Muchísimas gracias, España
I’m writing this now just in case I get too caught up next week while packing. Tomorrow I am heading off to London, my last trip before I finally return home. It’s all just happened so very fast. And now I have 8 days left until returning to California.
I’ve been thinking and reflecting all day- about the past 6 months here. I’m writing it now to keep from crying. Or to induce tears. I’m not sure which one, but I am quite an emotionally sadistic person so I imagine its a mix of the two. Hot, stinging tears, how you plague me during times like these! Let’s hope this ends up being cathartic, though.
I’ll begin with the emotions that were conjured up within me during my first 2 weeks here. I was sad, missing my family, missing Robert, missing the comforts of home, scared that I would not adapt, insanely frightened that I would be misunderstood and not be able to understand the language. In contrast, today, I am oddly comfortable, which was to be expected, but seemed to be a distant dream to me when I first arrived here. Today, I find myself able to understand 90 percent of what is said to me on a daily basis. Today, I am able to communicate my thoughts efficiently, causing my roommates only a little agony, as opposed to the large amount of suffering they endured with my broken Spanish in the beginning of the year. Today, I find that I am home, and that I am going to miss this place dearly. In fact, I might even miss that uncomfortable and awkward feeling I had in the beginning…. Nah.
Of course, the time here came with its homesickness, its confusion, and its frustration. But all of these were paired with new friendships, discovery, and happiness. Over a period of 6 months, I went from being a frightened study-abroad-er(?) with an overwhelming desire to return home on the first flight I could find…to a confident Spanish-speaker with great new friends, two handfuls (not just one!) of wonderful experiences, and a different set of eyes (metaphorically speaking, of course), through which to look at the world. Rather, it seems that am looking at the world through a different, more positive filter. Although my time here was certainly short, compared to those in for the long-haul, I believe I’ve accomplished very much here. I’ve traveled quite a lot, I’ve maintained pretty good attendance in all of my classes, and I’ve soaked up every bit of Spanish that I could (within reason— abstract concepts needed to be discussed, the meaning of life, etc. For this, we used English. I’m sorry, Paul! I suppose only UCSB-ers will get that). This experience has even shed some light on future career opportunities, and I have decided that Spanish will be a permanent part of my life, no matter what. Whether I am teaching it to high school students or adults, using it in the workplace, or conversing with the many people who speak it in Southern California, I will not let that part of my brain turn to mush. Not after this experience.
I would also like to touch on the wonderful friendships I have made here. Without naming names, there are a few people I have met here who have really made a great impression on my mind and heart. First off, my roommates are fun and charismatic girls who have had so much patience with me, and helped me learn along the way. I am so lucky to have found this apartment with them. I can remember making the decision that I was going to live here, and how anxious and nervous I was when accepting the offer, barely able to understand the girl on the other end of the phone. Now we go to the gym together every once in a while and I am so glad that I can not only call her a roommate, but my friend. Although I still struggle a bit with the speed of conversation and the Andalusian accent, I have grown to be able to understand them very well, and am grateful for the standard they have set for me for the past 6 months. I mean, if I can understand this, I might be able to understand anything! Right? ;) Also, I would just like to say that I believe that EAP brings together such wonderful people, outgoing people, open-minded people. I am eternally grateful to EAP for bringing such great people from the University of California into my life, and I hope that we remain friends after this experience is over. Actually, I know that we will. I wish the best of luck to all of my friends returning to their respective universities for the spring, and especially to those who are continuing their experience in Granada for the rest of the year. Thank you, to all the wonderful people that I can now call my friends. It’s been fun, and talk to you soon. Finally, I would like to thank my parents and the rest of my family, without whom this would not have been possible at all. The financial and emotional support, the heartfelt e-mails, and the general interest in my studies and travels here, has kept me going. I am so appreciative of everything that you guys do for me.
I am reminded now of a quote I have used in the past:
“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn, or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.”
I don’t know much about grace, but boy, do I feel loved, and very grateful, in this moment.