Hola a todos:
I cannot believe that it has already been almost four weeks that I have been living in Valladolid, Spain. To use a majorly over-quoted phrase: “I feel as if I just got here yesterday”. Now, almost at the end of my trip, I could write about a lot. What I’ve learned. Who I’ve met. What I’ve done. But I’m going to be selfish and keep that for me.
Instead, I’m going to offer some guidance to help you decide if interning abroad is something you’d end up loving as much as I have. That’s the meaning behind the title of this blog, which translates to “A schedule of my life in Spain”.
Week 1: Dream Week
Anyone who has ever traveled anywhere on vacation that they’ve been eagerly looking forward to visiting knows exactly what this week is all about. It’s a surreal feeling when you finally arrive to a place after planning and hoping to be able to go there since almost a year ago. I can recall waking up a few mornings and not remembering exactly where I was until I walked out of my bedroom door and remembered I needed to not only wake myself up in the morning, but also have enough brainpower in the morning to speak Spanish with my host family. Needless to say it didn’t take them too long to learn that I absolutely HAVE TO have coffee in the morning. The feeling of being in a new place is one that I hope I will always love throughout my life; some days I had to remind myself on my walks to work that I really wasn’t in New York anymore and that I was experiencing a whole new part of my life. It’s the reason I love to travel, and why I recommend the option of travel to most everyone I meet.
Week 2: Learning Week
Okay, so now you’ve been in a place for a week, and supposedly you think you know what’s going on, right? Wrong. The only way to learn is by doing. Week two is when you get out into wherever you are and get your head out of the clouds, because you actually realize you’re not dreaming or on a visiting cruise. The best and worst part is that you usually only learn by doing things wrong, which when you travel is something you absolutely cannot be afraid of. That extension of the sidewalk? That’s a bike path. I know because I was almost run over a few times trying to pass large groups of people on the sidewalk. Oh also, it’s not the job of everyone else to move out of your way on the sidewalk. People will run into you, especially if you have your face in your phone because you’re trying to follow your GPS to find a new location in the city you’ve never visited. Be sure to buy a local SIM card if you’re going to travel abroad; your cell phone bill when you return home will thank you, and you’ll be able to use your phone like a normal person again instead of running around city blocks because you’re lost in the city and can’t find public wifi.
Week 3: Homesickness Week
In the United States, many people take 1-2 week vacations. So, by the time week three comes around, you finally figure out that you’re actually living and working in a foreign country. However, it’s also about this time that you realize that you’re still halfway to completion and you miss your friends, you’re missing activities, you’re missing what you’ve come to know as your home. Thankfully, people are understanding and everyone gets homesick when traveling for such long periods of time, even myself who thought that the opportunity to be anywhere besides western New York for a month of summer would be nothing short of outstanding. There are many ways to deal with homesickness. Personally, I called my mother and deleted my twitter to remove the influence of knowing what everyone else was doing without me around. After this, I stopped missing home so much and was able to refocus on enjoying my time in my new city and meeting new friends.
Week 4: Realization Week
There’s no good name for this week. I’ve been living it the past few days. It’s a bittersweet symphony to say the least. On the positive, you finally get everything together. You’ve realized you live and work in a foreign country, you’ve learned enough to fit into the culture like an every day citizen, you’ve gotten over missing home, and you’ve met tons of new people and even made some great new friends. You’ve finally adjusted your daily schedule, your sleep patterns, and the change of lifestyle that comes with living with a host family. You’ve learned to love your life abroad. Except there’s one problem. Remember that packet you got back before Week 1 that has your trip itinerary? Oh yeah, that thing. What does that return date say? Oh, that’s in only 10 days … 7 days… 4 days. It’s like getting to the best part of a story and the book being basically over. You think: “That was a good story, but if it only could have continued longer it had some real potential to be even better.”
I’m going to very much enjoy these last few days here in Spain, and I plan on always taking part of my life here in Spain with me going forward. However, I’m going to miss Valladolid an awful lot. And I already know that coming on this journey and taking this internship was one of the best decisions I’ve made thus far in my professional and personal development.
I love to travel, meet new people, and have new experiences. But one thing I’ve learned is that saying goodbye to those people and those places is always hard, especially when it’s people for which you’re unsure when you’ll see again. Social media makes staying in touch easier, but it’s certainly not the same as getting to enjoy spending time with your friends.
But, to paraphrase another very frequently used saying: “How blessed am I to have had such an experience that makes saying goodbye so difficult”? The answer is very simple: Extremely Blessed.