In Spain you rarely ever hear someone say the word adios. Spaniards are almost never caught saying goodbye to anyone but instead always say hasta luego, or “see you later.” Even though the Spanish word for goodbye is one of the first Spanish words we learn, in reality the word is rarely ever said. When I asked one of my Spanish friends why this is they explained that adios is too strong of a word. Goodbye is goodbye forever while hasta luego expresses that you will one day see each other again. Now that my time in Spain has nearly ended I now know that the day I leave will not be goodbye.
It is still almost impossible to believe I have just completed an entire academic year studying abroad in a foreign country. Just over ten months ago I left the United States to complete an entire year’s worth of coursework in a foreign country and foreign language, with foreign professors and students. The academic aspect of my year abroad has not been easy, however it has been extremely rewarding. Completing all of my coursework in Spanish language for an entire year has been a major headache and to make matters worse Spanish professors do not exactly give you a break just because you are a foreign student. In many of my classes this year I was the only American student in the class and sometimes one of the only foreigners. Spanish professors expected the same type of coursework from me as from my Spanish colleagues. While schoolwork usually comes easy to me the style of Spanish education was hard to adjust to. The opportunity I had to study in a different county and in a completely different learning style was a difficult yet worthwhile experience. Though difficult to adjust to, I successfully passed all of my classes and adjusted to learning in a different language.
While the academic aspect of my year abroad is extremely important many of the things I have learned this year I did not learn in a classroom. I believe that the personal growth I went through this year is unique to the study abroad experience. The things that you learn while living in a foreign country are things that you cannot in any way learn in a classroom and are things that only few truly learn and understand. Upon first arriving in Madrid nearly a year ago I was faced with the difficulty of getting to know one of the largest cities in all of Europe. I was given a two-week period to find an apartment in a different country and was forced to find my way around in a foreign language. When I first came to Madrid I was reluctant to ask for help even in my own language but all of that quickly changed. I now feel comfortable expressing myself in both English and Spanish and have no problem talking to strangers. I have also gained a strong sense of independence. At first I felt uncomfortable and confused living in a foreign country, however, I have now spent time traveling alone both in Spain and in countries where I do not speak the language. After a year of living abroad I feel more confident and independent than I ever have in my entire life and also believe that I can now accomplish anything, anywhere.
Now, with my classes and exams finished I will spend the next three weeks traveling Spain before returning to the United States. When I left home nearly a year ago I thought it was the hardest thing I had ever done, however it cannot compare to how I feel about leaving Spain. When I left the United States I knew I would return a year later and once again see everything and everyone I love. However I do not know when I will return to Spain. I do not know when I will see the friends I have made that come from all corners of the world and I do not know when I will have another life-changing opportunity such as the one I have had this year. My year abroad has without a doubt been the greatest experience of my life and although my time here is coming to an end I know that one-day I will be back. This is not goodbye, just hasta luego.