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My Many Homes

  I know that my study abroad country is France, but that is not the only country that I hold very dear to my heart-- a big part of it lives in Spain. You see, looking back, I truly believe that my first trip to Spain was when I started to grow up.

I was fifteen years old, and was going to meet my pen-pal. Our school had partnered us together, and we constantly messaged each other via Facebook. I don't know when or how the plan for me to visit during the summer was formulated, but one day in July we met at the airport in Barcelona. She had this big sign in her hands with my name on it and this giant smile on her face.

Our meeting wasn't the smoothest--I thought she was going in for a hug when really it was the double-kiss greeting. But, we worked through all the newness and really made an effort to get to know each other. We had such an amazing time together that I went back two years later.

Now, at nineteen, I returned for the third time in four years. I decided to start my first time solotraveling in the one city that put me into so many new situations, Barcelona. I stayed two nights at her house, and then two nights in a hostel in the city center (as she was busy with school and activities) before continuing onto other parts of Spain.

 Four years of candy addiction in Barcelona

It is very fitting that four years later I come back, with a new sense of braveness and confidence. This city will forever be the place that gave me the room I needed to grow. It´s funny that I have now been here three times and never with my parents. This city, to me, was the beginning of my adventure towards fearlessness and becoming an adult.

Now, I continue to grow up and I like to think of Europe as my playground. Every time that I fly away from France for a trip, I realize how much I don't want to leave it. I, of course, absolutely love the ability to go anywhere for so cheap thanks to the airlines and hostels here, but my town in France is really starting to feel like home.

 One of about a million pictures I've taken of my hometown in France

So, as I continue to return to familiar places and fly to new ones, I start to have more and more places that I feel at home, places that I can always return to and appreciate as I see more of the world. I have my grandparents' houses in Belgium that I return to each year. I have the city of Barcelona, which I am finally starting to find my way around, and I have my town in France with my grocery store, the man at the restaurant next to my apartment who says hi to me every time that I pass, and the bakeries that keep me going through the week.

I am no longer the person who stumbled into Spain at fifteen--my time in the French Riviera has shown me how to be independent and self-reliant while somehow also forcing me to be comfortable with strangers. I have learned how to push through small talk, and really get to know a person. I am so grateful for each and every individual who I have become friends with in France and am grateful for all those who I have been able to meet during my travels. I can honestly say that there are amazing people hiding in each and every part of the world, and I am so happy to get the chance to meet so many as I find myself at home all around Europe.

Laura Bastings is the Spring 2016 CEA MOJO Blogger in the French Riviera, France. She is currently a sophomore at Towson University.

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