Oh boy, it’s been a busy week here in Salamanca. Not only do I have five final exams to take, but I also need to pack up my entire room, say goodbye to my new friends and new city, and emotionally prepare myself for an exciting summer of travel. With that being said, I still wanted to take some time to hop on here and write an ‘end-of-semester’ blog post with some final thoughts and reflections while I’m still in Salamanca.
Home is an interesting concept for a college student, or at least for this college student in particular. Since 2019, I haven’t lived in one place for more than eight months, and since COVID-19 started in March 2020 I haven’t lived in one place for more than four. Seriously, for the past two years I’ve lived in one apartment, three dorm rooms, two houses, 3 states, and 2 countries. I’m definitely a suitcase packing expert now, although it’s still one of my least favorite activities.
Due to all this moving, it’s hard for me to say where exactly feels like home. Sometimes, I feel at home watching a movie on the couch with my parents and my two puppies. Sometimes it’s when I’m on the ultimate Frisbee field with my best friends in Ohio. Lately, home has been a private dorm room in the middle of Spain in a place where their language isn’t my first, their food is not what I’m used to, and I’m at least six hours ahead of my family and friends back home. Nonetheless, I’ve made Salamanca feel like home. For instance, whenever I go to Café Mandala, the waitress already knows my order. We smile at each other and I ask for my usual. I have a go-to study spot in the public library, and I see the same people there every week. Every night, I spend time with friends in the dorms watching movies and doing homework together. We have big family meals in the dining hall, where every IES Abroad student sits at a huge table. This happens every night at dinner.
I guess I’ve gotten pretty good at saying goodbye to home, too, though. Every few months, it’s time to kiss one chapter goodbye and say hello to the next. I’m actually awful at saying goodbye (I get it from my mom!) and tend to go about my days as usual until I disappear. There won’t be a grand exit from me. I probably won’t even give you a see-ya-later hug. Goodbyes make me feel strange, they feel so definitive. It’s hard enough to close a chapter, but if I start hugging everyone around me and giving long speeches about how much they’ve taught me, I don’t think I’d survive moving around so much. Besides, I like to think I’ll find each and every important person again down the line. So, what exactly am I saying goodbye for?
Salamanca is so far away from all my other homes, so I don’t really know if I’ll ever be back here. This city could become a distant memory I’ll tell my kids about. Maybe it will pop up in a dream from time to time. Or maybe, one day, I’ll find myself back in Mandala ordering my regular, and I’ll be back home.
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<p>Hi! My name is Nicole Stein. I am a Spanish major at Kenyon College from Montclair, New Jersey spending the Spring of 2022 in Salamanca, Spain! My favorite things to do are travel, try new food, swim in small bodies of water, pet baby animals of all kinds, spend time outside hiking, skiing and exploring, and making connections with people from all walks of life.</p>