Arriving home from a year of studying in Spain felt strangely normal. I think it will take time to process this experience and truly realize how much it has impacted me. I learned so much and experienced things I never would have thought I would experience; as much as things, it was feelings and self growth in ways I never knew would or could happen.
It was a year full of trying new things and adapting to a new normal. I made friends that are now like family and have a host family that became like my real family. This just goes to say, it was not just a year of my life, but an experience that will last a lifetime. As long as I maintain my friendships, I will always have these connections.
I’m kind of happy that I still find Spanish words slipping out while I’m speaking. My biggest goal right now is to not forget my Spanish. I have plans to get a job in this local restaurant that has native Spanish-speaking workers, and volunteer with a group of elementary school students who come from Spanish-speaking countries and are still learning English. Any opportunity to practice Spanish, I’ll take it! And having a job will help me go back sooner.
Living abroad and being an exchange student pushes a lot of limits, and overcoming the hard times is what made this experience so valuable. I was living with a host family and had people to support me, but in some ways I was alone. I was an ocean away from all familiarity, and it was my job to deal with it.
Going into this experience I knew I had to give it my all, but everything is way easier said than done. One of the main things I had to deal with was eating. The eating schedule was so different, and what we were actually eating was very different.
At my home in Asheville, North Carolina, I eat really healthy and we always have local fruits and vegetables. In my host family, we did eat fruits and vegetables. But, definitely a lot less than I was used to. It may sound like just a small thing, but every difference takes a toll, or at least is something to get used to.
I got home from Spain and then had four days to recuperate before I started working at this sleep-away camp I’ve been going to for seven years now.
Camp has always been my home away from home, but in some ways I still don’t feel like my Spain trip is over because I haven’t truly been “home” yet. I think once I get ‘home’ and school starts, the reverse culture shock will kick in. But, life is different now.
As I’ve said many times, going to Spain for 10 months, living with an amazing family and learning more than I could imagine was a completely life-changing experience.
I gained a new sense of the world and gained so much knowledge. It is something that will be a part of me… Always. And I can’t wait to go back. Travel is fun, but now I have a destination because I have people I love, and who love me, and they live a world away. But, in a life we now share.