A majority of our time is spent in constant motion. Americans are eternally obsessed with progress and moving forward, which often leaves relaxation and enjoyment in the lurch. With that being said, there are those few rare, fleeting moments that happen in life that silence all the background noise and strike you with their perfection. It’s almost like being pinched and feeling no pain. You’re moving along and living your life. You’re going, going, going, thinking about what you have to get done, thinking about all that things that have or have not gone right in your day, worrying about this, debating that. Your mind is racing. Then all of the sudden, something pinches you and you’re brought back down to Earth to see what is right in front of your face. It doesn’t have to be some grand epiphany about the universe, nor does it have to be something that forever changes you and your mentality toward life. Sometimes, its just an image that sticks with you forever, no matter how insignificant it seems to others.
For me, that moment happened yesterday in Madrid. It was so simple, and maybe it won’t make sense to anyone else, but to me it just seemed so undeniably perfect and memorable. We made a trip into Madrid to grab a bite to eat at our favorite restaurant, Cien Montaditos, and then to watch a movie. By the time we finished, it was around around 1 a.m., and we dropped our friend off at her apartment and went back to the bus stop to wait. We had time to kill, so I brought my friends to this one spot just down from the bus stop that overlooked the entire city. The four of us, Carlos, Geminis, Crystal and I, sat on top of a cement wall, our feet dangling over the side. Spread out before us was Madrid: a long river, a ton of buildings, a few trees, and lights that lit up the city skyline. Two specific trees glowed purple because of the lighting and the river reflected the different colors. The night was still and none of us talked, not because we were incapable, but because there was no need to. Earlier, we had been talking about how our time in Spain was running out and how we’d all miss each other, but in that moment, with eight legs dangling below us, everything suddenly became real. There I was, sitting among people I’d become so close to in just 5 short months, taking in the view of a city that I’ve come to call home, even if it is only a temporary one. Two of us on that wall were Spanish-speakers and two of us were native English-speakers. Each set of us came from very different backgrounds, with very different stories and very different futures, but it didn’t matter. Somehow, we’d all managed to overcome whatever language barrier existed between us, and we’d become friends. Somehow, through it all, we’d all established a way of communicating with each other that was quite imperfect– but worked. In that moment, it wasn’t the communication, but the lack thereof: Four of us sharing the same view, each of us thinking our prospective thoughts, knowing that time is running out for our experience here.
I have endlessly been asked how I feel about the fact that I have a week until I return home to the United States of America, to New York. Truth be told, I’m not sure how I feel about it. To date, this semester abroad has been the best thing I’ve ever done with my life. Since high school, I knew I wanted to study abroad and that idea never faltered in my mind, but in all honesty I was terrified a few days before I came here. I wasn’t sure what to expect with my host family, the university here, the language or even the country, itself. It was the first time I’d ever ventured into something so boldly unknown and new. College was one thing, but living in a foreign country for six month? Tan diferente! I can’t sit here and tell you that it was all candy and butterflies. I struggled at times with the language and the culture shock and with feeling so different from everyone, but I can tell you that it was the best decision I’ve made so far. I’m not the same person who arrived here five short months ago; I’ve grown so much. I’ve seen things beyond my wildest dreams and learned how to deal with adversity. Granted, I’m still young and I have so much more to learn in my life, but I think this was a good stepping stone. After taking this semester abroad, I now know that if I set my mind to something, I can do it. As for the going home aspect, I’m excited. I get to see so many faces that have been absent in my life for five months. I get to eat all my favorite foods again, and I get to go back to the familiar. Living outside your comfort zone stimulates growth, but having something familiar keeps you grounded and sane. I do wish my experience here was longer and that I had more time to perfect my Spanish and travel Europe, but I’m coming to terms with the fact that it can’t last, and I know that this will not be my last life experience. I guess from here, it’s time to go home and see what comes next.