I can’t believe I have been home for just a few weeks already. It’s weird, because all at once, I feel like it was just yesterday and also months ago. My life there was so completely different than it is here, that is almost impossible to understand how I could have just been there. I know that I need to write this blog post, but I have been dragging my feet about it, because once this is written, I’ll know this adventure is really over. I don’t really know what I want to say in this post,so I think I will just try my best to sum up what I want to say about my trip in general.
First, I want to talk about Oviedo. I have taken to calling it “my home very far away from home.” The precious jewel of a city, nestled between the mountains and the Cantabrian Sea with bright green parks, obsessively clean streets,and astounding amounts of history. I already miss the cozy beauty of the city. Don’t get me wrong, I live by some beautiful beachy scenes, but I will miss being surrounded by mountains, historic cathedrals, and rolling green countryside. The city itself is beautiful too. The colors of the buildings and streets are amazing, especially when lit up by Christmas lights. I loved walking at night after the rain when there were lights up, because the slick streets would reflect the lights above them and the whole street seemed to be shining. I will miss the vibrancy of Oviedo’s streets. Just walking home from an English class in the afternoon was a fun experience. There are street musicians, people sitting en terraza eating churros or drinking wine, little kids chasing pigeons, old people sitting on benches and gossiping, people watching their dogs play in the park. (Vignette: I was walking through the center of town, and I passed the old man who plays his violin in that area nearly every day. He is very talented. I noticed a family watching him, two parents with a 7 or 8-year-old daughter. Her parents stood on either side of her, each with a hand on her back, where she was wearing a violin case. They watched from a little ways away, and the little girl’s face was filled with such admiration and aspiration. The look in her eyes so clearly said, “I want to do that. I want to sound like that.” And the old man was playing right to her, showing her how it’s done. This doesn’t really fit into what I’m talking about, but it was such a sweet and picture perfect moment that I wanted to record it.) I will miss having that vibe in the streets of my city. It was unlike anything I’d experienced before and I really loved it.
I will miss lots of other things about Oviedo and Spain too. Like the food! While I did miss a lot of my favorite foods while I was gone (Southern food, Asian food, Mexican food, health foods, anything my mom makes), I really enjoyed Spanish foods and drinks. American espresso cannot hold a candle to Spanish (or Italian) espresso. I will miss being able to pop into a cafe or bar and order a coffee for €1. It is the perfect little recharging break. I will also miss their sweet croissants. Why aren’t we topping our croissants with sugar? We’re really missing a huge opportunity on that one. Also, I already miss all the delicious fresh sea food I had. Everything was more fresh over there: fish, meat, bread, produce. It was great. It’s not hard to see how I gained a couple pounds this semester! Although despite that, I still feel healthier than I have in a long time, because I had very little processed food the whole time I was there. We could take some notes from the Spanish on that one too.
I will miss the mobility I had this semester. I already miss living in a place where I can walk wherever I want to go in the city, and I can get a bus or train to wherever I want to go outside the city. In Spain, I could decide during the week that I wanted to go somewhere across the country that weekend, book the hostel and buy a bus or train ticket (or book a BlaBlaCar) and I was off. I will miss having that sort of mobility. I’m not even old enough to rent a hotel room most places in the US by myself. That being said, even though it’s more difficult and expensive than it is in Europe, I do want to start traveling around the US. This country is so massive and diverse, and there’s so much of it I haven’t seen. (High on my list are New York City, Chicago, the Painted Desert, Portland, the Grand Canyon, Maine). Of course, there are so many places outside of the US I want to see too. As I predicted, I have been bitten by the traveling bug.
I learned a lot this semester, both about the world and about myself. Before September, I had never traveled anywhere without my family, nor had I left the country. Now I have traveled to four countries, and upwards of 20 different cities, without them. Now, this was not a completely independent trip. I was still living with a family (who did practically everything for me), and I had an amazing coordinator who was there for whatever I needed her for. But my friends and I handled pretty much all of our travel on our own. I learned that I can plan and prepare well enough to have an enjoyable trip, but still be flexible enough to deal with whatever problems arise without getting all bent out of shape. I learned that hostels can be scary, but usually they’re not. I learned that eating out is really expensive, and buying food from the grocery store is much cheaper. I learned that if you try to speak people’s language a little, they will be much more willing to switch to English (or Spanish) for you. I learned not to believe everything you hear about a place; you just have to see it for yourself to know how it is. I learned not to entertain stereotypes about people from different countries (even though they are sometimes very accurate.) I learned that oftentimes it is better to cut corners and skimp to save money, but sometimes spending a little extra can make your day way, way better (ie getting the occasional taxi, especially when you have luggage, or eating at a little bit more expensive restaurant because it will get you out of the cold and rain faster). I learned never to be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I learned to take a lot of pictures, but not to care about getting the “perfect shot.” I learned that I need a lot less things than I think I do. I learned that wine is awesome. I learned never to leave without having a water bottle, a snack, and tissues. I learned there is a beauty to going to mass in a language you don’t understand. I learned sometimes it’s okay to skip class if it means you get to see the Pope. I learned that people will assume things about you because you’re American. I learned that I’m both better and worse at Spanish than I think I am( I can communicate better that I think I can, but I still make a lot of mistakes and have a lot more to learn.) I learned that good travelling partners are invaluable. I learned that no matter where I am, sometimes the only thing I need to feel better is to talk to my mom. I learned that just texting my parents (almost) every day makes a world of difference to them. I learned that I am so little and the world is so big. I learned that if I want to do something, I can figure out how to make it work. I learned that I still feel a child-like joy whenever I get the chance to see something new and amazing. I learned not to sweat the small stuff so I can get on to enjoying the big stuff. I learned A LOT!
On top of all that stuff, I also gained a deep understanding of Spanish culture, especially Northern Spanish culture, for which I am very grateful. No amount of reading and learning about a place can compare to living there when it comes to understanding the people and culture. I fell in love with this rich, passionate, complicated country, and there is so much of it I still need to see. I will be back. I left a piece of my heart in Asturias.
If I keep talking about how much I love Spain I’m going to get all weepy, so I’m going to move on to thank yous. I want to thank Angeles and Nacho, my host parents, for everything they did for me this semester (even though they can’t read this!). I want to thank Ana, our coordinator, for being absolutely stellar and always going beyond what she needed to do for us. I want to thank everyone at the International Programs Office at Rollins for all the hard work they do to make sure everything goes as well as possible for all the students abroad. Thank you, Catey and Shannon for being the best travelling companions a girl could ask for. Thank you to my incredible family for all you did to make sure I had this amazing opportunity- this would not have happened without your support, and I cannot express my gratitude to you all enough. Thank you to everyone who wished me well, told me they missed me, and who lets me talk to them incessantly about my travels. And last but not least, thank you to all of you reading this!! I started this blog mostly for personal reasons, because I wanted a record of all the things I did this semester, but hearing how much other people were enjoying it really encouraged and motivated me to keep up with it. It has been an amazing experience to get to share all the things I’ve been doing with you all. I have really enjoyed doing all this personal writing, so I’m going to try to keep up with the blog in the coming months. Since I won’t be travelling in immediate future, I’m not sure what I’ll write about, but I’d really like to keep writing, so I’ll try to find something! Thank you again for keeping up with my travels and listening to my ramblings. It has been so fun to share everything with you all.
It is sad to see the sun set on this amazing adventure I’ve had, but I know 2018 and all the years after it hold more adventures than I can even imagine right now.
Mil gracias y hasta luego!