The entry I couldn’t bear the thought of writing is here…tomorrow I leave the beautiful city of Barcelona.
Yesterday was a sigh of relief because I finished my finals in the morning! I then wandered back to my favorite places, Bunquers (lookout point), Parque Guell, and the Gothic. Today I plan on doing the same thing although I wish the weather would be a little bit nicer.
So here I am, just wrapping up a life-altering experience trying to make sense of it all. The past couple of days have been a complete emotional roller coaster as I deal with the excitement of seeing friends & family, but the agony of leaving my host family, the culture of Barcelona, and the incredible friendships I’ve made here. I can’t help but think about the “lasts” – the last dinner with my family, the last hug I’ll give my mom before I shut the door for the last time, the streets that I will no longer walk through to get to school, the last coffee date with my roommate, and the last glimpse of the skyline.
Last night I began the arduous task of repacking all of my stuff (ugh) and – as the ridiculously sentimental person that I am – stopped to read the sheets we got when we first came to Barcelona, the train ticket I bought in Prague, the pamphlet I got at my family’s church in Germany, etc. I remember when I first got to the Barcelona airport, terrified out of my mind because I had no idea how to work public transportation. Or a taxi. Did I wave like in the movies? Do I have to chase them down? Well, lucky for me the taxis were all lined up at the airport and I vividly remember handing my driver the paper with my address highlighted in orange saying “Aqui?”
I found the flash drive with my pictures from paragliding in the Swiss Alps, my train ticket to Sitges for Carnival, and the wooden elephant I got as a secret santa gift (well, not santa I guess, but you get the picture) from my Spanish classmate.
Wow. What a ride it has been these past four months.
I’m so, so, SO incredibly thankful for my support system that helped me get on this journey. It’s not easy for athletes to take an entire semester off, but my coaches encouraged me to take this opportunity and reassured me that I’d get back in the swing of things this summer. My family who supported me throughout this process, the good and the bad days. Of course, my friends and teammates who kept me in the loop of things going back at home and let me know I was loved and missed (especially meaningful on the days of serious FOMO).
Throughout my semester abroad, I was able to look back on my life in the States and what it means to be an American. Pretty heavy stuff, right? The more places I’ve seen the more I realized how vital it is to get out of your comfort zone. It’s easy to get caught up in our little bubble, failing to recognize how big this world truly is and that our actions affect everyone else. For me that “everyone else” has a face and a name. They’re my host brothers and sisters who can’t find a job because of the recession that my home country sent spiraling out of control. They’re the refugees that are employed by my German family in hopes that they can get on their feet and jump start their lives in a foreign country. They’re doormen at the IES center who always greet me with a “Buenos días” and a smile.
Studying abroad has reaffirmed my desire to live outside of the United States – to explore and see the beautiful world full of vibrant cultures vastly different than my own. It’s given me outlets to assist with the Syrian refugee crisis, a cause I’ve felt passionate about and want to take action, not just sit on the sidelines. I’ve met people from all over the United States and created friendships that won’t be deterred by the amount of miles that separate us. A piece of my heart has found a new home in Barcelona where it’ll stay until I can return.
I’m going to cry approximately twenty times today when I remember I’m actually leaving, but I know I’ll be back. Every student I’ve talked to who has studied abroad says this, but I truly mean it. Deep down in my heart I’m sad, but I just can’t shake this feeling that one day I’ll walk the streets of Barcelona again.
For anyone that’s considering studying abroad, I can’t emphasize enough how doing so was one of the the best decisions of my life. Thank you for following my study abroad journey as I’ve navigated my way through being dropped off in an entirely new country! In T-24 hours I’ll be on my way to once again be on the same continent as you…