As you all probably know, I have spent the last four months of my life living in Spain. Throughout this time I have learned many things and grown in ways I didn’t expect. I believe there is always a time and place for personal reflection. So here begins mine.
The picture above is the first picture I took after arriving in Spain four months ago. I can still recall the distinct feeling of amazement being surrounded by a world so different from my one back in Minnesota. I was excited for everything coming before me but also incredibly nervous if I would be able to do it all.
My host mom was so kind to me and helped me feel safe and comfortable in a land that was so foreign and new to me.
They say that there are certain phases that study abroad students undergo during there time abroad. The first phase is wonderment. Everything is new and exciting…. that is until reality starts to hit. For me this phase didn’t happen until about a month and a half in.
I struggled sometimes understanding Spanish and began to grow frustrated with certain situations happening in my life. I realized that my study abroad dream fantasy wasn’t always going to be easy and fun. There would be days that would be hard and days where I would want to cry. But this was all a part of the process.
Following this step comes gradual acceptance that things are as they are. I realized that I couldn’t change the culture around me. But I could do my best to remain open to possibilities.
After the first two months I was definitely feeling homesick… but then my boyfriend stopped by for a visit.
Unfortunately, he could only stay for a week. However, after he left I realized I had gained a new confidence and I pushed myself more out of my comfort zone. I signed up for a conversation hour with Spaniards, half in Spanish and half in English and it was one of my favorite language experiences I had while abroad.
I also got to watch some local processions going on during Semana Santa or Holy Week.
This leads me up to my last Saturday in Toledo. Melanie and I took a small hike up to “La Piedra” which is a rock that has an amazing view of the city.
Melanie and I sat on the rock for a while and reflected on our experiences while abroad. It’s hard for me to even express the set of emotions that I have been feeling over the past week.
- Sad. This part of my life is coming to a close. Studying abroad was something that I had been dreaming about since high school… and now it is almost over!
- Excited. I will soon be returning back to my home in the United States.
- Frustrated. I didn’t get to see everything that I wanted to in Toledo.
- Worry that I will not have the opportunity to travel to Europe again… and that I will never be able to return to Spain.
- Accomplished. I lived four months of my life in another country and daily spoke a language that is not my native tongue and for the most part understood everything my host family was talking about.
- Thankful. None of this would have been possible without my parents and I will forever be grateful.
On Easter Sunday I spent my first holiday ever without the comforts of my family back home. However, I was fortunate to have the company of my host family here in Spain.
So I guess I have reflected on most points up to today. One of the hardest parts about saying goodbye is thinking about lasts. This is my last Tuesday here. Or This is the last time I will spend with my host family. Or This is the last class I will have with my favorite professor. Saying goodbye is undoubtedly a difficult thing to do. Although I don’t have to say goodbye for another week, I know that it will be one of the hardest things I’ve done.
I had the day today free and didn’t have a schedule. I got a haircut (which will be revealed in a future post), walked around, sketched some sights and treated myself to some frozen yogurt. I have come to realize how comfortable I feel here now compared to when I first arrived. The buildings of this beautiful city have become like a second home to me and returning to my host family’s house after a long day brings me a sigh of relief.
I plan on doing more blog posts about all I have learned and advice I would give to others undergoing a similar experience. Overall, it was the most challenging but rewarding experience I have ever had.
Thank you Toledo for providing me with a life changing four months.
Worry less and smile more.