Well, I’ve been back from the Homelandu (yes, Homelandu) for a week, and I have decided to keep up with the theme of lists for some parting thoughts.
During my last week abroad, I:
- enjoyed a little more of what Segovia had to offer
- missed home more than ever
- decided to stay in Madrid with my roommate so she didn’t have to spend her last night alone (which meant leaving Segovia a day early)
- wore a mustache in public and got into a club for free because of said mustache
- got a lot closer to the people in the group and realized how sad I would be without them
- had a dance-off with a smelly Spaniard… and won. His girlfriend was upset that he danced with me.. oh well.
- Met a Kurt Cobain/Thor lookalike from Oregon
- was followed down the street and barked at by a scary guy in the middle of the night
- started having a sore throat which I believed to be allergies until I visited a doctor and found out it was an infection… either strep or tonsillitis, he never told me. He just gave me antibiotics.
- Went out on the town with “strep throat.”
- Trekked across Segovia with “strep throat.”
- ventured to the Alcazar with “strep throat.”
- cried when I said goodbye to my host family, then cried on the bus to Madrid, then cried again in the hotel while Alex was sleeping.
- Ordered pancakes and syrup at the McDonald’s in the Madrid airport… but by syrup, they meant chocolate syrup…
I also watched The Hunger Games on the airplane… it was awesome. I cried.
Some things I have learned:
- Family and friends are everything. The Spaniards spend the majority of the day spending time with their loved ones: munching on tapas at a bar, going on a paseo (walk), having a lunchtime that lasts an hour, spending time around the house during siesta, having giant meals with their families. Integrating myself into this part of Spanish life made me realize not only how much I missed everyone, but how much I loved the people I love, and how I wish our culture didn’t take relationships for granted.
- Time is nothing. The Spanish work to live while we live to work… and frankly, I think this is ridiculous. We put ourselves on strict time schedules (I am extremely guilty) and get worked up if something goes off-track. While in Spain, I realized that homework and getting everything done in a time limit is just that: limiting. In the grand scheme, we have to make do with what little time we have, and if we don’t allow wiggle room, we’re only making ourselves sick with work and worry. There is time to work, and there is time to enjoy the world around us.
- Be brave. This advice came from a trusted professor before I left. Traveling to another country is no time to be shy: you must adjust to a new time zone, a new culture’s schedule and way of life, and it is necessary to try new things. In order to enjoy an experience abroad, you have to be open to eating new foods, taking risks, spending money (if you have it!), and seeing all that your destination has to offer. A comfort zone will make you extremely uncomfortable when you see your friends or travelmates enjoying themselves but you are too scared to venture out of the house. I’m a worrysome, nervous, safety-conscious person, but the best experiences I enjoyed were always ones that were spontaneous and stress-inducing. I mean, I navigated the metros on my own.
- Your experience is what YOU make it. Outside factors play a role, but it is wholly up to you to handle the circumstances and make the best out of your experience. While I was abroad, I received devastating news, and I admit that I handled it negatively by moping and being dramatic. Granted, I should not have had to find the news out while I was a billion miles away from home, I didn’t have to let it dampen and darken part of my trip. Things will come up, and you will be upset, and you will miss home, and you will get so, so stressed… but have patience. You must keep in mind that what you are doing abroad is bigger than the tiny mishaps at home, bigger than homesickness. You have the choice to enjoy yourself or be preoccupied with trifles. I spent too much time doing the latter that I regret not doing more of the former.
My favorite part:
- all of it.
My least favorite part:
- being homesick, tired, and hot. All the time. Boobsweat every night. Not fun.
After leaving Spain, I am more passionate about the country and its people. I could tell you the country’s history from before the Roman invasion all the way up to present times. I can also use the phonetic alphabet to write every Spanish word and identify the region from which nearly any dialect comes. I lived one of my biggest dreams by going to Spain, and I can’t wait to go back.
I’m still trying to adjust to using English in public places, though. I said “gracias, hasta luego” to a waitress at the Dallas McDonald’s and probably offended her because she was plainly Mexican… sorry, lady :l