Spain VIII: Retrograde

So after four months here in Oviedo, I have complex feelings about the future and about how this experience has changed me.

I have learned of what inspires me. Of my limitations. And of the amazing capacity of the human spirit.

This is the first time in my life I can say that I am actually relaxed, without the tension caused by uncertainty, chaotic scheduling, and unyielding mental strain. I will never, never regret my decision to come to Oviedo.

I am the practical traveler. But sometimes one must throw all of these practicalities out the window. Most of my most meaningful experiences here have happened only because I was able to negate the caution embedded in a fear of the unknown. We must chase the wind.

I am taken by wanderlust, perhaps the most dangerous impression this semester of movement has bestowed on me. It is a hunger; I feel the heavy obligations I have tied to my own dreams. My interest in international relations and development formed solely because I traveled. But I have learned that it is so much more than that. I love city planning, community projects, urban education, public health, and mass communication. I love the shared human experience. I am a foodie. I love the music. And I am a real sucker for the art. It is more than a college major. In travel, I have developed a real passion for life itself and all of the facets that feed into this shared experience. With my coming graduation, I can finally say that I feel confident directionally (and after eight changes of my course of study, I can’t say that it was a particularly smooth or straight road). This is only possible because I left what I knew behind.

Language opens doors to the amazing opportunities offered by basic communication between human beings. Sharing stories—this is the way we may live more lives than one. As for me, there is no language I would have rather gone to first than Spanish. The culture is especially rich in the regions where it is spoken, and I hope to be in it all. (South America, you are next.) The people I have met have been an invaluable flow of stories and threads.

In particular, the people in my very group; these experiences have undeniably tied our fates. I am eternally grateful for their companionship as a constant source of inspiration, guidance, and comedy. I am reminded of this with each group dinner, and the progression from being wary strangers thrown into a hotel together in Madrid—to a near obsessive requited love affair. It is unapologetic and unyielding, like a family. They are the reason why I feel so confident living and dancing around this continent. I am even more excited for this to evolve when we return this fall semester, for my life in Philadelphia to be all that much fuller. And to have people to reminisce with when I am feeling nostalgic and my roommates don’t understand the weird inside jokes I will unabashedly drop. This is a very special friendship that has developed because of the shared experiences in another country, one that is at times chaotic, shocking, or just different. Who else on earth would spend five hours at a time playing cards with me (drawing blood) in the school cafeteria, share their pre-sliced apples, sing the Dixie Chicks, stomp around the Radio Bar, show up at the clubs in Barcelona painted like skulls, bravely sleep splayed and eyes open–on an airport floor/bus bench/bar stool, end the night on the swingsets, sign me into my classes, drink champagne for breakfast, hold my hand and skip around Calle Mon, run straight into the Mediterranean Sea, ruin lives, tell bad stories, scream in the face of the Sagrada Familia/Pantheon/Eiffel Tower, or carry me from Nice to Oviedo like a suitcase when stranded. Thank you. I love you.

I want it all.

And there is so much more to come.

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