I wrote my first blog on the plane ride to Madrid, so it only makes sense to start working on my last blog 32,000 feet above ground as I make my way back to San Diego.
The first word on my first blog was simply the word “surreal,” and right now I can’t help but want to start this blog with the very same word. That’s the best word to explain how it feels to be sitting in this Iberia flight after months of Ryanair flights to countless European countries. It doesn’t feel real that I’m actually on my way back to the states after the best, most adventurous six months of my life. Madrid became home, strangers became friends, and everything quickly turned into memories as my study abroad experience comes to an end. Don’t get me wrong – I’m excited to see my family and friends, I’m just not ready to say goodbye to what I now call my second home.
I might have mentioned here and there (or to be realistic, everywhere) how studying abroad is a must and how it’s been the best semester ever. Now having finished my time abroad, I still feel this way. I remember going to the study abroad orientation back in February last year and being told everything we would get out of going abroad – “displaying flexibility and adaptability in unfamiliar settings” to “portraying a global perspective in actions” – but I never thought how much my life would change beyond these student-learning outcomes.
Looking back at all those weekend/summer travels, city strolls, tapas outings, sangria drinks, parties until sunrise, amusement park visits, runs at Retiro, and friendships made I can honestly say my perspective on life has changed. I also feel as if I’m less shy and more open to new people and situations I would usually be uncomfortable in. I’m normally not the kind of person to start a conversation with complete strangers, but traveling alone pushed me to become that person.
I know most people don’t study abroad because of money, but there really isn’t enough money in the world that could ever replace a once in a lifetime opportunity like studying abroad. Yes, you leave your family and friends and pretty much everything behind, but that’s the beauty of it: it’s what allows you to truly be free. Free to be and do whatever you want in a completely new country.
I guess we can call this Part Two of this blog since it has been one week since I’ve been back home. The post-Erasmus depression (what some people call it after they get back home) didn’t hit me as hard as it hits some people, but I still think of my old life every day. Once I stepped out of the airport and realized I was back in California is when it really hit me – I was back in California!
It’s funny how you know a place hasn’t changed at all, but it somehow looks different than it did six months before. That’s pretty much how I felt as we drove down from LA to SD and into my neighborhood and house. It felt really good to see my family and friends after six months of separation. I’m so glad I no longer have to watch my younger sister, who was 8 months when I left and is now walking, grow through pictures.
As cheesy as it sounds, studying abroad really does leave a mark on you for life. I constantly find myself daydreaming about my nights driving a quad through Greece or drinking wine in Porto or swimming in the French Riviera… and those group texts with my friends from Madrid asking each other when we are going back to Spain are just part of my day-to-day here.
I think the hardest part of coming back is just trying to get used to my old life where I have way more responsibilities and commitments than in Spain. After seven months of not working, the first day back at work was pretty rough considering I was on day two of my jet lag. All in all, life after studying abroad isn’t too bad. You’re left with new memories, new friends, an open mind, a love for traveling, a love for a new culture, and a second home.
I’m going to miss everything about Madrid from the metro rides to the culture, but I know I will be back. A piece of me will always remain there, so hasta pronto Madrid.