Student Journals: AIFS in Salamanca, Spain

Kayla McGowan
University of Rhode Island
University of Salamanca, Spain

Kayla McGowan Four months ago, I stood in my kitchen at home in Rhode Island. I looked around and ached at the thought of leaving. Why would I leave this place? All of my friends are here, my family is here, I like school, I like where I live, and I have a good life— why am I leaving this all behind? Second, third, umpteenth thoughts flooded my brain. I had not even left yet, and studying abroad already seemed like a colossal mistake. The days sped by because I wanted them to slow down, because I suddenly did not want to go. I tried to remind myself that it was going to be amazing; everyone I had encountered had raved about going abroad. I tried to remind myself that I was incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to spend an entire semester in Europe. Nevertheless, my dread mounted as each day passed. It felt like I had signed myself up to be shipped away.

Today, I look around the streets of Salamanca, warm in the glow of late dusk, and ache at the thought of leaving this place. I have just ten days left. Before I came to Salamanca, I expressed my second thoughts about leaving with my study abroad advisor. She comforted me by saying that although I would miss home throughout the semester, I would eventually return home and feel homesick for Spain. I nodded only to appease her. How could I ever be homesick for a place other than my real home? I wondered.

Today, I realize that she was completely right. I will miss my Spanish homestay and family that I have grown to love, the people I have been fortunate enough to meet through this program, the Spanish lifestyle I have so readily embraced, and the countless other elements that have made the last few months so wonderful. I will miss surprising myself with responses in Spanish, learning something new every day—both inside and outside the classroom, and being forced outside of my comfort zone. These four months have changed me, but only for the better, and in ways that I could never have been changed back at home. I love my home and I am excited to see my family and friends, but Salamanca will always hold a special place in my heart. There is something magical about this place. Whether it is the fact that there is so much history and culture breathing in every crevice of the main streets, or the fact that this cultural ubiquity is rivaled only by the amount of nightlife to experience, Salamanca is a place unjustifiable until experienced firsthand.

The only aspect of my entire study abroad experience that I regret is that I worried so much beforehand, that I agonized over so many what-ifs, that I wasted my time with so much futile anxiety. Will I like it? Will I fit in? Can I handle living in a Spanish home? What will classes be like? How will I communicate? But my Spanish isn’t that great… Do not let yourself be consumed with these concerns. Salamanca will exceed your expectations, and you will laugh at yourself for questioning whether or not you would be able to survive four-and-a-half months away from home. And when you are nearing the end, you will look at the glowing Plaza Mayor a little longer, savor each bite of Spanish food a bit more, and hug your señora tighter, because you are already homesick for the second home you have created for yourself.