was going to last an entire month, well, things were tense.

Mom came into my room where she found me with my face still squished in my pillow, tears streaming and wishing time would freeze. Her mom instincts must have whispered to her, “This can’t really be all about a suitcase, right?”

“Sweetie, what’s wrong?” she asked warily.

I had so many thoughts swirling around in my brain, it was like chasing a piece of paper flying in the wind as I tried to decide where to start. All I could muster was, “I’m scared.”

Then my thoughts unraveled out of my mouth. How I’m scared to be away for a month. How I don’t know what to expect once I’m there. How I’m terrified I’ll close myself off. How I’m terrified it won’t live up to my expectations.

Growing up, I was the cliche youngest child with an adventurous spirit. I was fearless. Once my older sister and I were allowed to be home alone, she would ask me to go check outside the window if we heard a scary noise. When a horror movie commercial came on, my sister would ask me to tell her once it’s over while she buried her face in my shoulder.

This yearning for adventure never wavered. So when the opportunity to travel abroad fell into my lap, why was I terrified?

Mom calmed me down with many reassurances of “Everything will be alright” and “It’ll all work out.” All I could do was wipe my tears, get on the plane and hope to God she was right.

I keep looking at the specks down below me through the clouds; I’ve found peace. I know Mom is right.

My seemingly immense anxieties become miniscule in comparison to the other billions of humans on this Earth who are going through bigger things. In reality, my situation is a blessing. Why be so anxious about such a good thing?

Everything in life is all about perspective. Any bad thing can become a good thing if you turn it on its head and make it into a positive thing. All I had to do was look at my situation through a different lens. Time always flies, so a month is just a mark on my timeline. The unexpected is something I’ve always dreamed of in my life that’s seemed somewhat predictable thus far. The fear of closing myself off should push me to thrive like I never felt like I could in Jackson, Mississippi. If I was nervous the experience would fall short of my expectations, then I should be determined to soak up every moment.

There’s no secret to changing your perspective. The key is wanting to change it. It takes accepting that the one thing you can’t change is the circumstance itself. All you can do is change your lens through which you interpret your circumstances. Then you can set yourself free from fear and grow into a place of resilience. So, it’s simple: just lift up the shade and change the window through which your mind perceives it.

II.

As I stand on the metro clutching the freezing metal pole with a death grip so tight my knuckles are white as snow, I notice the contrasting lifestyles between locals and tourists. I take in this couple who’s standing in the middle of the metro car facing each other with arms outstretched, holding both of each other’s hands. They are gazing into each other’s eyes like nobody else is on the metro but them two. Like time stopped just for them. They are in no rush; they’re just along for the ride to their destination on the L3.

The beginnings of the Barcelona metro system began after the turn of the twentieth century when the city underwent intense population growth due to the Industrial Revolution. Construction began and in 1924, the first part opened between Lesseps and Plaça Catalunya, which now belongs to Line 3.

The coveted metro seats become free as people file off to their different destinations, but the couple remains rooted. The woman to their left looks at her watch in panic and shoves her Starbucks iced mocha into her bag as she rushes off the metro. Clearly a tourist. The couple remains silent, eyes locked.

I realize how nobody takes the time to stare anymore.

Americans seem to live by the phrase, “Time is money.” Time is spent working, or thinking about working, or worrying that you’re not working enough. Time spent doing nothing is the worst thing imaginable. We are fooled into believing that rest equals weakness. Ultimately, the American way of life can be defined in one word: hustle. In this “hustle,” time is something that must be used practically; every second must have a purpose. This classifies as any outcome that brings you success, prestige or power. Maybe even all three.

This constant hustle keeps us from noticing key details in our daily lives. I can go through my whole day, and be so invested in getting everything checked off my to-do list that I don’t take time to just stop and look. We all know the classic saying, “Stop and smell the roses,” but no one ever actually does. We never take time to just be.

Here in Barcelona, the opposite narrative is the norm. 

This can be seen the most through the Spanish concept of “sobremesa,” which literally translates to “above table.” It’s a combination of two Spanish words, with “sobre” meaning “over” or “above” and “mesa” meaning “table.” However, English truly lacks a word that encompasses this central aspect of Spanish culture. A quick Google search will show the translation for the term to be “after-dinner conversation.” 

Sobremesa truly is an art of dinner conversation. It’s the Spanish tradition of relaxing at the table and enjoying each other’s company after a meal, which can last up to hours. Ultimately, the key here is there is no rush. America, however, is solely focused on achieving the quickest table turnaround humanly possible. We all remember a time when we’ve barely put the last bite of food in our mouths and the waiter asks, “Are you ready for the check?” In Barcelona, they do not bring the bill to you; you must ask.

None of this is random. It’s all part of what some Spanish locals are calling the, “Slow Movement.”

One local blog describes it this way: “The Slow Movement is a cultural trend that promotes a calmer life, focusing on those activities that prioritize personal development and the use of technology aimed at saving time, with the aim of having a healthier and fuller life. It is a citizen movement, without organization, with a vocation of transversality and plurality.”

This is the way of life they choose to live. It is not forced upon them. In contrast, Americans force the hustle culture on themselves. We put others down for not always striving to climb the ladder of success to reach the next best thing. People here take their time climbing, and stop to enjoy the view while doing it.

III.

Homesickness takes the scenic route. It takes the backroads. But once you’ve arrived at the destination, you know you’re there. You can feel it. It hits you like a punch to the gut.

I arrived in Barcelona with high hopes. After some anxious outbursts, I mainly came into this experience with positive expectations. With all of my worries, the least of them was homesickness. I’d been away at summer camp before and never got homesick. 

But to be fair, I’d never been away from home for a month before. But sometimes I like to think of myself as invincible. I see life positively, and just never imagine that anything terrible would really ever happen to me.

The first week, we were all so excited about everything Barcelona had to offer. Each day brought new chances to try new foods, see new sights, meet new people. It was exhilarating. Spain just seemed to do it better.

The high was short-lived. Around week two, I began to miss things from back home.

American things.

Who knew it would be too much to ask for to have the freedom of using the public restroom or ordering a glass of water free of charge? Here, you can have those things. But you’ve gotta cough up at least €2.

I never expected this. At first we loved the idea of practicing our Spanish, enjoying a sobremesa-style meal, taking the metro and hailing taxis. I didn’t expect to miss the simplicity of ordering my food in my own language, the hustle of restaurants delivering the check ASAP or the accessibility of being able to transport myself places in my very own car.

As we hit the three-week mark, it was time for our long free weekend. I was so excited to go to Paris with my friends because I thought a change of scenery would be just what I needed. 

I board the plane and hope to God that’s all I need.

I glance out the window at all the tiny specks and am transported back to my little window seat 12C on my first flight to Atlanta just 3 short weeks ago, but it feels like it’s been an eternity since that moment. Yet somehow the familiar sense of calm returns to my body. Head to toe, I feel at peace and actually excited to head back to Barcelona for the short few days before jetting off to Madrid.

I close my eyes and revert back to my problem-solving tactics from the beginning of my journey. There isn’t anything I can do to change the fact that I’m homesick. All I can do is stop looking at this as a problem. I know I’m tired. I know I’m burnt out. But fixating on these feelings will only make it worse and ultimately take away from my experience. I don’t want to long for home in all of these new experiences. I want to enjoy them for what they are. 

I open my eyes and lift up the shade. As I look out the window again, I fixate not on my circumstance, but my perspective.


Adam Brown
Adam Brown
Sports Editor

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