111 days. 36 new friends from 4 schools. 19 cities in 6 countries. 7 long-distance bus rides. 4 new (host) family members. 3 French macarons. 2 Thanksgiving dinners. Countless servings of Tortilla de Patatas. How am I supposed to put this 1 incredible semester into words?
I can’t. I literally cannot.
I know that as soon as I go home every family member, friend, and acquaintance will want to hear about my first semester abroad. But how can I be expected to put the thousands of pictures I’ve taken this semester into words? Or condense the incredibly thought-provoking discussions in IFG into a blog post? Or describe the way my new peers, and friends, have challenged me to do more and be better everyday.
When I came to Spain I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew one person in the program, but the vast majority of the names and faces were unfamiliar. I knew very little about the history or modern politics of Spain. (You can read how I was blown away by Madrid in my first days here!)
I left St. Louis on the afternoon of September 1st, boarded a plane to Newark, sprinted through the airport, and the next morning I landed in Madrid. There was one person on my flight wearing a Tufts t-shirt. Only when we exited our taxis at the same moment outside the Holiday Inn Piramides did we awkwardly acknowledge the fact that we would be spending the next year on the same program. Almost exactly three months later we stared at each other for two-and-a-half hours during the Sketchbook class on portraiture. That seems to be a pretty good way to sum up the semester: blindly diving into a new country and being constantly blown away by the kindness, generosity, and community I have found.
Throughout the semester I’ve done and seen incredible things with incredible people: I watched the sunrise with a croissant on the beach in Barcelona. I drank rosé on the beach as the sun set in Porto. I stayed up until 6:30 am. I got up at 6:30 am regularly to go to the airport. I cried with 20 people I had only known for two months the day after the election. I participated in my first protest, and ran in my first race.
Despite these amazing experiences, something feels unfinished. Almost from the moment I left the US, I knew 111 days wouldn’t be enough to fully become a part of Spain. Madrid I’m not done with you: I’m lucky enough that I’ll be back in about a month, but before I go, I have to say thank you. Thank you for pushing me in ways I didn’t know I needed to be pushed. Thank you for challenging me to question myself and the people around me. Thank you for making me laugh so hard I thought I would break.