País Vasco, te voy a extrañar

The day has come. As I sit in my room, with my bags packed, avoiding studying for my final tomorrow, tears start to form in my eyes. My journey in the Basque Country has come to an end.

Here, I have learned how to be independent and that is something I will take with me when I return back to the States. The amount of personal growth I have experienced in this short time frame of five weeks is unfathomable. My main goal for this journey was to immerse myself in the Spanish language and learn more about the culture. I am happy to say that I am much more confident in my Spanish skills than I was when I first arrived. I have been able to speak to locals in Spanish with no fear of how they might respond. Some of the locals even thought I was Spanish. Other locals knew immediately that I was American because of the way I dressed. I have been able to explore new areas by myself and enjoy each second. I think the hardest part is leaving behind the wonderful people I have met who made this experience one to remember.

First off, my host mom has been an absolute angel to me. I really believe that I am the luckiest USAC student here without a doubt. Not only does she provide me three delicious meals a day, do my laundry every week, and give me ideas of places to explore in town, she has become a friend. One night after dinner, she pulled out old photo albums of her kids. She even had a photo album dedicated to each of her daughter’s weddings. We spent the rest of the night looking through old photos and laughing. A memory I will never forget. She is always encouraging me to leave the house if I am home too long. Sometimes I will take naps and when I wake up she laughs at me for sleeping so long. Some nights, we walk the path by the ocean with our dog, Kiñu and one of her good friends, Carmele. I will miss those nightly walks. There are not enough words I could say that would describe my gratitude for this woman and her willingness to open her home.

The students I have met here really made this experience ten thousand times better. I wish I could do a shout-out to everyone who has made an impact on me personally, but that would take way too long. You know who you are 😉 It’s very hard to realize that we each have fallen into a routine together and now it’s about to get shaken up again. I already know that when I go home, I will want to text them and ask “Ok, who wants to hit up the beach today after class?” These people have touched my heart and I wish them all the best of luck on their future adventures, degrees, and careers. I hope to see you all again in the near future.

As I sift through my luggage, there are things I could have gone without, and also things I wish I had taken from home.

Some things I wish I DID NOT bring –

  • 5 pairs of shorts. The weather was much rainier than I thought it was going to be for summer. I only brought 2 pairs of capris and the rest were shorts. I can say that I wore shorts probably twice here. I actually had to go buy 2 pairs of pants because the capris weren’t cutting it.
  • Hair dryer. I definitely popped the circuit breaker the first night here and I think my hair dryer is dead now. I wouldn’t have used it anyway.
  • So many books. I didn’t do any reading while I was here, not even on the plane ride here. Now they’re just making my carry-on heavy.
  • 3 different swimsuits. Again, I thought I was going to be spending most of my time on the beach in the sun, but it rained pretty much the entire time.
  • A ton of bedtime shirts. I basically wear the same 2 shirts throughout the week to bed.

Some things I wish I DID bring –

  • Pants!!
  • A smaller day pack for hiking and walking tours.
  • Better walking shoes that aren’t sandals.
  • Another pair of workout pants.

I think I did a fairly good job on packing light, because I did end up buying a lot of things for friends and family back home. It looks like everything will fit just fine! I will be leaving behind a pair of pants, and two pairs of shoes that I bought here and wore out. The more I can lighten up my luggage, the better.

Spain has given me a new perspective. Everyone sees this world through a different lens and it’s important to consider their point of view. I have become extremely open-minded and much more adventurous. It hit me today as I walked home from school. I had my headphones in, and as I looked around I saw kids playing on the playground with their parents watching, an old man pushing his wife around in a wheelchair, and men taking their siesta stroll in their business suits. Everyone is living a different story and going through a different situation. Who are we to judge them based on what we see from the outside? I love this world we live in, despite all the hate and imperfections.

My next adventure? Tomorrow I will be venturing off to Lugo to walk a portion of the Camino de Santiago. The Camino is a pilgrimage route that starts in French Basque Country and goes all the way to the burial of St. James in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. The entire route takes about a month to walk and is considered a spiritual journey. A couple other USAC students and myself will only be walking five days worth of the trail. We will start in Sarria and walk through Portomarín, Palas de Rei, Arzúa, Pedrouzo, and ending in Santiago de Compostela.

The Camino has been something on my bucket list ever since we watched the movie The Way in AP Spanish. Some day, I would like to come back and walk the entire thing, but these five days should suffice for now. Stay tuned for pictures and stories about my journey.

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