Here are some of my thoughts from leaving Sevilla, a week ago, and then from finally leaving Spain, today, from Madrid.
Today I’m sitting in the Sevilla airport waiting for my flight. It’s just like any other weekend for me, as I’ve flown in and out of this airport a number of times in the past four months. Only this time, I won’t be coming back in just a few short days. I won’t be coming back to Sevilla, not at least until a long time from now – who knows when.
It’s been hard saying goodbye to this quaint little city. While there may be some things that I wish were different about Spain, these things are small, and I’ve grown to feel quite fond of the place. It’s really started to feel like home for me.
Saying goodbye to my host mom was probably the worst. I’m going to miss sitting with her at lunch and dinner every day and listening to her many stories and funny jokes. Yesterday was such a nice goodbye too, as she and her son, Miguel Angel, who lives with us too, took us to lunch at this amazing Chinese restaurant that we never knew was right by our apartment. I almost started crying yesterday as she showed me her many photo albums of her, her kids, and her niñas, as she calls them (the American girls like me who come and stay with her every semester). I’m going to miss her sweet personality (and her food) quite a bit.
Honestly, I don’t think it’s really even hit me yet that I’m leaving Sevilla. I just can’t believe it. I can’t get it into my mind. Who knows when it will hit – maybe after I get some sleep and get to Prague. Or maybe when I finally leave Europe and realize that after my travels, I won’t be returning to Sevilla like I always have this semester. Either way, whenever it does hit, I know it’s going to hit me hard.
There’s just so much to love about Sevilla and the people here. The city, with its river, parks, plazas and historic old town, is full of so much charm. I’ve never gotten sick of taking walks through this city. There’s just something quite spectacular to walking through the centro and seeing La Giralda all lit up, peeking up over the buildings and narrow streets of Santa Cruz.
Sevilla has so much culture too. I’ll never grow tired of hopping around to different bars and eating some delicious tapas (tortilla de patatas, anyone?) or drinking a tinto de verano – and all outside too. People are always outside enjoying each other’s company, many times with their dogs too (although I won’t miss people treating the city sidewalks like its their dog’s personal bathroom).
I’m going to miss the picturesque horse drawn carriages carrying tourists around the city. And heck – I’m even kind of going to miss dodging the puddles the horses make in el centro – it’s just sort of a funny thing – almost like a game – especially since we thought they were just rain puddles at first (Hint: It hardly rains in Sevilla.).
I’m going to miss the history and going to school in an old royal tobacco factory of great historical importance. It also looks kind of like Hogwarts inside, so that’s pretty cool.
And I have to say, I’m going to miss the discotecas too – I mean why aren’t places like that common in the U.S.?
And now here I am in Madrid, waiting to board my flight – this time not to another European country, but to the United States – gasp. It still hasn’t completely hit me, and I’m not sure if it will until I get into JFK and hear everyone speaking English and see (fingers crossed) a Chick-Fil-A in the airport.
However, it is starting to hit me a little bit – at least more than when I left Sevilla (I mean how could leaving have hit me completely when I was about to take a Sound of Music tour in Salzburg in a few short days?)
But last night, I felt the reality of it all hit me a little. As I was finishing up my early dinner (7 p.m., early for Spaniards) in the Mercado de San Miguel (my favorite place in Madrid), I suddenly found myself thinking, well what should I do now? I was feeling pretty tired, but it was my last night, so I didn’t want to just go to bed. So I relaxed in my amazing hostel for a bit, then walked around the Puerta del Sol (overwhelmingly crowded as always), then went back to the market for a sweet treat.
Once I decided to go back to the hostel for good, I got ready for bed and packed up as much as I could. But I just didn’t want to go to sleep because going to sleep meant that my next waking moments in Madrid would be my preparations to leave.
And now, here I am in the airport waiting. As I said, the reality of leaving hasn’t completely hit me yet – probably because at this point I’m just so used to flying all the time – it’s nothing new. To some extent, I am excited to be back in the U.S. to see family, friends, my dogs; to eat all sorts of delicious foods; and to be around the random other things I miss (toilet paper in bathrooms, libraries open past 9 p.m., my car, etc.). But overall, I know that readjusting back to the U.S. is going to be difficult, as I’m going to miss Spain and Europe very much.
This semester has been a dream – something I never could have imagined. And while it’s had its downs, the ups of my journey abroad have far exceeded those downs.
Looking back on my journey abroad, I can’t believe all that I’ve done and how much I’ve seamlessly become another person from my experiences. I can’t believe that I was able to navigate my way through Spanish society with my second language skills. I can’t believe I was brave enough (especially with my fear of heights) to jump out of a plane. At a much smaller level, I can’t believe that I was able to navigate so easily through unknown cities in foreign countries, at times completely by myself.
Reflecting on these experiences and others, I realize how much I’ve done and how much I’ve grown from this incredible experience. I now feel more self-confident and independent than ever before, more patient (Spanish time, you know?), more open to new experiences and to meeting different people, and really just more flexible and accepting of whatever happens in life, happens.
I’m happy to look back and see that I’ve learned so much and didn’t just enjoy this semester abroad as a big party and vacation (contrary to some Spanish stereotypes). I’m especially happy to have improved my Spanish skills and to have made connections with Spaniards, especially with my wonderful host mom. Thinking back on how I will lose all these things once I return makes me sad because while I learn tons at UNC, it’s certainly more of an academic learning, while in Spain, I have learned much more about life and about myself.
But I know I will return to Spain. I’m not going to say that I hope I will return because hoping doesn’t mean anything. Hoping is passive, and just by hoping, you won’t get anywhere. You have to make it happen. I know that I will return to Spain. After graduation, I am considering returning to the country to teach English for a year before joining the working world. But even if I don’t do that, I know that I will return because I have to show all my family and friends what a great country it is (and I have to return to Sevilla for Semana Santa and Feria de Abril). So until then, España, hasta luego (see you later).