OPINION | Lessons from abroad: Studying overseas provides sights seldom seen

On my GALA group’s last day in Barcelona, we were free to do whatever  we wanted.
Some went to the beach. Some got caught up on laundry and readings for classes and others went off around the city.
It was melancholy that this was our last day in the hustle, bustle and warmth of Barcelona, so I decided that the time was right to get lost in a part of the city we had not seen yet.
Getting lost in a foreign city may be a daunting idea, but I believe that it is one of the best things any tourist can do to get a true feel for a city.
On that last day my friends Matt and Erik and I decided that we wanted to revisit a famous park, called Park Güell to watch the sun set over the mountains.  We took the subway north towards the closest station to the park and walked off in what we believed to be the general direction of the park.
Twenty  minutes later, we were no closer to the park than when we started even though we had been following signs pointing to the park.  The area we were in was more suburban than any part of Barcelona we had been in up to that point. It was nice not to have to deal with the crazy crowds and traffic.
Walking through this neighborhood, I spotted a flight of stone steps leading up a hill.  Since we did not seem to be getting any closer to Park Güell, the three of us decided to take the stairs.  Unsure of where they were leading, we stumbled up the rocky path that turned from stone to dirt and scattered rocks.
At one point, we were startled when a young man followed us up the path.  Since we were completely alone on the hill, we were nervous that the individual might try to rob us.
The path finally ended at the crest of the hill, and all my worries about the man following us vanished.  From the top of that hill, we had a complete 360-degree view of Barcelona, the mountains surrounding the city and the Mediterranean Sea.
At that point, I had seen some breathtaking views of Barcelona, but nothing compared this one. It was around six in the afternoon, a time known as the “Golden Hour,” when the sun was setting.  The entire city was drenched in a rusty light as the sun set over the mountains to the west, and the sea glistened in the distance.
The man who had followed us up the mountain turned out to be a very nice guy, a Colombian foreign exchange student who took our picture for us.  Just goes to show what we get for judging somebody before we get to know them.
What I got most out of climbing that hill and finding that view was that I was seeing what few other tourists had likely seen.  That hilltop was not on the tourism maps. The path up the hill was not marked, and there were only a handful of locals there ,enjoying the view.  This is why it is such a valuable experience to get lost in a foreign city.  I know with certainty that was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and that the memories I made that day will stay with me my whole life.

Perin is participating in the GALA Program in Europe this semester.