Back in August, I essentially dived into a pool and began swimming. I saw so many new sights, smelled the scents of delicious food cooking or over-cologned passersby, and made my way through Spain. I was so taken by the new and different beauty of the country, and especially the customs. One of the first things I noticed was how social everyone seemed to be and how the plaza café was a cornerstone of the lifestyle here in Spain.
Noticing all of this is something that so often happens when you go to a new place. You tend to pick out the small things that normally go unnoticed, also noticing the big ones too. I suppose that’s the beauty of traveling to a different country on vacation, because you immerse yourself in something quite different from home. The same thing happens when you study abroad, but with the added time, those small things that you noticed at first slowly recede and, after a while, become unnoticed just the same. It’s not a bad thing, it just shows that you have become a part of the lifestyle and that place became a home.
A home this is. Granada is a big part of my life now. So many experiences and memories were forged on the streets of this mid-sized city in the mountains, and so many friendships were made. I am preparing to leave Granada for what will likely be the last time. I would love to return at some point, but that time probably will not happen for many years to come. What’s important, though, is that I have grown. Obviously not physically, but intellectually. My entire life I have enjoyed traveling to new places, crafting new experiences and relationships and Granada stands as the best of those experiences.
In many ways, I would say that studying abroad is like the first semester of college. You arrive and are out of your element, in a new environment and with new responsibilities. There may be friends from high school, so you flock together and share the majority of your experiences together while navigating the complexities of this new place. With time you make new amazing friends, figure out the drinking culture and reach some sense of moderation that will influence your lifestyle and decisions while having a blast and the time of your life. Shortly thereafter, you realize that this new place has become routine. You know all the nooks and crannies, you have a super secret territory in the library for studying and have a regular group of friends. Then the time comes to leave and while you’re sad, you look back with fondness at all that you have accomplished, you smile at the funny moments and joke about the embarrassing ones. As pictures are viewed, you chuckle at who you were all that time ago, and you map out in your mind how you have grown personally. Then you leave, maintaining ties and connections while going about whatever trail in life is meant for you, while always reflecting back to a time and a place that was special and that will never be replicated again.
This is how I feel as the hours wind down and I prepare to go to bed one last time in my apartment. Spain was a new experience for me, and one that I relish with the hungry zest of someone in a hot dog eating competition. Like them, I soaked everything up and consumed all that I could of my time here in Granada and abroad. Unlike the hot dog competitor, I could actually taste what I was experiencing, and could thus appreciate it all the more. My time here was not a competition by any means, but it was an experience that many people witnessed and can share.
So many of us students came together for these past few months and I made tons of new friends, many of whom I may never see again, but the memories will live on. At some point, my trail may converge with that of any of my new friends, and I’m sure we will get together and remember all of the experiences we shared in Spain, for the memories will come surging back. They always do.
What makes these memories and these moments of reminiscence so special, is they can never be replicated. I could very well study abroad again and go to a new country, learn the language, and submit myself to a new set of experiences, but it would not be the same. The people, the places, the experiences and the culture make an experience what it is meant to be and that is what forges the memories, making them so unique.
Despite the differences in experiences, all good things must come to an end. Time never stops chugging on, and life will pick up tomorrow with the regularity of the rising sun. It may be a new day with new possibilities, but the memories of yesterday will still be there, lingering.
Memories are what make up life. We live our lives as best we can, while looking back on the formative experiences that guided us along our treks and remember as our hearts glow with happiness or sadness, laughter or anger. My time here in Granada was each of these, and for that I am thankful. I will miss the amazing friends that I have made here, and the fond times that I have had, but there will not be a single moment that I will regret or frown upon.
Many years from now, I very well may have a family of my own. At some point, I’m sure one of my kids will ask me if I ever studied abroad and I can tell you right now, that I will chuckle, smile, remember those still lingering memories, and smile some more with the most profound sense of elation in my heart.