I left Granada, Spain two weeks ago, after my short three month Spanish language program. I wrote in my first blog that moving to Spain was like a “9.6 culture shock earthquake.” Whatever a 9.6 earthquake felt like to me then pales in comparison to the feelings I had leaving Spain.
Three and a half months ago I got on the airplane to Madrid, not really knowing what I had gotten myself into. I remember the first struggle I had talking in Spanish, trying to ask an airport employee where the luggage was. It went something like, “Dondé equipaje?” Just a blank stare looking back at me. This could be a long three months, I thought. I remember the first guy I met in my program. He was from Colorado. We had both skied a lot, that was cool. In the course of the next three months, I would learn how to say where can I pick up my luggage (and thankfully much more), as well as meet many people and make incredible friends. This last point, I think, is the source of the powerful feelings that I have had since stepping onto that bus at 2 AM, leaving Granada.
Spain has a beautiful culture, and I fell in love with it. The language is fluid, the art and architecture are stunning, the food is delicious, and the people are charming and caring. But what made my experience unique, and turned these intangible ideas into tangible memories, were the people that surrounded me and molded the environment I lived in.
My host brother, fluent in Spanish, English, French, and almost Japanese, would always make fun of my Spanish. It turned out to be good motivation. My buddy from Arkansas would kick my butt on workouts that we would do next to the Alhambra (not a bad spot to sweat it out). I lost each and every time I played chess with a friend from Maryland. I never won, not once. I learned to appreciate literature from two of my friends who couldn’t believe I’d never read Dickens. He’s seriously good. I developed a passion for dancing salsa, albeit very poorly, with a friend from New York. I obviously cannot do justice to all the incredible friends I made, but I think just these few examples demonstrate how the friends that surrounded me shaped the experience I had. Over and over again, I shared new experiences with all of them, and it quickly created a strong sense of friendship, defining how and with whom we would remember this time.
Leaving my friends, my host family, and the city I fell in love with was a difficult thing to do, but I’ve come to realize that the earthquake of emotions I felt was not all negative, in fact so overwhelmingly positive I did not know what to make of it. I believe my experience is true for the majority of study abroad students; we go to a different place and we meet people. We experience that place with those people, and whether we like it or not, our newfound friends teach us a lot about ourselves. They bring new perspectives and passions, and in doing so bring out new perspectives and passions in ourselves. These are friends I will have for life and they have had an immeasurable impact upon me. We all started our journeys to experience Spanish culture separately, but together we brought that culture to life for each other. We explored, we laughed, we struggled, and we learned, together.
No es adiós; es hasta luego.
The world awaits…discover it.