A Year Abroad in Books (Alongside Homesickness and Coming Home)

Some of you may know that from August 2013 I was in Spain, working in Barcelona for the year abroad of my degree.

Well, time has flown by and I’m now back in England, surrounded by the familiar comforts of home. Am I happy to be back? I can’t lie. I’m so, so glad to be back. Living in Barcelona was great, but I was definitely ready to come home.

Now that life is pretty much to normal, I think a quick overview of my time in Barcelona is due.

Why don’t I tell you about my year abroad through the books I read?

La Setmana del Llibre en Català
La Setmana del Llibre en Català, September 2013

The Cuckoo’s Calling – Robert Galbraith

I read The Cuckoo’s Calling on the journey over to Barcelona and when I was settling in, and it was the perfect choice. Reading about a character coming to terms with his own life really got me thinking about my own, and it was easily one of my favourite reads of 2013. There’s something very fitting about reading a detective novel when you’re solving problems and dealing with change in your own life.

The Battersea Park Road to Enlightenment – Isabel Losada

Thanks to Angeliki’s consistently brilliant recommendations, I came across The Battersea Park Road to Enlightenment. Documenting the author’s journey of self-discovery, the memoir was a welcome retreat from the anxiety of setting up bank accounts and struggling to get the ever elusive NIE – an identity number for foreigners – in my hands.

Sant Jeroni peak, Montserrat, September 2013

NW – Zadie Smith

NW was an extremely slow read for me, and a potentially risky one considering my English home isn’t far from the English capital. However, homesickness wasn’t yet due for me, and I was inspired by the themes of education and reinvention that Zadie Smith so cleverly weaves together.

The End of Your Life Book Club – Will Schwalbe

A real testament to the power of books, I can’t recommend The End of Your Life Book Club enough. It reminded me why I should be working on my bibliotherapy projects, and provided me with the inspiration to do something meaningful with my life (or at least give it a shot).

The Gifts of Imperfection – Brené Brown

I can be so afraid of failing and making a fool of myself that I shelter myself from anything remotely scary and challenging. If you can relate to this, you really need to discover Brené Brown. Check out Daring Greatly and her teachings on the power of vulnerability right now!

La Diada, or The National Day of Catalonia, and ‘The Catalan Way’ September 2013. Photo credit: Chris Jones.

The Shock of the Fall – Nathan Filer

Winner of the Costa Prize for the best first novel, The Shock of the Fall was a firm reminder of the potential of fiction to help us come to terms with our own mental health and that of others.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? – Maria Semple

I read this in December, when homesickness was just starting to kick in. If you’ve read Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, you’d probably agree that this was the perfect antidote. Uplifting, inspirational and extremely funny, this was the ideal book to read!

Names for the Sea: Strangers in Iceland – Sarah Moss

Names for the Sea tells the experience of another British woman abroad, in my favourite country in the world: Iceland. What better book to read when I was feeling like an out-of-place foreigner?

Two Lucys at the CosmoCaixa Science Museum, February 2014

The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion

I loved Bernadette, and I absolutely adored The Rosie Project. My main advice for anyone living abroad? Read feel-good novels. They’re the ultimate first aid for homesickness! Also, the protagonist of The Rosie Project, Don, can’t but help inspire you to get out your comfort zone and open your mind as he does.

The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt

Just incredible. I needed a story of beauty, courage and growing up to get me through the last stages of my time abroad, and I couldn’t have chosen a better book.

The Fry Chronicles – Stephen Fry

As the second part of Stephen Fry’s autobiography that focuses on his years as a student (and his brief spell in prison before that), I listened to this coming-of-age tale as an audiobook and loved it. It was the perfect end to my year abroad, and Fry (with his ever so recognisable voice) was the perfect companion on my trip to visit my sister in Andorra.

Casa Sayrach, Barcelona
Casa Sayrach, just around the corner from my Barcelona flat in the Eixample region. March 2014
Now that I’m in England, I’m so eager to get back into a reading and blogging routine. What more can I say? It’s good to be back!
It's good to meet you! I started Tolstoy Therapy back in 2012 to share my healing journey through anxiety and PTSD with books. I also climb mountains, go on solo adventures, and write over at livewildly.co.

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