Home at last! I arrived back in New York almost two weeks ago, and in classic Roya fashion, I’ve been traveling ever since. This has given me at least 16 hours on long car rides, countless trains into NYC, and even some time on my bike to reflect on my past semester.
The first thing I can say with complete certainty is that study abroad as a whole experience is never perfect. When I arrived in Madrid, I came with the stories of past students in my head, students who claimed to have life-changing experiences and the best time of their lives abroad. Hey, maybe they did both, but I’m 100% sure they had some struggles and went through some ruts along the way.
My semester has definitely had its highs and lows. It’s always easier to talk about the highs; when given the opportunity and privilege to spend a whole semester in another country across the ocean, immersed in another language and culture, the positives always come up more often in order to avoid seeming ungrateful. But study abroad experiences all vary and are challenging.
Nobody told me that within the first four weeks of arriving, I would inevitably hit a complete rut where I’d feel somewhat alone, nervous about classes starting, and very, very far away from my friends and family. When describing this feeling later on to a study abroad advisor at Bowdoin, she was quick to reassure me that EVERYONE has this kind of experience with varying magnitude. Everyone hits a rut, and it doesn’t mean that your study abroad experience is going wrong in any way.
As time goes by, any negative memories I have of my semester will start to fade and I’ll only think of the positives. I am so grateful to have been placed with the most generous and loving host family who truly welcomed me into their family throughout the semester. My professors were always willing to chat, whether that was over hot chocolate or about my decision to write one of my final papers in Spanish instead of English. Most excitingly for me, I visited a total of eight countries over the semester, four of which I had never visited before. I’ve become a more seasoned traveler, totally comfortable traveling solo, and have even voluntarily visited museums on my own (this is big for someone who has always dragged her feet through art museums).
Now, I’m back in the United States ready to start my next adventure this summer in D.C. As my blogging days are coming to a close, I’d like to thank my parents for supporting me this semester, Bowdoin Off-Campus Study for making this all happen, the IES Abroad Chicago and Madrid staff, y Marce y Josefina por sus bromas, amabilidad, y ayuda durante el semestre. Hasta luego, Madrid!
Marce, Josefina, and I in their apartment on my last night in Madrid.