News From Abroad: First impressions

University of Vermont student Jessica Hella studies abroad this semester. Courtesy photo
University of Vermont student Jessica Hella studies abroad this semester. Courtesy photo

Jessica Hella, Guest columnist

As the plane descends, the romanticized visions of Barcelona that had been crowding my mind for months come to fruition. From the jet window, the water below resembles the pastel strokes of a Monet painting. My mind wanders to imaginary titles for the work of art unfolding below me. “Mediterranean Coast,” or, “Arrival of the Plane, Barcelona.” The bright white clouds contrast with the pale blue sky.

Not even the hurdles that must be overcome in any effort to exit the airport can revoke the sensation that accompanies perfection. The privilege of my American passport allows me to glide through customs with ease. Even Canada puts up more of a fight.

Greeted by the smell of Mediterranean air, I am pleased to find that like my beloved New York, the cabs are simultaneously yellow and abundant. Blindly expecting the assistance similar to that of an American cab driver, I stand at the curb and wait for the driver to get out. For a moment I am wrapped up in the comforting warmth of sunlight against my skin, until I realize that the task of transporting my belongings from the curb to the cab is one I must take on alone.

As I climb into the back seat I am joined by the distaste of unmet expectations, I recite my new address as practiced. “Carrer independencia doscientos cuarenta y dos, por favor.”

The driver laughs at my attempt to assimilate. Making eye contact only through the rear view mirror he asks me, “Two hundred and forty-two?”

I nod.

As we ride together in silence my eyes remain glued to the passing palm trees. I try to count them as they blur together.

Alone on the worn sidewalk of my new home, all I can notice is the smell. I never thought I could miss the stench of the streets of Manhattan, but in this moment I do. I remove my new keys from my pocket and realize that even the keys are different here. I attempt a few times to unlock the door before ringing up to the apartment I thought to be my own. I am greeted by the unfriendly tone of an elderly Spanish woman. Silenced by my unknowing, I set down my bags and take a seat, awaiting any sign of acceptance.

Jessica Hella, of Charlotte, is a senior at the University of Vermont.