I can easily say that the reason why I loved my study abroad experience was because of all the kind people I met. Whether it was my host mom, the Emory students and advisors in my study abroad group, or international and Spanish students in my classes, a supportive community always surrounded me, making every day exciting and memorable.
When I first arrived in Spain, I met other Emory students and the heads of the Salamanca Program, Maica and Ángel, who were so welcoming and caring. At the time I had no idea how much this group would mean to me, and every week we got closer through excursions, visiting cathedrals and museums in Salamanca, as well as cities outside of Spain like Lisbon, Cascais, and Óbidos in Portugal. Despite not knowing anyone in the group beforehand, I was surprised by how close we got over such a short amount of time, and I currently take classes with three of them, continuing to make new memories with them. We laughed as we made jokes through some of the long rides during excursions, cried as we left Spain, but most importantly, cherished the experiences we shared. I have never cried harder than when I had to wish farewell to Maica, who was like a second mom to me. Although it was extremely painful to say goodbye, as Maica liked to say, I just had to remember it as more of an hasta luego (“see you later”) instead of an adios (“goodbye”).
I also shared fond memories with my host mom who sat for hours with me during meals, teaching me new words in French and euskera, and giving me the best cafe and discoteca recommendations. More than anything, though, she was open-minded and vulnerable, opening up to me about her own struggles studying abroad and giving me ample space to express myself. She always laughed with me and helped me become more comfortable in my new environment, and I am grateful that she still keeps this connection with me through WhatsApp.
Finally, the friends I made through my courses kept me extremely excited to attend class every day. My closest friends were from China and Canada, and together we would meet on Fridays to study for class, listen to newly-released albums, watch movies, and visit cafes. I also became close to a Spanish student at the University of Salamanca, Patri. We met every weekend to practice Spanish and English, walking around the city as we asked one another questions about Spain and the US. We bonded over our shared interests like ABBA and detective novels, and always had a good laugh as we got lost in our own bubble of conversation.
Although it was extremely painful to say goodbye, or hasta luego, to the wonderful people I met abroad, at the same time I am grateful to have people in my life who made this farewell so difficult. They showed me the importance of staying receptive and open to new experiences, and most importantly, cherishing each moment because you never know when it could get taken away.