11:53am in Madrid

Caroline Hallmark square headshot
Caroline Hallmark
December 20, 2022
View of an airplane wing from inside the plane.

It’s 11:53AM and I find myself in the Madrid airport, again—but, this time, I’m flying to Washington, DC and not Granada, Spain. Other than my destination, though, everything is eerily similar: I’m sitting at the same gate where I wrote my first blog, Ojitos Lindos blasting with a bocadillo de jamón in one hand and laptop in the other. Minus a handful of new piercings and tattoo (sorry mom) and a moderately improved accent, it might as well be September 1st again.

But it’s not: it’s December and the semester is over. Writing that is strange—it wasn’t until I woke from my siesta on the bus from Granada to Madrid to find a lack of WhatsApp activity from my friends about dinner plans that it hit me: it’s over.

That’s dramatic to say, of course, because it’s not over-over per se. Yes, my IES Abroad semester is over, but, in many ways, it will continue—albeit in different ways. I still have the photos (which take up approximately half my camera roll), and the friendships, and the reggaeton, and the somewhat irksome habit of saying vale and no pasa nada to, like, everyone. 

Nonetheless, the tears keep coming. The longer I spend away from Granada, the more I miss it: I miss the thick Andalusian accent, the bells of Plaza Nueva, the community that I’ve built there. For lack of a better word, Granada has become familiar, comfortable—Granada feels like, dare I say, home.

It’s ironic that Granada has become so homely as I return to my actual home, which now feels unfamiliar and strange. I took this past spring semester off, and so it’s been almost a year now since I’ve been back on my home campus—and thinking about returning after so much time fills me with anxiety. I’m worried about re-settling into a routine, about re-meeting people who I haven’t seen in over a year, about whether I’ll be up to the academic challenge of my classes. More than anything, I’m scared that Maine will feel droll compared to the adventures of the past year. 2022 has been a special year for me—but, on the other hand, I worry it has given me a taste for novelty that I won’t be able to shake. 

At the same time, though, I can’t help but notice that many of these fears are the same ones I had about studying abroad—and, as I can now attest to, it all worked out okay. I can meet new friends, I can try new things, I can launch myself into the unknown and have it end well. I can come to a strange and foreign land with a different language and turn it into a home.

It’s funny now to reflect on how I ended up in Granada: I stumbled upon it by accident, when my teammate Ayana recommended the program to me off-hand. It was past my school’s application deadline, and I wasn’t even enrolled at the time thanks to taking the spring semester off—but, somehow, the stars aligned to make it work. I suppose life is composed of accidents like this, but this one has got to take the cake—for how many accidents give you the opportunity to spend three months in the gem that is the city of Granada? All I know is that I owe Ayana the biggest thank you when I return home.

I don’t mean to idealize my study abroad: like everything, it had its ups and downs. There were times I felt lonely, when I felt homesick, or simply sick of Spain—not to mention the time when my phone was stolen for a month. But I don’t mean to exaggerate when I say that my three months in Granada were perhaps the best I’ve had in recent memory—and I cannot wait to return another day to see the city under the Alhambra hill once again.

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Caroline Hallmark

Hola! My name is Caroline (she/her), and I am a rising junior at Bowdoin College studying History and Economics with a minor in Mathematics. Beyond the classroom, I’m a Wordle enthusiast and love spending time outside (though I am a notoriously slow walker). Another fact about me--I love the em-dash. Looking forward to sharing a sliver of my life here in Granada!

2022 Fall
Home University:
Bowdoin College
Chevy Chase, MD
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