One Day in Barcelona, a Study Abroad Adventure

By Helen-Thea Marcus


At IAB, a community of artistic people from all over the world surrounds me. After spending the past five months studying abroad in Sitges, it seems to me that we (my fellow colleagues and I) have all come to IAB with a common intention. This intention includes a commitment to spending our time working within ourselves and on the crafts we most enjoy learning about.  It is in this environment where ideas of movement and change roam free, inspiring us to share with each other. In the midst of all of this sharing, our greatest bits are revealed and our deepest core beliefs come to light.  The desire to create is inevitable when one is genuinely accepted as they are.  This desire turns into a daily practice and slowly, projects form, connections are made, and our visions come to life through the efforts of ourselves, and the other artists surrounding us.

Alice, our amazing study abroad coordinator brought the four of us (myself, Riley, Sara, and Sydney) who are studying abroad at IAB this term together. In this meeting, she organized an outing where we could be absorbed into Spanish culture and given the opportunity to see the wonderful parts of Barcelona that we’d only ever heard of.  It was decided that we would take a Sunday and pay a visit to La Sagrada Familia. She set us up with a MA Dance student, Liv, to be our guide on this Barcelona adventure.

Breath has never filled my lungs more quickly upon walking into an idea so delicately and courageously rendered from the mind of another human being.  I noticed distinct clarity, precision, and passion in Antoni Gaudi’s stunning Sagrada Familia.  The light beaming through the arching windows drenched the space in rainbows.  A gentle hush of reverence and awe tickled the cold stone columns, launching their reach to the brilliant ceiling and straight into the arms of the sky.  I stood in wonder, blown away by the grandeur of Gaudi’s imagination brought into life.  As the five of us made our way further in, I was filled with inner peace.

What struck me most was the exquisiteness of the stained glass windows.  I have never in my life seen a more beautiful representation of how the color spectrum can work together harmoniously.  The dappled rainbows streaming through all sides of La Sagrada Famila lighted our excited smiles as we documented our trip with photos. 

     We all took some time to wander through this masterpiece on our own to take it all in.  Sitting in the pews, I found myself moved to tears.  I mused on how glorious it would be to live in Gaudi’s mind for a day and see where his creativity grew into the plans for this larger than life work of art. 

In La Sagrada Familia, there were several places in the middle that were blocked off and under construction.  On the walls masking the work being done, there was a sign apologizing for any inconvenience of the building being unfinished and asking for our understanding.  I scoffed to think that there was anything about La Sagrada Familia to apologize for.  Even unfinished, it is the most beautiful manmade structure I have ever had the joy and honor to visit.  My fellow acting student, Riley, brought her pondering to us after we joined back into our group. She shared that she thought it was a beautiful concept that something so magical could be so stunning and still be unfinished.  

We attend a university that celebrates people where they are presently.  There is an acceptance at IAB, where people are encouraged to do their best, as well as given the time and room to “fail”. I believe that success comes from exploring the many different ways an idea can be brought to life, and it is through exploring “failure” that we are able to discover the joy of success.  At IAB, I am learning that its just as much about the process as it is the final outcome of the work. In this moment in La Sagrada Familia I felt liberated by the philosophy of this thought.  It was profound to be reminded by this experience that I am exactly where I’ve chosen to be, accepted and welcomed both in my triumphs and defeats. 

The five of us shared a special moment and moving forward, we committed to each other to stop apologizing for ourselves.  I think we are all worthy of the time to grow into something larger than ourselves.  Becoming artists, we have the unique opportunity to be affected by our environment and turn our experiences into an expression and a message.  These messages may eventually be passed on through our global community and hold power to make people think and feel something different.  Perhaps even help people find love and acceptance for themselves, exactly where they are in the present moment, just as we did at La Sagrada Famila. 

This day in Barcelona with my new friends was the best cultural experience I’ve had so far while living in Spain.  We got well acquainted with metro and train system, and walked through many different neighborhoods.  We also attended a contemporary dance show at Mercat De Les Flors, and Liv gave us the in on a local secret of where to find amazing tapas and drinks for the affordable price of one euro!  Amazing food and delicious sangria was such a great way to close off our adventure.  I am so grateful that this trip was organized as a part of my study abroad experience.  It has given me a memory to cherish for the rest of my life. 

Mark Lethem