After 4 months, 10 countries, 26 cities, 19 UNESCO World Heritage Cites, countless memories, stories to last a lifetime and thousands upon thousands of pictures, I am back home and have had a week to reflect on this past semester that has been nothing short of a dream. I wouldn’t dare to say that I’m settled back into life here at home, because after all that I have done I’m not sure that I will ever be able to feel “settled” again, as I am already looking for the next opportunity I can take to get back out there. But for now, I can say that the unpacking is worse than it’s ever been, but I would be lying if I wasn’t enjoying consuming all of my typical American snacks.
As my final post, I’d like to reflect on what I’ve learned and what this experience has meant to me. Living abroad is something that I will always cherish, and recommend to anyone who is thinking about it, or who needs to be convinced by it, 1000% percent. I do understand the sacrifice that is necessary, but I can assure you that the reward is so so worth it. Saying that, whether you have the opportunity to study or to just travel, take it. No matter your age, no matter the timing, take it. If you leave with an open mind and a willingness to try, everything that comes your way, good or bad, opens your eyes to a whole new understanding of the world. Being abroad allowed me to open my mind to others thoughts, as well as my own thoughts, forced me to notice everything, to critically analyze my thoughts, my actions, and everything I have ever known. Forced to function in a completely different society, this allows you to learn even more than you think you are capable of. Walking down the street is an experience in itself. Although many people question it, I did in fact learn a lot in school. I truly feel an improvement in my Spanish skills, whether it’s all technical or all confidence, I feel a change. Not to mention the people you will meet, oh, the people. Jumping into this experience I knew absolutely no one, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, because I came out of it the exact opposite, having a group of people that I share such a special bond with. I am so thankful for the people I studied with, I lived with, and I met on the street or in my travels. The amount of inspiration that can come from people looking for the same things as you are is incredible. I not only learned an immense amount about Spain, and the other countries that I traveled to, but about my own country as well. I was forced to present myself and my background to people who have only imagined about where I come from (yes, the New York thing was hard). Doing this forced me to take a deep look into how I’ve become who I am, so that I could learn about others in just the same way. This experience thought me to take advantage of every moment, to wake up at 6am on a Thursday, or stay out until 4am on a Tuesday, to spend that money that I saved, to hike that mountain, to eat that gelato, and say hi to that stranger. It also taught me to cherish the moments, realizing that I may never have this exact feeling again, but I sure as hell will chase it.
One thing I’m trying to remember as I am back home, is to not forget all that I have grown in these past 4 months, to not digress. I’d feel as if all that I’d done, all that I’d learned all that I’d noticed while being away would be a waste if I didn’t take that knowledge and that feeling with me for the rest of my life. Immediately and indefinitely. If I couldn’t take my own advice and apply it to my life back here, no matter where I end up. Being back in my hometown, I may not have the same opportunities to explore something new and exciting and worldly every day, but what I will try to do is find a little bit of discovery in each day, whether it’s a col festival or just a garage sale. Just because you’re in a place you might have always been, does not mean you have to do things you’ve always done or feel the things that you always feel. Make an adventure out of all that you do. I hope to keep thinking, feeling, noticing and reflecting like I was able to do in Spain, for the rest of my life, no matter where I may be (Rochester or Spain, South America or Niagara Falls) because I refuse to live a boring life now that I’ve returned.
Nobody can tell you how to live your experience abroad, no two journeys are the same. I think that going abroad is not only about the things that you gain in your head, but about the things that you gain in your heart and your soul. For me, the most important aspect is the thing you gain internally. It’s a feeling, it’s a mindset, and it’s a clarity that I haven’t found anywhere else.
Thank you with all that I have, to everyone who made this dream a reality for me.
“We travel initially to lose ourselves, and as we live the experiences, we actually become destined to find ourselves”