As I write this, the familiar scent of mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie is probably filling up your house, inspiring you to be nice to your parents even though they’ve already asked you too many questions about school and your love life. Or maybe you’re bickering with your sister. Or maybe someone forgot about the vegetables roasting in the oven. In any case, I’m sitting in class in Spain right now, and the only thing I smell is my own unpreparedness for my impending final exams.
Though I’m admittedly a little bummed that I’m not home for Thanksgiving this year, last night I had my fill of turkey, wine, sweet potatoes, cranberries (okay, they were Ocean Spray), and warm and fuzzy feelings. Our program directors, Ana and Pepa, made reservations at a restaurant in Malasaña that had prepared a special menu just for us Americans celebrating white colonialism. In typical Thanksgiving fashion, we went around the table and said what we were thankful for.
“Estoy agradecida por nuevos amigos que se convirtieron en familia,” I said: “I’m thankful for new friends who have become family.” Yeah, it’s cheesy. And my mom would probably cry if I told her I referred to Ana as our collective mother. But there it is.
I have about three weeks left in Madrid and the fact that my abroad experience is coming to end is becoming increasingly real. This week, two of my classes ended, and next week I will take three final exams. My spring housing form is submitted. My flight home is booked. Soon my sister will be frantically returning all of the clothes she borrowed to my closet.
I still haven’t figured out what to say about my time abroad as a whole, or what I’ll say when I get back to the States and everyone asks about it. I don’t know how I’ll feel when I leave, though I suspect the cliché “bittersweet” will be involved. And though it’s all almost over, I’m still here in the thick of it all. There are still exciting things to come and some final things to cross off of my to-do list. However, as far as wrapping up this blog mini-series, I’ll reflect on some things I’ve learned, some things I’ll miss, and some things I’m looking forward to.
First and foremost, I can’t wait to be reunited with my family, friends, dog, bed, and shower. Since my immediate family and childhood home is located so close to Vassar, this has been the longest I’ve ever gone without all of the aforementioned things. I’m also excited for spring semester at Vassar, when maybe I’ll finally feel like a junior (which will be both thrilling and terrifying).
I’m excited to be able to drive wherever I want to go instead of taking public transportation.
I’ll miss taking public transportation.
Does it take me 45 minutes on the metro to get somewhere that would take 15 if I were driving? Yes. Will I miss the guy in the green jumpsuit who raps on the train when I’m en route to my class at 9:00 a.m.? Not the least. But there is definitely something to be said for being surrounded by strangers for most of the day. As an aspiring journalist, I’m always thinking about stories, and on any given day, the metro holds thousands of them.
I’ll miss big group dinners. The ones that last over two hours with a long sobremesa afterwards. Sobremesa is a word that doesn’t have an English equivalent: It refers to the time spent after a meal when everyone remains at the table talking. This concept certainly isn’t a completely foreign one, but for me it’s something that I’ll always associate with Spain.
I’ll miss spectacular views. Even if I threw up in a plastic bag from altitude sickness on the cable car ride while seeing them.
I won’t miss political incorrectness.
I will miss long walks in the Retiro and lying in the grass.
I learned that sometimes school can come second.
I’m excited to go home to my usual haunts—my favorite coffee shop in Beacon, the sandwich place down the road where I work (where I’ll get a huge salad with vegetables because I probably have a vitamin deficiency of some kind due to their absence from my diet for the last three months). But I’ll miss finding cozy cafes tucked away in Madrid where I can do homework—or not—all while sipping on a café con leche and watching the bustle of the city from my hideaway.
I won’t miss hour-long commutes to class. (At heart I’m just a good old-fashioned wake-up-15-minute-before-class kind of girl.)
I’ll miss going out for a glass of wine on a Monday night. Just because.
Well, there are a hundred more things I could mention, but the big thing is the friends of made while here, 21 of whom will return to Wesleyan in the spring.
Thinking about how much I’m going to miss them reminds me of what my high school drama director would tell us before every show: At some point in the future, we might perform in the same production. But it will never be with the same people at this same point in our lives.
That’s kind of how I’ve come to think about being abroad in Spain. It’s likely I’ll travel to Spain again. If I do, it’s likely I’ll return to Madrid. But never again will I be a 20-year-old living in an apartment in Moncloa exploring the city with the people on my program. So for now, all I’ll say is that I’m glad I did it.