We started our study abroad program in Chicago. We were asked to be tourist in two different cities. We took selfies being a tourist in Chicago and in Barcelona. I thought “how hard can it be?” We all want to go to places where we haven’t been before, have fun and sight-see famous locations. Out of all, take lots of pictures because “Picture or it never happened.” Honestly, I didn’t know that I was going to have complete different experience doing the same project in two different cities.

Taking selfie in front of The Bean (Cloud gate) in Millennium Park on Michigan Ave.

In Chicago, I felt a little awkward taking selfies of sculptures that I’ve walked past everyday. I thought you only take pictures of famous sites when you are touring a place other than yours. Chicago is my home, so it was strange to take pictures in my own home. I mean everyone knows that it’s my house right? So, why do I need to show people that I live here. On top of that, it’s my personal space and I wouldn’t want anyone to invade that. In Chicago, I knew I felt awkward taking selfies because it’s the place that I would never explore, but I thought taking selfies would be easier in Barcelona. It was actually opposite. Part of the reason was convenience of being in Chicago. I knew where Wrigley Field, The Bean, The Picasso and most other landmarks were. There was no language barrier and I had phone service and data to call someone or use GPS if I needed to. We have to use paper maps in Barcelona and communication was minimum. These were some of the minor challenges. The main challenge was being a tourist. One might think, “What’s so hard about it? That’s the best part, everyone does it.” That’s what I had thought, but I never realized how would a local feel about tourists coming into their city and invading their space, culture and heritage until locals living in Barcelona viewed their opinions about tourism in Bye Bye Barcelona.

This picture was taken in the narrow streets of Gothic Quarter.

Tourism have increased rapidly in past few years. This can have good and bad impact on the city and their locals. Especially with increasing focus on social media, things have changed on how people tourist. Before I left to come to Barcelona, everyone told me to take lots of pictures and post it on social media. If I had done that than I wouldn’t have been able to immerse myself in the history of Gothic Quarter with our tour guide Dan. I feel social media and advertising give attention to tourist spots and increase the tourism business which can be good for cities that are developed for tourism. The selfie project allowed me to observe the differences in neighborhoods.There are neighborhoods that are highly populated with tourists. Today these locations have accustomed to tourists in terms of branded shops, restaurants and touristic activities. There were more people who spoke english than the areas with less tourists. There is more Catalonia culture seen in less touristic areas than there is in La Rambla. This explained why the locals in Barcelona are not happy with tourists as they take the identity and culture away from the city. On the other hand, Chicago is a melting pot of diverse cultures therefore, tourism is encouraged in Illinois.The neighborhoods from Greektown to Chinatown to Little Italy and more are designed to explore different ethnicity. There are shops that represent the culture and the towns celebrate the festivals. 

After my experience with Barcelona, I felt bad taking selfies. Every time I would take my phone out to take a selfie, I’d remember Bye  Bye Barcelona. From the little interaction that I had with a local here at supermarket, I learned that they want to help if someone is willing to learn. In the coming four weeks, I want to learn about Catalonia by living in Barcelona and not by being a tourist.

Group of Tourists walking behind me on the street of La Rambla