Four and a half months ago, I got on a plane. I had very little idea of where I was going or what I was in for. I left everything and everyone I knew and loved behind, to embark on the journey of a lifetime. I was going to live with someone I'd never met, in a city I'd never been to, with a language I barely spoke. I stepped on that plane young, naïve, excited, and afraid. Today, I am boarding another plane. Today I am older, wiser, and nostalgic. Once again, I am leaving behind people I have grown to love and a place I have come to call "home."
In the last four and a half months I explored Europe and along the way, who I am. I expanded my Spanish vocabulary and my horizons. I gained self-confidence and 10 lbs. I made many new friends and some very difficult decisions. I learned about new cultures and customs and even more about my own. I was enchanted by a language and a life-style. I learned to appreciate taking things slowly and good wine.
In the last four and a half months I traveled to 26 cities in 7 countries. I saw performances of opera, comedy, ballet, choir, flamenco, and popular music. I tried Sangria, paella, Manchego, and membrillo in Spain, and gelato, pizza, and pasta in Italy. I climbed to the top of the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, Mt. Santa Tecla, la Giralda, el Monesterio San Geronimo, el Torre de Belém, the Piazza Michelangelo, and St. Peter's basilica. I traveled by plane, bus, train, metro, car, boat, and foot. I saw original works by Picasso, Gaudí, Valázquez, Dalí, Lorca, and Michelangelo. I paid for things in Euros, Pounds, and Durham. I spent Thanksgiving in Spain, Christmas in Italy, and New Years in the Netherlands.
In the last four and a half months I cried, got food poisoning, was robbed, got lost, was cat-called on a daily basis, and cried some more. I laughed so hard I thought I'd ruptured something and smiled so hard I thought my jaw would fall off. I stayed out dancing until 6am. I made life-long friends with people from Spain, France, Portugal, Italy, Belgium, and Holland, and a group of Americans became closer to me than family.
The last four and a half months were not at all what I expected, but they were more than I ever could have hoped for. It's true I decided not to stay for the whole year, but it's not because I was not happy. Although I find Madrid busy and exhausting, I fell in love with that beautiful city. I am going home today because I want to end this on a good note, and I can't imagine the next four and a half months even coming close to ones I've shared with the rest of my friends from Vassar-Wesleyan in Madrid, Fall 2010.
Gracias por todo Madrid. Nunca te olvidaré, y un día, nos encontraremos otra vez.