Being comfortably back at home in Alabama has awarded me some time to reflect upon my initial expectations for the trip. When I landed in Spain, I was pretty sure about my plans to travel, sail, ski, skydive, surf, eat, drink, and make some new friends. Some of these plans changed a little during my time there but some weren’t going anywhere. I also set a new long-term goals that I’m very excited to have brought back with me to the States, and I’ll touch on that in a bit.
First off, I want to say how disappointing it was to make the decision to depart my new home and my gracious host mom. I ate better in her house than I ever have in my life, which now that I think about it, might be the reason I gained 15 pounds while I was there. I made friends that I think I will have for the rest of my life and we’re planning a road trip together for after the end this Corona Virus quarantine. While we were in Spain though, we travelled every single weekend and that had to have been my favorite part of being abroad. There were so many different historic, cultural, and natural monuments to experience, that traveling in Spain wasn’t boring for a second. The nightlife that didn’t slow down until 8am helped keep it interesting too. I didn’t leave the country a single time but traveled as much if not more than any other exchange students that I knew, and I don’t regret it a bit. Hotels are affordable, food is cheap if you avoid tourist destinations, and the people were generally friendly to foreigners (although I’m sure speaking Spanish helped.) The food, friends and travel experiences that I was lucky enough to have in Spain made it very difficult for me to leave so prematurely.
One of my new friends taught me how to surf in a coastal city North of our University in Oviedo, and I went skiing a couple times with some great people in the mountains just to the South, but I never got the chance to go sky diving, sailing, parting in Ibiza, scuba diving and a long list of other things that I was for some reason hell bent on doing while I was in Spain. I didn’t get to accomplish these goals, but while I was there, I slowly came to realize the need for two other important life goals. When I decided to study abroad in Spain, I had Spanish language development in mind, but I can’t say that it was a serious priority for me at the time. After speaking Spanish nearly exclusively for a few weeks and seeing progress towards fluency, I fell in love with the nuances of speaking a foreign language. There are things you notice when learning a foreign language that you never even thought about when speaking your native language, and I remember my favorite thing about Spanish was learning different ways to make the same point. Speaking another language all the time is difficult and can be very confusing, but it’s a continuous mental exercise that I found a lot of enjoyment in. Mastering the Spanish language is one of my new long-term goals and learning it is an activity that I would recommend to just about anyone.
I feel like I accomplished a lot of the things that I set out to accomplish in Spain, but I couldn’t help but feel robbed of all the great experiences that I know I would have had during the last half of my stay. I’m much happier quarantining at home than in Spain but I’m excited to plan a road trip around the country one day to visit the sights that I missed and revisit the ones that I loved.