Conversations on Studying Abroad

The Value of Spending a Full Semester Abroad

Aug 12, 2020 10:02:00 AM / by Nina Vrtjak

Nina shares how studying abroad helped her gain new sense of appreciation for Barcelona, a city she called home for a semester. This experience also opened doors for her to peek into different parts of Europe and keep the magic of learning alive through exploring new cities and cultures. 

In just 6 weeks, I was able to capitalize on the travel hub that the Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat Airport is and traveled out of Spain 4 of my first 5 weekends studying abroad. I soaked up the beach town air of Sète, France; learned a tremendous amount of history in Berlin, Germany; walked in awe through the fairytale like streets of Prague, Czech Republic, and fulfilled a lifelong dream of spending time in London, United Kingdom. After 4 weeks of nonstop moving, little sleep, and many different environments, I gained a new sense of what it means to study abroad and an appreciation for my host city, Barcelona.

Glistening body of water in Sète, FranceA glistening body of water in Sète, France.

Photo with a friend overlooking parts of Prague, Czech Republic
With a friend overlooking parts of Prague.

Group photo with friends in Prague, Czech Republic
A group photo with friends in Prague.

There are a few major things I noticed regarding my multiple weekend excursions that can be argued both good and bad. Having a trip planned every weekend to an exotic place is a very exciting thing, but the normality of it almost takes the magic away. When at home and I have a trip planned, I prepare endlessly in the weeks prior. It is usually a special occasion that makes me really appreciate the place I am going to. While abroad, it seems so casual to say where I will be heading for the weekend. This realization has reminded me of how lucky I am to have the opportunity to study abroad. I now practice being in the moment and take advantage of the time I spend in each place. Doing so keeps the magic alive!

Classic telephone booth shot in LondonClassic telephone booth shot in London.

Architecture in the London
Taking in the architecture in the London.

Photo with a friend in front of a pink wall in London
A quick photo session in front of a pink wall with a friend in London.

The idea of time is another thing I noticed about being a tourist in multiple different cities. When you have less than 72 hours to explore an area that can take weeks to conquer, you need to ensure your itinerary is stacked. My weekend trip mantra has been to see as much as I can see and take as many photos as I can in the allotted time. This, of course, isn’t the ideal way to tour Europe but is absolutely a sneak peek into all the places I hope I am able to visit for longer periods of time when I am older. I recognize there probably will not be another time in my life I will be able to hop on a plane and visit numerous European cities in a 3-month timespan while still receiving credit toward my education. For these reasons, I am thankful that studying abroad has allowed me to sample this continent.

Street art in BerlinStreet art in Berlin.

Group photo with friends in front of street art in Berlin
Capturing Berlin's street art in this group photo.

While I wouldn’t trade the weekends I have spent out of Spain, whenever I come back to Barcelona after an exhausting weekend I could not be more thrilled. When I reach the La Sagrada Familia metro stop I am finally able to take a breath of the warm Barcelona air because I am home. I no longer have to worry about going the wrong direction on a new public transportation system. I can stop being a mute in public for fear of butchering the pronunciation of the local language for “hello”. While I may not have the ropes completely down for my city, I feel comfortable and am able to live a normal day-to-day life. The good news is I do not have to follow my study abroad mantra as mentioned above because I have time to relax and explore Barcelona as it deserves. There is truly so much to see and I feel quite confident I will never get bored of it. Barcelona is a lively city that checks all of my wants and needs easily. I am beyond fortunate that Barcelona is the place I get to call home.

Thanks, Nina!

Nina Vrtjak


Nina Vrtjak is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2020, sharing her story in frequent posts on CAPA World. An Accounting and Human Resources major at University of Minnesota Twin Cities, she studied abroad in Barcelona.

See more of Nina's journey in Barcelona.

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Topics: Barcelona, Spain, Why Study Abroad