I did not prepare myself for my return home especially the emotions I am experiencing now. I had to say goodbye to my life of travels, to the friends I made, to the city I had come to appreciate and love. I sit at home now watching Netflix or occasionally going out to see my friends and family. When I am asked about my travels abroad, I get excited and nostalgic and then frustrated when I do not see the same excitement reflected on their faces. I calm myself down because I cannot expect others to completely understand it.
I walk the streets of New York City to relive my experience abroad. I admire the buildings in my neighborhood, Harlem, and I watch how people interact with one another. I feel as though I am seeing Harlem for the first time. So much of the community members are black people and I am shocked because for three months black people were absent in restaurants, stores, and neighborhoods. The only time I saw a black person was when they were selling merchandise or begging for money in the streets.
I was not prepared to transition from speaking in Spanish to English. Just the other day I went shopping and accidentally bumped into a woman. I began apologizing in Spanish until I heard her apologize in English. I was shocked and disappointed because I am reminded that I am no longer in Spain. I’m not speaking Spanish at the dinner table and using gastronomy to initiate conversations. When I buy fruit in NYC, it’s expensive and my conversations with the sales clerk are quick. Although at moments I hated speaking Spanish in Spain, I loved it overall. My Spanish language is beginning to slip away, and I must work three times as hard to keep it. I miss having the opportunity to speak Spanish at any time.
I miss that I could walk everywhere in Granada because it was a small city. Walking was great exercise, it was ecological, and I was not obstructed by financial barriers. NYC is a huge city with so many places to explore. I must take the subway which requires so much electrical current, some train rides are awful, not to mention super expensive. In Granada, I could stop to appreciate the fruit growing from trees on my path or walk through the Albayzin and listen to the Romani people sing and dance in bars. I will especially miss watching the sun set on Granada at Mirador de San Miguel or Abadía del Sacromonte.
I never thought about how hard it would be to say goodbye to my life in Spain. I have come a long way since the first day I arrived and now have a different perspective on the country. I remember how I fantasized that Spaniards wore formal attire, the weather in Granada would always be sunny, and I assumed the country was extremely religious. I know now that Spaniards are not as religious as I once thought. Many Spaniards reject religion due to their former dictator, Francisco Franco. I learned that Granada weather can be extreme: it’s either hot or cold. Not to mention, the city of Granada was a lot different than what I expected. I came to Granada imaging that it looked like what you might find on Google images, but it reminded me of different parts of New York City. The statues/monuments in the middle of roundabouts reminded me of Columbus Circle. The plazas and shopping areas had a downtown SOHO vibe. Nevertheless, Granada was unique because of its Albayzin which has rural homes stacked on top of one another, big mountains, and dirt roads to a forest. The two blend into one city which makes it special to me.
Aside from Granada, there were also so many surprises and discoveries abroad. During my time in Spain, I spoke Spanish and I became more confident. I learned that the English language is popular and spoken in most countries. I thought different parts of the world focus on developing their culture and language and would not care for American ideals. However, American culture influences the world and at times can be destructive because it disrupts the diversity of different cultures. For example, constructing shopping malls are American ideals and have become more common in Spain. Those malls encourage consumerism and most Spaniards spend less time consuming and more time with their friends and family.
I learned how different cultures have such interesting and distinct ways to live life. There’s no culture that’s right or wrong. Coming back to America I came to this realization as I kept comparing the US to other cultures. I was critical of the USA before, but I appreciate and respect American culture now. America is a land of individualistic values that instills a competitive and hardworking nature. Our values of democracy have inspired societies across the world and many countries today continue to fight for a similar body of government.
My appreciation for American values has put me in a process of moving forward such as falling in love with NYC again. I have many museums accessible to me, different cuisines and cultures just a few train stops away, and I can speak in English and be understood. Now I look forward to exploring the city more. There are so many places I have not seen and so much I have not done.
While abroad, I realized that people across the world know and love NYC. I want to take full advantage of NYC. In addition, I want to continue to explore different parts of the world. Thus, my travels have not ended, but I may be taking a break and will resume to explore again. Next time I travel I will do it more informed because I know what kind of traveler I am. I learned that I do not always enjoy the touristy attractions but would rather spend a day with a local. I enjoy sunsets and sunrises. I love sharing experiences with others, but I do not mind traveling alone to meet new people, to form new friendships. To me, studying abroad lasts a lifetime and I look forward to what new adventures await.