(n.) the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household
Growing up I didn’t realize that although the dictionary definition is pretty straight forward, there is so much more meaning behind this four-letter word. As a child, I associated home with a small suburb in Massachusetts and our small white house on the corner. That is where my family and I live so by definition, I called it my home. However, when I started college and spent half the year in Pennsylvania, that definition was modified. I even slipped a few times and referenced Gettysburg as my home (much to my Mom’s displeasure). Three weeks after my return from Spain, I now include Salamanca in my multifaceted definition.
Despite what my pictures on social media portray, living in Salamanca was not like one long vacation. I still had responsibilities and sources of stress. Sure, I was fortunate enough to visit four other countries in addition to numerous cities in Spain. However, I also got lost with no working cell phone, slept in the airport (twice), experienced THE sketchiest Airbnb in Barcelona (no seriously I swear they had some illegal operation going on), spent a night in a tent in the freezing rain, dealt with aggressive catcalling in Barcelona, wandered Dublin alone for 11 hours and frantically sprinted through the metro in Madrid to catch the last train home for the night… just to name a few. Although not necessarily welcomed, I believe encountering difficulties and being forced outside your comfort zone adds to the authenticity of the experience. Instead of having my time abroad feel like a dream in which I eventually snap out of to get back to reality, it was an actual part of my life; a real experience in which I learned and developed.
I can’t say I have changed drastically but sometimes I recognize the impact of my abroad experience in my day-to-day routine. For example, everyone knows that I love to shop. I mean even my host mom could figure that out with all the empty Zara and Mango bags accumulating in my room. Now on the contrary, I’m more conservative in my spending because every time I look at a price tag, I just think, “This could have gotten me a train ticket to Portugal!” Another observation that surprised me when I returned was how much stuff I have. All I could think about was how I was able to survive an entire semester without all the things I left behind in my room. Before, I would be that person to pack an excessive amount of clothes just in case that super specific scenario in which my new sweater would be PERFECT should arise. But the fact that I could only carry-on my backpack to my weekend excursions forced me to adapt and abandon my unnecessary packing habits.
Although I have many homes, each place is special to me and has served a different purpose in my life. I think they all have helped me grow as a person in their own way. Each place has lessons to give and memories to gift. Nevertheless, what I love most about my home is who I share it with and I’m already missing my family in Salamanca.
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<p style="margin-bottom:12.0pt"><span style="color:#404040">My name is Isabel but unless you’re either my mom, dad or nurse calling me in from the waiting room, I go by Izzie. I am a rising junior at Gettysburg College pursuing a major in the Health Sciences with a minor in Spanish. I have traveled outside of the US before (namely the Philippines where a lot of extended family reside) however, visiting a country for vacation and being totally immersed in it are two completely different experiences and I can’t wait for this new adventure in Spain.</span><span style="text-autospace:none"><span style="font-size:16.0pt"><span style="font-family:"Times",serif"> </span></span></span></p>