There is truly no other feeling compared to traveling to another country to study abroad. But trust me, depending on who you ask, this is not the flex you think it is. There I was, four months later in a limbo called Massachusetts trying to fathom the life I once had in a city over 3,000 miles away. One month to transition between Barcelona and the mundane jobs in that awaited me in Burlington, meanwhile my friends expect me to recount my unamerican life in a summary shorter than a tweet.
It wasn’t until i used that free time to watch the second season of the HBO Max show ‘White Lotus’ that I truly felt seen in what i had experienced. Various rich Americans of European descent return to the motherland for a 7 day bender capitalists like to call “vacation.” The show’s backdrop, the small southern island of Sicilia, is officially considered the most stereotypical mediterranean region to be created, according to me, and the Lord. To be more specific, Sicilia as a region is representative of the superficial beauty of an area just as vulnerable to poverty as a city from literally any forgotten city from the Americas. Behind the Roman architecture, vineyards, and beaches lies a people mostly detached from Americans. That is, except for the shared ancestry with Italian-Americans who often came from the south of Italy. Unfortunately, Mario knows more Italian swears than those phonies, but considering the diaspora, we can give them a pass this one time.
Unlike the south of Italy, Barcelona’s position as a port town actually made it the perfect place for Spain’s poor southern immigrants. Now thanks to the 1992 Olympics, the city has transformed from humble Catalan industrial city to international and cosmopolitan playground for anyone looking to spend American prices in Europe. So before I rip in to the Real Frat Girls of Indiana and their rapist boyfriends, I want to cut them some slack. It’s not just Americans that have gradually erased the identity of Catalonia’s capital city. Spain’s former dictator was oppressin’ like a boss way before people were spending money on Barcelona’s KFC, which stands for KENTUCKY fried chicken, by the way.
Going back to White Lotus, no one was more real than the generational wealthy aryan couple that secretly hated each other due to mistrust and constant cheating. Justifying their upperclass lifestyle that has been fed to them before they could utter a word, not even another continent could satisfy the internal turmoil of loneliness. On the other side, frat brothers in Barcelona united by circumstance, paying whatever it takes to “network” and stay attached to the hip to boys they’re too afraid to even compliment to avoid coming across as queer. If only they knew Spaniards said maricón as casually as they did, they would have become fluent over night.
Is this to shit on every person who studies abroad? Of course not. Besides, it’s too late now to undo the mass globalization and subsequent americanization of every nation, we have Christopher Columbus to thank for that. But there’s only so much infrastructural damage one 20- something can do in four months, especially when Barcelona was merely a bed for the weekly vacations to other thriving European capitals. Hell, there are seagulls in Barcelona (which are nearly three times the size of American seagulls, and they eat pigeons) with more territory there than the Americans. But why not consider an English speaking country? The British crown has already created little Europes everywhere– what the fuck is South Africa? Trust me, if Northern Americans can beef with Southerners just for being born there, you will have just as much culture shock with the Australians that don’t believe in racism as with the French ones who also will judge you for not having studied intensive French for at least 4 years.
The point is, most Americans leave to study abroad and come back identical, with a new batch of wide-eyed tourists ready for the single greatest Instagram post they have ever made. Besides, if you’re just looking for a vacation where poor people serve you on a beach, we have plenty of American-flavored poverty across Florida! But then again, even they speak more Spanish than the average American…