How can I describe my time abroad thus far? It seems to me that no words will do the change, the joy, the pain, the shock, the awe of the past three weeks any justice. But I have chosen to be honest with myself about this experience, and therefore, I must be honest with you.
It is incredible.
It is so very hard.
Upon arrival in Spain, I realized that I had no inkling of the adventure I had just embarked upon. The tearful goodbyes and the stuffed suitcases were merely glimpses at the journey ahead.
And I didn’t realize until around day eight that I wasn’t going home; this was no vacation. This is four months. This is a semester. This is an epic, not a novel. And it is my job to write it.
With this in mind and pen in hand, both metaphorically and physically, the story begins.
The abundance of life in Spain is breathtaking. These people live for life itself; they do not live to work or work to live. Each moment is valued, and the praises of every day are sung through the streets in tunes that sound a lot like espresso, laughter, and line-dried laundry. I am at once terrified and overjoyed by these things. I am at once captivated, standing with wide eyes and an open heart, and uncomfortable to the point of longing for the safety of routine.
At first, I often found myself wondering how I got here; how I decided six months ago that this would be a good idea.
I signed up, bought a plane ticket, and told myself I would figure out who I am and who I belong with when I got there. Well, I am here now. And I don’t think I was wrong. I also don’t think it is going to be as easy as I thought.
The problem with these experiences abroad, and experiences in general, is that people only share the highlights. My pictures of weekend adventures won’t truly capture the beauty of this land. They also won’t capture the loneliness, the adjustment, and culture shock that creep in alone on a Tuesday night.
I came to this country alone. Without knowing a soul, I flew to another continent. And when I realized at orientation that almost everyone came with a group of friends from home, a deep fear and anxiety and loneliness settled in. I told myself to be patient: relationships come in time. You will find people to share this country with.
I told myself that.
I didn’t listen to myself very well. I usually don’t.
So I was worried and anxious and lonely and convinced that I was going to be isolated for four months. Culture shock is no joke, and I wanted my best friends and family to be with me. I didn’t want surface relationships made in hotel lobbies and airport terminals. I wanted deep, meaningful relationships filled with vulnerability and honesty and love.
And I wanted it right that very second.
Relationships don’t work like that.
The world doesn’t work like that.
Multiple weeks later, I can say have found these things. I have found people that make me feel excited to wake up in such a beautiful country filled with such beautiful people who celebrate such a beautiful culture and speak in such a beautiful language.
But it took more than three days to find them.
So, yes, I had to be patient. And yes, it worked out. Because I swear I am finding pieces of my soul I never knew were missing in these new friends, in these new streets, in this new language.
This is absolutely terrifying. I’m still scared. And the first few weeks were four shades darker than today is. Call it lonely. Call it culture shock. Call it homesick. Call it isolation. Call it change. Call it sad. Call it moments of regret.
But whatever you call it, call it temporary.
Because growth is rarely comfortable.
And you don’t find yourself if you stay in one place.
And you don’t make friends that rattle your ribs with laughter and love in the safety of your room.
So, yes, it is so very hard.
But yes, it is incredible.
And I am quite sure I was meant to sing the tune of Sevilla.
Blue skies are calling. Always.