How to Stuff a Semester into a Suitcase

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Caroline Hallmark
December 20, 2022
Sunset from the hiking trails behind the Alhambra.

Here in Spain, where life moves slowly and meals can take upwards of three hours (half of which is spent trying to wave a waiter down for the check), I sometimes like to say that it feels like time doesn’t exist. So, as one might imagine, I’m in a bit of disbelief that my time here is coming to an end.

To be honest, it’s been hard to properly reflect with a million and one things to do before departing—least of all final exams. In between everything I’ve been trying to appreciate the city, but it’s hard to be present; there are just so many unknowns and what ifs. Who will I keep in touch with—and how? Should I have tried harder to get to know more locals? How will I keep up my Spanish? And, most importantly, how will I possibly fit everything into my suitcases?

I’m a bit of a hoarder and stuffing a semester’s worth of experiences into 2 suitcases and a 22 x 14 x 9-inch carry-on is a daunting task. As an Econ major, I like to adopt systematic approaches to these sorts of things, and the Marie Kondo method is one of my favorites: Does an item give me joy? If not, toss it.

The Kondo method is usually effective—but, truthfully, it’s been hard this semester because I’ve found pretty much everything gives me joy. How can I choose between the Alhambra poster my residence’s doorman (Miguel, but he insists on “Mike”) gifted the Americans before our departure or the map of Granada I painted for my watercolor class? Some things (like the half-disintegrating puffy I managed to thrift for €5 for a trip to Norway) are easy to discard, but most are not. 

In addition to the plethora of things from Granada is a veritable horde of items from my other travels. From every locale I’ve managed to visit, I've brought something back. What to pack: a print of Los Pichones from the Picasso Museum in Barcelona? The anorak I bought in Edinburgh to protect me from the incessant rains of Scotland? The limited space in my luggage has forced me to get creative. The hearts my host siblings from Rabat drew for me and signed in endearingly broken English? Those are tucked safely away in my phone case. 

There are some things, though, that I can’t take back home with me. I cannot, for instance, take back Iberian ham—lest I be fined up to $10,000 by US Customs. But other things are less tangible: I can’t take the laughter from the drunken 5am shawarmas at Marchica, nor my daily walk to class through the cobbled streets of Calle Elvira. I can’t pack the Sierra Nevada nor the unusually golden sunlight between the hours of 5 and 7pm (which, back in Brunswick, Maine, will be sorely missed). I am unable to bring back the brilliant azulejos of the Alhambra or the thick-accented buenas noches of my residence’s night guard or the scent of lavender that permeates the Albayzin. And, as much as I wish I could, I can’t bring back the people I have somehow grown to love dearly in the short course of three and a half months.

I’m going stop now because I’ve started crying and I don’t think I can handle trying to explain why in Spanish again. I’ll leave off with a quote I came across the other day and can’t stop thinking about:

“Todas las ciudades tienen su encanto—Granada el suyo y el de todas las demás.”

Every city has its own charm—but Granada has its own and that of the rest.

Besos desde Granada—por la última vez.

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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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