I just finished packing up all of my things and with Christmas right around the corner, I’m feeling a little antsy to get home. There is no better time to come home than for the holidays, and I’m more than excited to see my family and friends again.
Yet with my abroad experience coming to a close, I feel sentimental. I've been in Europe for four months, visited 17 cities in 17 weekends, and seen eight different countries. Never again will I travel so much in such a short amount of time, nor will I feel so close to a place that once felt so foreign to me. I feel like I’m leaving home to go home, even though my two homes are thousands of miles away from each other. From visiting the iconic landmarks like Retiro Park to watching a Real Madrid soccer game, there is a sense of accomplishment that I didn’t realize until it was almost over. Even the airport feels familiar to me now—I had no idea I could feel so close to an airport.
With all the mushy-gushy sentiments, I do want to drop a few words of wisdom to those who are considering studying abroad. First of all, DO IT. There is no feeling more gratifying and humbling than living in a foreign country, and I cannot stress enough how special the opportunity to study abroad is. Also, I’m grateful enough to have five amazing friends to share every second of this experience with, even though our constant time together may make the apartment feel a little cramped at times.
I'd also highly recommend documenting your travels, but not only with photos. Something you can carry with you -- a token, a memento, or if you’re like me, a watercolor print of each city I visited. Everyone will take photos of their time abroad, but don’t let your memories go up into the cloud. Keepsakes can preserve the memories longer than a post on social media.
The last thing, there is no better assurance of your return to Europe sometime in the future than after studying abroad. Although it’s hard to admit, one semester of school is nowhere near enough time to see every city I wanted to see. In fact, I know I won’t even be able to see every part of Madrid, where I’ve spent the last four months. But I do know that I will be returning to Madrid at some point in my life, and it will be nice to feel right back at home even after such a long time—and to be able to hop right back on the Metro that I struggled so much with in the beginning of my time here.
Grayson Hennelly is the Fall 2018 CEA MOJO Blogger in Madrid, Spain, and is currently studying at California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo.