The first stage of my international journey began in — of all places — Brattleboro, Vermont at the School for International Training. Vermont itself was lush, beautiful and more alive than the dry hills of California. It was the perfect place to reset and refresh the mind.
I cannot believe that this is my final week in Lisbon, Portugal before I return home to San Diego. My time here may have been short, but it was filled with such amazing experiences that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
Three hundred and thirty-six days: That is how much time I spent away from home this year. Well, that is how much time I spent away from my San Diego home. Eleven months: That is how much time I spent exploring the world. Seeing things I never dreamed of seeing. For years, I dreamed about how my time abroad would be. The anticipation killed me for so long. Now it is all over.
Before I arrived in Bangkok, I had a very clear idea of what my role here would be. I was going to be a student. I don’t mean to flaunt, but with a whole life of experience and a passion for learning, I think I’m pretty good at being a student. This confidence made me feel as though I had a leg up on the competition. It made me feel like taking the leap and spending six weeks in Thailand would be easy. I was both right and wrong.
My study abroad program at Auckland University of Technology is coming to an abrupt end. I left for New Zealand just about four and a half months ago, and time has gone by seemingly in the blink of an eye. While there have been instances where it felt that time was moving slower than molasses — especially right before my departures for trips and during exam weeks — it’s hard to believe that I will be boarding a plane to the United States within the week.
After four days of non-stop travel in Madrid, El Escorial and Toledo, I have finally started to settle down in Granada; a small but busy city with a relaxed lifestyle. The phrase, “no pasa nada” roughly translating to “don’t worry about it,” is a common phrase here, and I can’t help but compare it to what I believe the island lifestyle is like; I almost feel like Granada has a big city vibe with a much more relaxed tone.
The island of São Miguel is called the green island because it is the greenest of the seven islands that make up the volcanic archipelago of the Azores. Within the forest of green you will find volcanos, lakes, waterfalls, hot springs, hiking trails, canyons, pineapple and tea plantations — not to mention the city of Ponta Delgada and all the small towns around the island.
After the fiasco of having to arrange a new flight at the last minute, I believed this first day in Barcelona wouldn’t be enough the balance the stress I felt from it all. And yet it completely did.
Week 3 classes kicked off on Monday here in Finland. This week brings refugee resettlement and integration, a very interesting, but very emotionally heavy course. Within a couple days, I learned so much about the refugee crisis throughout Europe and how Finland handles the influx of refugees into this country. In sum, Finland focuses on seeing refugees as humans deserving of new chances and setting them up for future success.