Nearly 300 days in Spain, a few days in the Netherlands, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Germany. Three trimesters in a Spanish high school. Maybe 20 tortilla de patata portions, 50 tinto de veranos, 1 portion of manchego cheese in total, and probably 100 miles walked in the arid Spanish air…
It still feels like a dream. A roller coaster ride. Merrily I rowed my boat gently around Retiro park, and before I knew it my time was up.
I can’t believe you all let me get away with it! You read my blog, you sent me supportive comments, you liked my posts on Instagram and on the blog, you even told my family how much you cared. It’s the wildest thing!
Nearly 6 years ago I tried to do the exact same thing. I applied for the opportunity to teach abroad, I got accepted in two different countries, but I didn’t accept. For a variety of reasons. I felt guilty about leaving my family. I wasn’t ready to make a leap like that just yet. I had so many hesitations. But last year, I went for it. Spurred by dissatisfaction, frustration, and wanderlust, I said goodbye to everything I knew and went head first into a new world.
Not gonna lie, it ended up hurting me.
Spain and I never got along completely. Some things I’m too American for (“Don’t you have ANY urgency?” or “Where is the waiter?”), some things I’m truly going to miss (“No guns here? I feel tons safer here than I do in Baltimore!“). Some things I should have handled better, (my poor, poor wallet, better times are ahead!), some things I should have taken more seriously (maybe I should have taken some more Spanish classes). Spain was a growing pain accelerated 1000 times, and it seriously kicked my ass.
Spain taught me about myself. It told me what I was made of. It made me so uncomfortable.
And I love being uncomfortable.
You never know what patience is until you have to wait for an hour at a restaurant after flagging down a waiter and already asking for assistance. You don’t know what humility is until you’re struggling to get through a conversation in another language and you can see people are getting visibly annoyed with you (and sometimes they get angry). You don’t know about charity until someone translates instructions for you, or you do the same for someone else. You never know about diligence until nobody is around to keep you in check, so you have to learn how to discipline yourself in all matters of your life. You don’t know about kindness until you extend a hand to someone who needs help with seeing that life is worth living. Or maybe someone convinces you to see the good in yourself.
Thank you all for letting me go. Thank you for granting me the privilege of failure. Thank you for pushing me to be a success. I have no idea what I’m doing, but you already know that, and you all believe that I can figure it all out. Even if I don’t see it, you all do. Thank you for that.
Spain was a dream. Spain was a lesson. Spain helped shaped my doughy naivete into something more concrete. I think the French call it, maturité.
I always laughed at people who went abroad to find themselves. Little did I know that I would be one who ended up doing it. I literally went to an Eat, Pray, Love location, how cliche!
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Spain was wonderful to me. I already miss it so much. To all of you who got me there, here’s some thank you notes.
Thank you to CIEE. It’s weird thanking a company, I know, but man, without them I know for sure I would have been panicked and lost and probably kicked out due to visa issues had it not been for their help. The program is designed to help ease first-timers into the process and rules of Spain, and it truly helped me. I’m an advocate, so CIEE, call me. I’d love to help other students figure out how to start their lives abroad.
Thank you to the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport. What a crazy and wonderful program you have there. Sure it has its kinks but every program does, and honestly, there’s very few programs like this in the world. A nationwide initiative to teach its students English, how incredible. I wish I had an opportunity like this in the United States, to be around a Spanish or Portuguese speaker for simple conversation practice? How amazing. Keep it up, make it better, make it stronger, make it unified. I can’t wait to see where this investment takes your education system.
Thank you to my school. I try not to be specific with the wheres and whos and whats, but you know who you are. Arganda del Rey reminds me so much of home, from the stores, to the streets, to the students who can’t wait to leave it! Believe me y’all, you’re gonna miss home. Appreciate it while you have it.
Thank you to my Spanish roommate. I know, I know, if you’ve heard me talk about her and the many issues she caused during my time in Spain, you’d think she was the devil – but cut her some slack guys! Plus, she taught me a lot. Our conversations were fun looks into a world divided by a generation and a culture. We saw the world in two completely different ways. She taught me how to handle a roommate who was anal about fingerprints on the cabinets, I taught her how to steam vegetables.
Thank you to the friends I made abroad. In no particular order- Anisa, Gabi, Jenna, Chinni, Mercedes, Joy, Romina, Nef, KerryAnn, Phil, Francisco, Lele, Goran, Alfonso, LaQuise, Stine, Sherie, Jair… and so on. You all know who you are. My time abroad would be nothing, nothing, nothiiiiiiiing without you all. Here’s to all the beer, margaritas, and glasses of wine we toasted to; here’s to all the food we ate from burritos to charcuterie plates; here’s to the stories we told and songs we danced to all night. I hope we see each other soon. I love you all.
Thank you to my friends and family back home. No matter where I am in the world, I know you’re with me and home all at once. I always have a home to come back to, but you’re never more than a phone call away when I need you. I adore you all, you know that. I love you and you’re all what make home – home. Words can’t describe how full you make my heart. May we all live and love forever. Thank you so much.
Thanks Spain. I will miss your arid climate, your lack of insects, you’re lack of cares for anything but a love of life and good times, and your super warm people who wanted me to get to know the best of their country. The United States has a lot to learn from you. I can’t believe that I got to meet you in the way that I did. I hope I see you again soon. I have a home there now, Conde de Casal, and I hope that I can get back to it one day.
And lastly, thanks to you dear reader! This blog often feels like shouting into the void some days, but every now and then you make your presence felt, and for that I appreciate you. I know I’m not on this journey alone, and I’m forever grateful that you spend a second or two to read my ramblings (Even if you skim!). Thanks for coming along, you know you’re always welcome.
To friends old and new, thank you for letting me grow with you. It’s been a real privilege to share this time with you, and I wish you nothing but the best. You all know who you are, and I’ll miss you dearly. Here’s to new adventures in new places and spaces. Adios, Madrid. 😢 🇪🇸 😘 Shout out to the peeps in the photos! @joytheboy13 @gtrigomc @anisakb123 @lahkeysay @ohoh.lele @francsco @brunobrustelo @jennavicbot @philmendez @cerealspangler and everyone else who I couldn’t find the @ for! I love you all, you know who you are. 🎵 por #Allá, “Una dia otra noche.”
And with that Spain, I kiss you goodbye on both cheeks. I’m not nearly done writing about you yet, but the trip itself is over now. I cherish all that you have taught me, and I wear my menina pin proudly on my chest now.