At 5am, the tears began flowing.
I tried to hide my emotion in the dark backseat of the taxi as I peered out the window for one final goodbye to the city I loved so much. It felt wrong leaving like this, like running away in the dark of night– unsatisfying in my inability to have a proper goodbye. I just wanted one more Sevillan sunrise, one more chance to see the light glisten off the cathedral or feel the bustle of the streets as they come to life each morning. Instead, my flight was soaring into the sky before the sun even rose.
And just like that, my study abroad experience comes to a close. The most exciting months of my life screeched to a halt in a flurry of final exams, packing, sightseeing and saying goodbye. Above anything else, a sense of melancholy permeated my last week as I ground my heels into the cobblestones to avoid the inevitable that was approaching far too quickly.
How could it be over already? Didn’t I just arrive, bright-eyed and unsuspecting, gazing at the Plaza de España with amazement for the first time? Or have I been here forever, knowingly navigating that confusing web of streets in the place that now feels like home? The two conflicting sentiments interweave somehow– an excited wonder at each new day, tinted with a familiarity that wraps over it all like a warm blanket.
The internal conflict continued with every thought of leaving. I would be heartless to say I wasn’t looking forward to coming home; of course, I was excited to see my friends and family again, and I couldn’t imagine not being home for Christmas. Warm thoughts of family traditions and holiday celebrations were the silver linings that made me excited to return.
But a large part of me also dreaded leaving. I feel unsatisfied by my glimpse of Sevilla; 3 months was but a blink, enough to whet my appetite but leaving me hungry for more. Enough to fall in love and leave with an ache in my chest and a lump in my throat for the city, the people and the life that had become home the past few months.
Some people will talk about how difficult study abroad is. This is true; there are moments of discomfort, of such exhaustion (physical and mental) and overstimulation that you’re left wanting nothing more than an American meal and your own bed and a hug from your mom. But such is life, and anything more perfect wouldn’t be realistic.
Like anything in life, this experience is entirely what you make it. You can spend your time missing home and the comforts you’ve always known, or you can shed the weight of your own expectations and open yourself up to amazing possibilities you’ve never imagined. You can get happily lost in a foreign culture and maybe even end up finding yourself.
At least that’s how it happened for me.
A friend put it best when he said being in Sevilla is like a dream. Every day, a new adventure– even if that’s just taking a different route to class and discovering a new point of view or having a conversation in Spanish with a stranger. Sevilla was a place of learning and growth; I came in search of a part of me I felt I had lost– the me that was before college and stress and illness overcame me. I leave now with a heart that is somehow both lighter and heavier– lighter because there, amidst cobblestone calles and under the brilliant Sevillan sun, I found her, the me I had lost. Heavier still because I had to leave, and from this dream, I must awaken.
One semester was not enough for me– three months, just a tease. I have tasted the sweet Andalusian life, and a part of me will forever remain there.
And one day, I know, I will go back to retrieve it.