The Tears Come Easily These Days

Julia Ebben headshot
Julia Ebben
March 12, 2020
Sunset Moncloa

I’m writing this blog post after an acutely difficult few days. As you may or may not know, the number of COVID-19 cases spiked in Madrid over the weekend. This resulted in the government announcing on Monday that it would suspend any in-person activity of all educational institutions in Madrid for 2 weeks. While this gave me pause, I tried to remain calm and continue hoping for the best. Following the government’s announcement, IES Abroad Madrid contacted us to inform us that we would be continuing our classes via live-stream until the end of the month. However, Tuesday night I received a devastating email from the University of Michigan informing all of its students studying abroad in Spain that their programs are being pulled. Further communication revealed that we have a week to organize ourselves and leave the country.

For me, this decision is absolutely heart-wrenching. Moreover, it makes me feel quite powerless. I have been having the most beautiful, joyous time here in Madrid over the past two months and am finding it exceptionally difficult to cope with the fact that it will be coming to a premature end over the course of the next several days.

On Tuesday night, I spoke with both my host parents and my real parents (and cried. a lot.). I am grateful for the immense support from both sets of “parents.” As I have mentioned before and will mention again, my host parents are the best host parents; they surpass every single expectation I ever could have had. When I read the news that my program was canceled, I was with my host mom in the stairwell of my host sister’s new apartment building. We had a somber car ride back to our own apartment and when we returned, I went to my room to give myself a few moments to cry and attempt to begin processing what was happening. Once I had collected myself a bit, I headed to the family room. My host dad was sitting in his usual spot on the sofa, and - because my host mom had told him the news while I had been in my room - he asked, “how are you feeling?” I told him that I was really sad. He looked at me so sincerely and said, “we are too.”

We’re all so sad.

Although it was an incredibly melancholy moment, the sincerity was also incredibly comforting. There will be so much about this place & these people that I will miss.

I am doing my best to view and appreciate this situation as a growth opportunity - a chance to become more flexible, an opportunity to better embrace the unknown, a time to be humbled by my own privilege and the amazing experiences it has allowed me to have. Even though my heart is oh so heavy and there are moments when I have the sensation that the world is ending, I recognize that it is not. I simultaneously recognize that my emotions are valid and that it is fully acceptable and right for me to be heart-broken.

Late Tuesday night, while I was trying (& failing) to get some sleep, I reflected on how drastically things have changed over the course of just one week. Had I thought about it even just days ago, I would not have been able to predict that my present situation would be my future. I realized that last Friday was my last time playing a game with my team here, and I had no way of knowing that at the time. On Monday, I was oblivious of the fact that I was making my last trek home from my study abroad center, catching my last glimpse of the sunset through the park as I headed to the metro station. I thought I had two more months of those serendipitous post-class sunsets. What a shame.

Life will continue on. Neither as I had thought it would nor as I had hoped that it would, but it will continue. I genuinely have very little clue what the coming days will bring. But I do know that everything will be okay. I am so fortunate to have many great support systems scattered throughout the globe.

Although not what I would have expected, this surely has been a new adventure for the start of the new decade. Here’s to trying to roll with the punches and accept that the future is wholly unpredictable.


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Julia Ebben headshot

Julia Ebben

<p>Hi! I'm Julia, and I'm a junior at the University of Michigan, who is currently studying in Madrid! I am really happy to be working on my Spanish again after taking a few years off from the language to learn German. Outside of my language learning endeavors, I spend my time playing rugby and drinking copious tea with my friends.</p>

2020 Spring
Home University:
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
Lake Orion, MI
International Studies
Political Science
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