postcard sent 3/29
Being back in the states I have already begun to miss my previous home for the past 4 months. I miss wandering around Malasana looking for a new restaurant. I miss hearing Spanish on the streets and conversing with people from a totally different culture. I miss going to a sports bar filled with passionate soccer fans knowledgeable about the team and the sport. Thinking about these things along with countless other make me nostalgic about my time abroad. At the same time being home has been amazing. I’ve been able to spend time with my family lounging on the couch watching stupid TV shows, cooking with my mom, and playing tennis with my dad. The familiarity of life back in Arlington is comforting and very relaxing and it really didn’t take much time at all to adjust.
As my time abroad came to an end I spent some time reflecting on my experience in Madrid. I remember just a few weeks before my flight I had second thoughts about my decision to study abroad. Staying in Charlottesville would’ve been the easy way out. I already have a group of friends, I’ll only be two hours away from home, and I’m already familiar with with how things work around campus. Deciding to go abroad was a huge leap of faith for me. Countless people it would be the time of my life but I still had some concerns. I had never been away from my family for this long, I didn’t know anyone going in, and Madrid seemed so foreign to me. I remember even a week or so before leaving talking with my parents about bailing and just staying at UVA for the semester. Looking back I totally get where I was coming from but I’m also so glad I made the choice to step out of my comfort zone and try something that made me nervous. Although every day abroad wasn’t the coolest thing ever, as a whole my experience was completely amazing. I saw some amazing places, met some awesome people and lived in a city all on my own. I don’t want to get too philosophical and pretend like my trip completely changed me, but there are a few lessons that I learned through my experience that will stick with me long after leaving Madrid.
I am now just two days away from going home, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. About a week ago, I thought I was ready to return to America, as I had spent long enough here to get everything out of the experience that I had wanted coming in. And though I still believe that for the most part, and I am still more excited than ever to see my friends and family, I’m starting to reconsider how “ready” I am to leave. First off, some people have already left, and I don’t think it fully hit me that I was actually leaving until a few close friends left and I realized that I may never see them again. Obviously I will stay in touch with them, but we will never spend an entire semester together again as we did this semester. I’ve shared incredible memories with those friends, and it’s odd having to say goodbye. I initially thought of my friends and family as only in America, but I now realize I also am a part of a community here in Denmark, and I’m not ready to say goodbye. Furthermore, a tragic accident happened a few days ago on a boat, the same boat that I had been on just a day before, and it really shook the community here, including myself. However, it also made me all the more aware of how great this community is and how close we’ve become, as we mourned the losses of two fellow students. I had friends who I had never met prior to this semester, and I was now having deep conversations with them, turning to them during that hard time, again making me realize how close I had become with them. We’ve already planned trips to visit one another, but it won’t be the same as spending a semester together in this place we now call home, a bond we will forever share and will be hard to replicate again.
After reading my letter, pretty much everything that I thought would happen did end up happening. I learned a lot about entrepreneurship and corporate impact strategies in school, I didn’t pick up that much Spanish, I saw a lot of people pronouncing their “S’s” like “C’s”, and I traveled a lot. One of the things that did surprise me is something I wrote about in my last blog post, which is that Spain and other European countries are not as unified as they seem. A thing that I and my parents are still shocked about is the immense amount of money that I spent on this trip. One thing I will say is that if I could do this whole thing again, I would definitely budget my money a little better.
Even after the last blog post and after my plane landed in the United States, it is still hard to believe that I have left Spain. The fact that I am still in disbelief that I have left my host country relates to my biggest surprise over the course of the experience. For you see, the biggest surprise I encountered did not immediately sink in until I had arrived in the United States. I did not at all expect how easy I would fit in the Spanish culture, even coming from a Latin American background. Now that I have returned to the U.S., this experience makes me excited about my next opportunity to be back in Spain.
Before I knew it the semester sped by and now I’m back in America. I can’t even believe how quickly time flew and could not have predicted how much Barcelona would feel like home to me by the time I left. Leaving Barcelona is definitely bittersweet. There are so many things I’m going to miss about the city, like its delicious food and proximity to such amazing culture. I am going to miss how, in a day, I can wander the narrow streets and alleys of the old gothic quarter, but then walk to the beautiful beach and boardwalk, and walk down the busy street “Las Ramblas.” I’ll miss how easy it is to travel to other countries and my weekly exposure to different cultures. I’ll miss sitting on my back terrace on sunny afternoons reading my book and relaxing, looking at the surrounding apartment buildings with views of clothes drying on hanging racks everywhere I looked.
There’s many sayings about Irish luck, but it is most commonly expressed post-ironically. Like this week for example has been one of the best weeks for weather. Unfortunately, this nice weather coincides perfectly with exams. All the day trips that I had reserved for these gorgeous cloudless days (still mid 50s though) will land on the days when I am fastened to a desk. And, I can almost guarantee that by the time I finish my last exam, the weather will almost certainly return to overcast and rain. Another example of this could be mistaking the deadline for this post to be this Sunday as opposed to midnight last night. Regardless, it’s the luck of the Irish and I have become all too familiar with it. This week has been filled with studies and trying to prepare for my upcoming exams this week. It’s finally time to remove all distractions from my everyday life—so that’s probably another reason I why I missed the mark on this deadline.
The other day, a younger friend from home reached out to ask for advice about studying abroad. She’s applying to study in Florence next spring through a program at her school, the University of South Carolina. I immediately began inundating her with tips – go here, but not there; eat this (and a lot of it); save money by adopting these practices – to the point where I think she felt a bit overwhelmed. Similarly, one of my best friends is considering studying abroad next year, so I have taken it upon myself to persistently pester her with words of encouragement on why she should, and why she should choose Italy as the destination.
It is amazing how quickly the semester has flown by. I have less than a week left in Denmark, and I feel like I just arrived! As I reflect on the past four months, I am so grateful for the time I have spent in Europe. Saying goodbye will definitely not be easy. In one of my classes we have discussed endings all semester, so this week we focused on ending this abroad experience. The teacher suggested that we visit all of our favorite places a final time to say goodbye. With under a week left in this amazing country, I am struggling to narrow down all of the places in Copenhagen I want to visit before I go.