As things wrap up this semester, I suppose we’re all doing a lot of reflection and thinking especially hard about what studying abroad has meant to us and what it will mean going forward. I certainly am. When I go home in about a week, it won’t only be the end of a semester in Spain. It will be the end of a year of travelling, studying, fun and most of all learning. I’ve learned so much about the world and about myself—as horribly cheesy as that sounds—and I have no idea what that will do to my life back home. I hardly remember what life back home feels like, but I am so ready to rediscover it all with this year under my belt.
Before leaving, I often received a recurring set of compliments about my decision to study abroad for an entire year. Most common among these were ‘Wow, we’re so proud of you!’ and also ‘You’re going to do such impressive things.’ Frankly, the first remark was undeserved and certainly misplaced. Studying abroad is a very special opportunity and I’ve counted my blessings every day that it was a viable option for me. There are people close to me for whom it has not been, so I know how lucky I am. But it is not an achievement in the least. I simply took advantage of an opportunity that was right in front of me. Furthermore, while the experience has changed me in a thousand and one ways (and probably more that are as-yet-unknown), it has been the most selfish experience of my life. I think being selfish is a very necessary way to know oneself, so I don’t regret that, but everything about almost every day has been for me. Every choice and every experience. I hope that I can do great things with what I’ve taken from this, but this time has been for growing internally and I hope that none of my support system is satisfied with my stopping there.
I make these points to hopefully show how important I think studying abroad is and to show that, at the same time, I think glorifying it in certain ways is dangerous. One does not ‘know the world’ after this experience, but one certainly knows it more than they did before leaving. To say that this year has been one of the most important of my life is absolutely fair. To be proud of me for taking advantage of an opportunity that I would have been dumb not to take makes the experience more lofty than it ought to be. I am so proud of myself for living such an extended period of time out of my comfort zone, but I am going to try to convince my loved ones and acquaintances at home that there is much, much more for me to accomplish and that beginning to discover the world is, well, just the beginning.
I am so excited for the next step, whatever that is. I am also so excited to be back in my comfort zone while attempting to fit my new worldview into it—that in itself will be an adventure. Knowing and understanding that new worldview has been tough, and the adventure is going to continue being tough, but it’s been made a much more conscious experience because I’ve documented it in writing through this blog… something for which I think my thankfulness will only grow as I revisit it with passing time. Thanks for reading along with me and offering up your comments over the past few months.
The Spanish never say anything for goodbye other than ‘Hasta luego’ (‘See you later’), even when they don’t know the next time they’ll see someone, and I feel like the same sentiment applies here. Where life will take me I have no idea at the moment, but for now I’ll end with an hasta luego to this blog, the people both virtual and physical that I’ve met on this journey, and Spain itself. It’s been a blast, but I am so ready for a New York City Christmas…
- Real Alcázar, Sevilla: Daniel McElroy