What a run this has been.
As my time in Barcelona comes to a close, I am feeling immensely grateful for these past months. At the conclusion of a full year abroad, I have covered five continents, created so many memories, made some amazing friends, and learned so much.
My last two weeks here in Catalonia have largely been filled with learning about different urban food cooperatives. We have analyzed the challenges they face in terms of viability, but also seen what a difference even the smallest organizations can make in a community. I thought it was interesting to supplement our classes with outside research as we wrote our anthropology and environmental essays about how alternative food networks (such as cooperative grocery stores, non-traditional exchange/currency systems, or organic management) contribute to or are challenged by the concept of sustainability. Outside of class, I have gotten to spend more time with my amazing host family and even got to make pierogies with my Polish host mom which were so good! I also got to do some more exploring of Barcelona as well, with some time spent at the beach, a hike up to Tibidabo (an old church at the top of a mountain that now has an amusement park attached), revisiting the gothic quarter of the city, and even seeing human towers, a huge part of Catalonian culture!
But the main focus recently has been our final projects. As I am writing this, we have just presented the final about five hours ago. It went so well — our project, as I have mentioned before, has to do with adaptations to water insecurity around the world. Within my group’s work, I focused more on the policy and decision making adaptations, and what I have learned through this project is actually really interesting. Essentially, the conclusion is that water policies are trending towards privatization of distribution systems, which although easier for governments (it is the easiest way to grow water management infrastructure and distribution systems, especially in places with rapid population growth and density) causes a whole host of social equity and accountability problems. Privatization also creates water markets, where the public resources become managed through market methods and become more expensive. But there are also efforts towards community management, which although difficult to engage on a large scale (especially within the existing sociopolitical frameworks), allows for more autonomy and water sovereignty in local communities. But in general, all of these efforts still have to battle a growing “neoliberalism of nature” phenomenon, and real effective water management policies in a time of water crises will need much more systemic shifts.
I really enjoyed working on and presenting this project. It was motivated by a deep personal connection to the issue and I am very happy that I got to pursue this topic as a passion project, in a way that this didn’t really feel like a chore but rather something I was really willing to get into. I also was really proud of the discussion that our project generated, as we talked for a long time after we were done about different aspects of the project. I appreciated that people were interested and engaged in what we had to say. I won’t be writing a senior thesis (unfortunately I missed the mandatory junior year seminar for that!), but it would be cool to be able to incorporate this information I have collected into some future research project or job opportunity.
But now we are coming to the end. My program ends on Tuesday, but until then we are at our “retreat” doing closing activities and generally just chilling out after an intense semester. During this time for reflection, I have to look back on this full year I have had. I think I have grown not just academically, but personally as well. I think I have grown in confidence and come into myself as a person. And although I still may not know what I want to do with my life or how these programs will shape my future, but I feel as though I will find out soon.
In the meantime, I will be traveling Europe for the next couple weeks! After a whole semester of having all of my time highly planned out, it will be nice to have some freedom again. And then it’s back home for the first time in four months, just in time for my little sister’s high school graduation. Shoutout to her — so proud of you!
So to wrap it up, thanks to all of you for following along this incredible journey. It has been so much fun to not only experience it, but to share it as well.
Until next time 🙂