The fact was, I had other things to think about; within the last few months feelings had been stirred in me so much more potent than any they could raise–pains and pleasures so much more acute and exquisite had been excited than any it was in their power to inflict or bestow…
I’ve been trying for the last year or so to read more classic novels just on my own without being assigned them for a class. I really believe that the classics are, well, classics for a reason; they have something to teach us and show us through their timeless writings. This is something that would definitely be termed an “english major problem” but I’ve really been enjoying the challenge of reading for the pure pleasure of reading. So, last week I cracked open (well, when I say cracked open I really mean loaded up on my Kindle) the novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. And, as I’ve found countless times during my new quest to read more classics, it included a quote, written above, that just perfectly describes my life right now.
Study abroad has been full of some of the most amazing pleasures I’ve experienced in my entire life; but yet, there have been pains, too. When I think back on the experience I’ve had here in Spain, it’s impossible simply to highlight the wonderful, eye-opening and mind-blowing experiences I’ve had without also looking at the hard moments I’ve had here: there have been countless times that I’ve missed my family, or questioned if it’s the right path for me to be here right now, wondered if what I’m missing back home is worth it, and so many other things. Now that I’m getting closer to going home, I worry about reverse culture shock and the hard readjustments I know will be right around the corner. It’s impossible not to worry about it. And look, in my opinion, it’s a good thing to recognize the pain that comes with the pleasure. Life is full of little extremes that help define each other; without the pain that comes with studying abroad there would be no full appreciation for the wonderful and exquisite pleasure that comes in tenfold that of the pain. That’s just called living. When someone asks me about the experience I’ve had in Spain, the most honest answer would have to be: “Well, honestly overall it was amazing. I laughed, I cried, I was happy, I was sad; I just lived during those four months like we all do.”
For every one of those hard moments, there have been three or four amazing life experiences I know I will never forget like getting the opportunity to share a life and a culture with such beautiful people that live here or getting to step outside of my own life back in the United States and truly get to see and experience so much more than I could imagine was out there beyond my own door step. It truly has been awe inspiring and breath-taking, and bettered me in so many wonderful ways.
It’s been so wonderful to be here, but as my resident director Cristina noted in our final meeting, study abroad is just a parenthesis in a full life that will continue. Yes, I’ve experienced amazing things here, but I have the hope and true belief that even better and equally as wonderful things are still just around the corner. This will be a sentiment I need to remember during the first couple of weeks back full of crazy reentry shock woes, haha. I can truly say that study abroad not only has taught me that there is so much out there, but that I’m so blessed in what I have back home. I’ve had a great life here, yet I still have an equally great life to return home to. Both will continue as I move into the future and have new experiences and both will have their weight upon who I am as a person.
So, what am I really trying to say here in this blog post? I guess it’s my attempt to sum up everything that study abroad has meant to me, which honestly is impossible. No one back home knows the way my host parents have made me laugh each night after dinner or how my friends that I’ve made here have supported me through it all. No one back home was side by side with me as I saw Rome for the first time or stood up and gave a strong presentation on gender abuse in a language that is not my own. But, all I have are my words to try to bring you in and give you the chance to share that experience with me; just like I want to share all the experiences everyone has had back home while I’ve been gone. So, that was my attempt at summing up a semester’s worth of feelings and experiences, and I really hope that I was able to get across everything that I could.
The only thing I have left to say is if you are given the chance to go abroad, do it. Know that there will be pain, but know that there will be pleasure that you can’t even imagine. Think on the acute and exquisite that you will be a part of for the time that you are gone. Not only will you have the chance to discover an amazing new life for a couple months, you’ll even discover how amazing the life is you left back in the States. It’s such a strong and wonderful feeling.
And now, I will step down off my soap box yet again haha and say that words truly cannot encompass my excitement for going home in a couple days. I can’t wait to see my family, my friends, to be a part of my culture again. Words also cannot express my sadness at leaving my Spanish family, my Spanish friends, and the Spanish culture behind, I know I will miss it a ton, but (another statement I have to attribute to my wonderful resident director) it’s like the changing of the seasons. Yes, I love fall but that doesn’t mean that I’m depressed when winter comes. I know that it has to come and that it has to change for us to continue moving forward. So, I can honestly say that yes, it’s time to shut the door on my season here in Alcalá de Henares, Spain and that I’m ready to say hello to my new season back home in the States. I know that no matter what there’s always going to be amazing experiences laying in wait.
Besitos y un abrazo fuerte. USA, we’ll be seeing each other in five days.