I thought I had mixed emotions when leaving for Spain, but I never anticipated the amount I would have coming home. Four months have never flown by so fast. This past week was filled with lots of hugs and visits with family and friends, along with catching up on sleep and overcoming jet lag. Unpacking my bags and sharing stories and pictures was another whole project. I’ve only been home a week, so I probably wouldn’t say I’ve completely reincorporated into my home community, especially because I haven’t been too many places besides my house, but I have enjoyed getting back to the comforts of the life I grew up in. Being able to walk around in leggings and flip flops without judgment is great, along with eating comfort foods and driving my car again. Most of all I’m happy to be using my first language daily and feeling that I fully fit in and belong at any given moment. If I had to choose the biggest challenge of this past week it would probably be missing my host community and feeling as if nobody understands just how much I miss it and the impacts this experience had on me. I’ve been in contact with my roommates every day talking about our home lives and what we miss the most about Sevilla. Talking to them helps a lot because I feel like I haven’t completely left my Spain life in Europe.
My parents were a lot more open to helping me reincorporate than to separate, probably because they were just so happy I was home and didn’t have to worry about me living in another country anymore. They were so excited to see me that they followed me around the first few days and hung on my every word. It felt really good to be missed so much. When I sat them down to talk about my reincorporation they explained how they had already seen some changes in me and how I was acting. (Good ones of course!) We were very much on the same page with my developments, and I really felt like a respected adult as I spoke.
I explained to my parents how I felt as if I was being pulled between Northport and Sevilla, not sure of which I loved more because each has such a special place in my heart. I used a puzzle piece analogy to describe how I felt as if I fit into both Spain and the United States now, and tried to get across as best I could how in love I was with my host culture. I even find it funny now calling it a “host” culture, because I feel like it has truly become my home.
I definitely feel that my family has recognized the changes that have occurred in my life. They are proud of me for my new discoveries and maturation due to my taking of this course and my preparing them for what would happen before it did. My friends on the other hand don’t fully understand the effects study abroad has had on me and view my trip as more of a vacation. Having my family there to support me and appreciate more of what I have experienced has helped me to validate my changes and take pride in the new version of myself that I have become.
I plan on carrying my experience forward by always remembering the number one thing I have learned: to have an open mind. I have really become more accepting to new people, places, beliefs, etcetera, and want this new quality to last forever. It has made me a more understanding and less judgmental person and I am proud of the changes I have made to my ways of thinking. I also want to keep using all the new Spanish I have learned so I don’t lose it. I am so happy with the progress I have made, so I plan on speaking it as much as possible at home to anyone who will listen to me, in addition to keeping in contact with my friends from Sevilla over text.
One habit that will be most difficult to maintain now that I am home is how I have learned to live in the moment and not be so connected to my phone all the time. Now that I have my data back and can access anything at any second, I want to make a conscious effort to only use social media when nothing else is going on, such as when I first wake up or right before I go to bed, rather than all throughout the day. I want to enjoy each and every minute of my life in the U.S. like I did while I was abroad and take time to stop and appreciate it, even if this means putting my phone on airplane mode when I’m out or missing messages in a group chat. Life is more important than the latest instagrams.
“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That’s the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” –Miriam Adeney
This quote perfectly describes my feelings on coming home and leaving Sevilla. While I am ecstatic to be reunited with my friends and family, I am constantly missing waking up in my apartment, taking strolls down the river with friends, and enjoying the relaxed routine of my life in Spain. But as terrible as it is being away from my home away from home, I wouldn’t trade my experience for the world.