Torn Between Two Worlds

(Posted a bit late because airport wi-fi didn’t work and because I was too exhausted after 24 hours of traveling to post.)

I confess that I am a bit behind on travel blogging. Since my last post, I’ve traveled to Barcelona and Granada, experienced Sevilla’s defining Feria de Abril, cheered on both of the city’s football teams, finished school, taken a trip through Germany and Austria, and just soaked up as much of Sevilla as humanly possible before returning to the US. Which is what I’m doing now. And it doesn’t seem real yet. So in attempt to stay awake through 18 hours of flights and layovers to get back on US Central Time, I’ll pen a few blog posts. (And watch movies until my computer dies or I revert to Spanish custom and take a siesta, whichever comes first). I realize that by writing my “returning to the US” post first I am compromising the time sequence of this blog, but perhaps Spain has taught me to be slightly less type-A and it won’t bother me too much. At any rate, I felt it best to write about going home when I’m actually going so that you get the raw experience (then I’ll backtrack and share more of my adventures abroad, because it’s probably all I’ll be able to talk about for a while).

The best way I can describe the feeling of returning to the US is totally bipolar.

On one hand, there are a lot of things I miss about my American lifestyle: living independently, peanut butter, efficiency and competitive motivation, Spotify, wardrobe variety, not being served copious amounts of bread with giant plates of more carbs…. Yes, I came abroad to embrace other cultures, but that doesn’t for a second mean that I have lost my American identity. It’s who I am, where I’m most comfortable, where I thrive. Oh, and I get to drive my car and turn up my radio stations and be alone when I go places instead of crowded into public transportation. That is bliss. If I remember how to drive, that is, haha.

I also really miss my family and friends, and I am thrilled to see everyone very, very soon. I only have one full day home in St. Louis, but I’ll get to hang out with my parents, my sister, my dog, my best friends…and finally catch up on their lives without battling Viber and trying to tune out kids’ birthday parties at McDonald’s as I search for a strong enough wi-fi connection to call. Then I’ll be off to Texas for a summer research program and get to spend the summer near several of my closest TCU friends.

And finally, returning to the US means returning to TCU, and this Horned Frog has seriously missed her community, her major, and the best professors that one could hope for. I can’t wait to start fall classes among my fellow political science nerds, to come back to the Model UN team (including leading them in NYC!), to continue working on my senior thesis, and to apply to graduate programs. I’m excited for senior year festivities, football games, the Jarvis swing, Frog Fountain, and walking through a sea of purple all over campus. Go Frogs!

But as wonderful as all those things are, they still don’t make it easy to leave Spain and return to the US. Yes, I’m going home to St. Louis and then home to TCU, but I’m also leaving a home in Sevilla. It’s crazy how quickly you can become attached to a place. I became close with my roommates in my host home, one of whom is not a TCU student and I won’t get to see often. Although I don’t want to sugarcoat Spanish customs and my experiences with them, many customs have become my new normal. I found my favorite spots to wander and walk and reflect:  narrow side streets in El Centro, down the Río Guadalquivir near the Triana Bridge, the Plaza de España. Our TCU group was incredibly tight-knit, and although we will still hang out on campus, it will never be exactly the same as our own little Spanish niche away from our campus and other friends and the distractions of American busyness. Plus, we don’t have Café del Valle in the US, and that’s our place. (Also it was closed yesterday for the Corpus Cristi festival and I was extremely sad about it).

Yesterday was my final day in Sevilla before catching a 7 AM flight, and even then I was torn between just wanting to get home (though partially that was to get the nostalgic goodbye over with) and feeling adamant that I could absolutely spend a second semester in Spain. I’ve been sick the last couple of days, I was exhausted from traveling for 11 days, and the ability to collapse into an American pillow sounded like heaven (European pillows aren’t too great in my experience). But as much as I have learned about Sevilla and Spain as a whole, that has only shown me how much more I could learn. If I were here even longer, I thought, I could immerse myself even further and become more fluent and know all there is to know about this beautiful country. Those extremes came in waves within the same hour multiple times yesterday. Thankfully, my friend Alayna  was there so I didn’t have to ride that emotional roller coaster alone, though our personalities are so similar that we probably reinforced each other’s fragile mental states.

It didn’t fully hit me that I was really leaving until I had to walk away from the Plaza de España, my favorite place in the city, last night. That’s when the tears hit. That’s when I realized that no matter where else I live in my life, part of me will always be home in Sevilla. I have so many homes now, all unique, all special, all mine.

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Sevilla’s motto is NO8DO, which stands for no me ha dejado. “Sevilla has not left me.” I heard a local explain it once. She said that whenever a sevillano leaves Sevilla, he says that the city is always with him. This city has taught me so much. Spanish, to begin with (I am afraid to use the word “fluent” because that comes with such high expectations, so instead I’ll say that if I were randomly dropped somewhere in a Spanish-speaking country, I could confidently find my way). Cultural understanding, communication, courage. How to travel. Perseverance, patience, priorities. The importance of balance with everything in life, especially with time. Reflection, resourcefulness, reliance on yourself and at times on others. And as I’ve heard from past study abroad students, you don’t even realize how much you’ve changed until you get back, which means there are probably more life lessons that I’ve gained and will discover later.

Sevilla no me ha dejado. I may have left Sevilla, but Sevilla has not left me. And it never will. Jamás me dejará. I am thrilled to go home to the US, and I am equally thrilled at the prospect of the returning to Spain in the future. Whichever home I’m in at the time, it’s not a matter of saying adios. It’s nos vemos, we will see each other.

-Steph

Triana Bridge
Triana Bridge

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