After two years of experiencing college moving days, I like to think that I’m a professional last minute packer. To my parents’ annoyance, I am able to pack a semester’s worth of belongings in one day. But, this often means I have little time for much else. It is for this reason that I find myself writing my pre-departure blog post in the airport waiting lounge surrounded by strangers instead of the quiet and private confines of my bedroom. And it is here, waiting to board my plane to Madrid that I find myself particularly emotional as I think of the journey ahead of me.
Not gonna lie, I cried like a baby as my dad dropped me off at the security checkpoint. I cried so hard that the TSA agents let me in the pre-approved line and didn’t scan my hands for chemical residue. (I still can’t decide if they were taking pity on me or just assumed my tears would wash away any hazardous materials.)
I thought that because I had spent 6 weeks in Barcelona this summer that I was more than prepared to be back in Spain, physically and emotionally. Language barriers? Nonexistent. Travelling by myself? No worries. Sangría y patatas bravas? Claro.I just didn’t have the same concerns this time around. So, you can imagine that the tears were a huge surprise for me…and my father. (Sorry Dad!)
What I realize is that in the chaos of packing, making trips to the bank, and saying goodbye to relatives, I feel like I didn’t have a chance to consider the enormity of what was to come. Study abroad is more than just buying new clothes, improving your language skills, and trying new food. It’s about setting out on a new adventure, embracing sometimes unwanted independence, and, learning to be comfortable being uncomfortable.
Essentially, by choosing to study abroad in Madrid, I have conscientiously made the decision to break down my emotional walls in the most spectacular fashion ever. I’m going to live with a host family in a foreign country. In response, my family tried to come up with ten thousand reasons for me to not live with a host family but rather in a residencia. In addition to my particularly risky accommodations, not only will I be a non-native speaker in a Spanish speaking country, I am going to be the first in my family to ever travel to Europe. So, there’s a whole new set of continental rules and norms to get used to. And did I mention that I’m a woman of color who choose to study in a country that is still not used to different cultures and ethnicities?
So, despite all of the potential for conflict and strife, as I sit here in the airport, I realize that I’m about to do something truly unbelievable. I’m going to leave behind everything that I know and embrace the unknown, the new, the scary, the different. And even though, it is the most terrifying and exciting thing I have ever done in my life, I think it is going to change me for the better. ¡Viva España!