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Highs and lows of 36 hours in Barcelona


Travel columnist Rachel Rosenstock and her friends from the University of Wisconsin during their brief trip to Barcelona, Spain. They are walking through the El Born neighborhood near the Museo Picasso. Rachel Rosenstock Buy Photos

In the short time I’ve been abroad, a major lesson I’ve learned is to take the good with the bad.

Not everything is going to go as planned, you will get frustrated, you might get ripped off sometimes and you definitely won’t know exactly what’s happening in your life most of the time.

Back home, I wouldn’t be functional living with this much uncertainty every day, but abroad I tell myself to take a second, remember I’m living in France for a year and focus on how happy that makes me.

This weekend, a group and I traveled to Barcelona, Spain, for the better part of 36 hours. We drove over the border using BlaBla Car (which scored us some sweet recommendations on restaurants and clubs from our driver), and in just over five hours, we were a few hundred kilometers away but in a completely different world.

It was freeing to not have the pressure of speaking French constantly, even though we frequently responded to questions in a confusing mix of English, French and the little Spanish we knew.

Because of our short time in Spain, we hit all the highlights in the city like La Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, the El Born and Gothic districts and La Boqueria market.

The culture in Barcelona was more carefree and friendly than in France, and I realized how much I miss smiling at strangers or being able to be in a large group without attracting attention.

Our weekend in Barcelona wasn’t perfect, and I shouldn’t have expected it to be.

We went to a popular club called Razzmatazz Saturday night and danced till the early hours of the morning.

My friends and I had an amazing time being ourselves on the dance floor, but the unwanted attention of the men in the club was something I had not anticipated.

An older man shadowed our group and stood just close enough to make us uncomfortable for hours — and there was really nothing we could do except ignore it and not let him ruin our night.

Leaving Razzmatazz was when the weekend took a turn and we walked into a serious situation on the street.

We saw a girl not much older than us being hit and yelled at by her boyfriend. We had to do something, so we scared him off with threats of calling the police, waited around with her and eventually did call the police when he came back to continue the abuse.

We were happy that we could help another girl, but despite the fact the ordeal kept us up until 6 a.m., none of us slept easy that night after witnessing such a terrible situation.

Keeping with my philosophy of taking the good with the bad, I’m glad that this weekend showed me how united my friends can be in the face of difficulty, whether it be language barriers or putting ourselves at risk to help a stranger.

I think this trip made us all stronger as travelers and people, and reminded us to be realistic about our expectations abroad.

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