Lately, my friends and I have been trying to avoid talking about the “L” word. You know, that dreaded word that terrifies all study abroad students. But now we’re nearing the end of the semester, and we all have to face reality. It’s almost time to…LEAVE.
I have tried to write this blog post about 12 different times, and I still do not know how to express how I feel about leaving. I’ll admit, although I am bursting with excitement to see my friends and family, the idea of leaving Granada is a bit scary. The idea that I may never come back to Spain, or at least not within the next year, is just so strange to me. When I left the U.S., I knew that it was only for a period of time and then things would return to “normal.” I knew I’d be able to come back to my bed and see my friends and family. But now, my normal is something I know I’ll never have again. Even if someday I were to come back and visit Spain, it wouldn’t be the same. I won’t be able to sleep in my bed here or go to a class at the CLM or get student discounts! But most of all, I won’t be a staircase away from my host family, who I have grown to love as if they were my blood relatives.
Granted, I know all of my fears about leaving are totally normal. Before I came to Spain, I learned all about “reverse culture shock.” Basically, you start out feeling sad and a bit lost (like me right now) because you realize all the realities of leaving. This first stage of reverse culture shock is called “disengagement.” The second stage, “initial euphoria” is when you get super excited to go home and see everyone, eat Pizza Hut, sleep in your own bed, etc. You simply cannot wait to barge into your house! However, the third stage, “irritability and hostility,” is a bit more intense. People experiencing this stage tend to feel out of place, like a stranger in their homes or cultures. They become critical of others, miss their homes abroad and sometimes become less independent. BUT THERE IS HOPE. The fourth stage, “readjustment and adaptation,” is my personal favorite. In this stage people tend to start getting used to the U.S. again. They start to see their experience abroad as a positive aspect to their life and start to see their goals more clearly. Their lives may be different, but they realize that different isn’t bad.
Although I am a ball of nerves right now, I do know that I will never regret my experience with ISA Granada. I am just so thankful to have been given this opportunity; I really have grown as a person. The first time I told my parents that I wanted to live in Spain, they looked at me as if I had said I wanted to live as a mermaid under the sea. Honestly, I couldn’t blame them for thinking this way. I was a timid, small-town girl with a terrible sense of direction who knew nothing about being alone. And yet, every time I opened a travel brochure or walked past the study abroad office I knew I had to try.
I arrived in Spain with one suitcase, a crumpled map and a serious case of wanderlust. It was as if I had stepped off of a plane and into a real-life storybook. Every day was a new adventure. I started booking my own flights and traveling with confidence. Spanish words and Spanish foods felt strange on my tongue, but I suddenly wasn’t afraid of something new.
These five months have shown me that if I get lost I’ll find my way, as if that crumpled map is forever imprinted under my skin. After this, I’ll be able to see more opportunities no matter where I live. This experience won’t just be “the best time of my life” and then be over. Instead, it will help me begin.
Finally, future ISA study abroad students:
Leave with a suitcase full of memories and please, please, please, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” – Dr. Seuss.