Four flights and over 30 hours of travel later, I’m home in Oregon. It feels like I was both gone for forever and for no time at all, and although I couldn’t be happier to see my family, friends and pets again, I miss Sevilla more than I could have imagined. My last week abroad raced by. I took my last final at the beginning of the week, and since I didn’t leave until Friday, I spent the following days visiting my favorite places in Sevilla and saying goodbye to my friends. It was both the best and most difficult week of the semester because emotions were running high, I was trying to soak up every last bit of Sevilla and I knew it was all about to end.
The weather was finicky that last week–thunderstorms one day, sun the next and rain the following. I took advantage of the sunny day to wander the streets of barrio de Santa Cruz. I stopped by the Alcazar castle ruins to listen to a lone guitarist seated beneath the orange trees. I wandered through a tienda de flamenca to admire the dresses the Sevillana women would soon begin to buy for the Feria de Abril and wished more than anything that I could attend. I stopped at nearly every pretty building I saw just to stare up at it and was asked by several concerned young men in fur coats (the sevillanos like their fur) if I was lost each time. I sat in my favorite spot on the bank of the Guadalquivir one last time, watching the motorcycles and cars drive across the Triana bridge and the sun warm the fronts of the pastel buildings along Calle Betis.
I said goodbye to the Club Náutico swim team the day before I left. I’d expected to feel like an outsider, but was surprised at how inclusive and genuinely interested in being friends with me they were. By December, I didn’t feel like “the exchange student” anymore, I felt like I’d found a family. It helped that my Spanish had improved, I’d learned the swimming-specific vocabulary and had gotten used to the slang and idioms they used, but I’d also developed a sense of comfort with the team, even though I didn’t always follow the conversations. We took a photo and I hugged each of the swimmers, coaches and even the lifeguards. “You have to return!” they told me, and I told them I would the first chance I got. I rode a Sevici rental bike (which had been my primary mode of transportation) home from practice, and as silly as it sounds, a few tears escaped as I thought about how this would be the last time. I remember my frustration at the heavy, difficult-to-maneuver, semi-functioning bikes when I’d arrived in September, but now I’d grown attached to them. How boring it would be to know that my bike at home would work properly every time I rode it.
It was equally as difficult to say goodbye to my sevillano friends. Like the swim team, I hadn’t expected to form such strong bonds with the local people, but Sevilla introduced me to some of the most caring, genuine and fun people I’ve met. It was pouring rain, but two of my best friends from Sevilla, Thai and Miguel, drove me to their apartment to have lunch. Miguel proudly told me I would get to try his famous potatoes, but Thai spilled them taking them out of the oven. It was one of those days where everything seemed hilarious, so we all laughed until we cried, and Miguel went to get “Burger King’s famous potatoes” (just normal fries). We stopped for coffee at the Starbucks and Jose, my favorite barista, was there. He had delivered complementary ice water and snacks to me during several long afternoons of studying, and seemed a little sad when I told him I was leaving the next day. I admit I was a little sad as well. Thai, Miguel and I all cried saying goodbye, and promised to stay in touch. “You’ll be back, you won’t be able to stay away from Sevilla for too long,” Thai said.
The most difficult part of the week was saying goodbye to my host family. I’d been living with Loli and her son Sergio, who had truly come to seem like a mom and older brother. The food Loli served for dinner my last night in Sevilla was delicious as always, but it was difficult for any of us to eat. I tried my best to hold it together, but the tears came out all at once, and we all sat on the couch crying together. I promised I would come back (again) and they told me they were sure I would. “You fit so well here, you would definitely be happy living in Sevilla,” they told me. I had started thinking about the idea about halfway through the semester, and after a week of saying goodbye to Sevilla and its wonderful people, I knew it couldn’t be goodbye forever.
My time in Sevilla was magical and surreal, but it was also one of the times in my life during which I felt most at ease, most happy and most connected to myself and to the people around me. So many things were experiences exclusive to Spain: walking along the streets filled with people chatting, eating and singing each evening, watching the sun set behind the spires of the Plaza de España and the Giralda, adventuring around Spain and Morocco with my other North American friends, squeezing into a packed bodega with a group of Spanish friends (some of whom I’d met before, many of whom I hadn’t), crawling into bed with sore feet after a night at the discotheque, learning the vocabulary related to the gastronomy of Andalusia or frantically trying to finish Martin Fierro on a warm Sunday by the bank of the river…some things more enjoyable, some less, but I’ll miss it all.
Sevilla taught me so much, and I feel so fortunate for the chance to have lived there for four months, though I wish it could have been longer. I broadened my Spanish vocabulary and I studied renaissance literature and ancient art, but I am most grateful that Sevilla taught me to appreciate every day, no matter where I am nor what I have to do. I know it sounds cliche, but time truly does fly by far too fast, and there is a whole world to explore. I know I will never be able to visit all the places I want to, but Sevilla has made me realize that I want to keep exploring and discovering as much as I can. I don’t like endings, and saying goodbye to this beautiful place was one of the hardest endings I’ve experienced. Not knowing for sure when I’ll be able to return only made it harder, but I have a strong feeling that, just like I promised and like everyone told me, I’ll be back someday.
Thank you for following along with me on my journey to Sevilla! And since I don’t like endings, I won’t say adios…