It’s been a while since my last post, and with how busy everything’s been for the last few weeks, it feels as though even more time has gone by. After our week of cultural workshops, we had three days of class before we all departed for our Semana Santa adventures. Some students would be reuniting with their families, others planned to travel with friends, and a brave few (I’m looking at you, Alex and Faith) would attempt the Camino de Santiago, a famous pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, the westernmost region in Spain. Between finalizing plans, packing, and holding back our excitement, it was quite a challenge to stay focused on our midterm exams and papers in those last few days of class, and finally on Thursday we began our break.
I traveled with other Temple students to parts of Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands, and I had an incredible time exploring each of the cities on our agenda. It’s always a little bit difficult to return to school after a vacation, but ten days of traveling had begun to wear on all of us, and I was ready to get back. On the final leg of our return journey, I was surprised to feel a familiar sense of relief when I saw a highway sign welcoming us to Asturias with a picture of the region’s green mountains. I was surprised because it was similar to the feeling that I usually get when I fly home after a stressful week of finals and spot the Houston skyline from the plane. I knew that I was enjoying my semester, but it took leaving the country for me to realize just how much I had settled in to life in Oviedo.
During our travels, we laughed about how our recently ingrained Spanish habits stood out somewhat against Belgian, German, and Dutch lifestyles. One day we were looking for a cafe to get a light snack around 7 p.m., and it occurred to us that most people were sitting down to eat dinner. Three months ago I would have been getting ready for a meal, too, but after growing accustomed to our lives in Oviedo, we couldn’t imagine being done with dinner when the sun was still up.
Traveling in other countries also showed me how far my Spanish has come. Even though I had no trouble getting by or communicating during my trip, it was disorienting to hear the conversations around me in languages I don’t understand. At some point this semester I stopped thinking about the fact that I was basically living in two different languages, with homework assignments and conversations in Spanish, but with calls to my parents and blog posts like this one in English. It no longer requires as much effort to communicate in Spanish, so I don’t consciously keep track of how much I do or don’t understand. Over the last week, though, I was reminded that I haven’t always spoken or understood my second language so easily, and at one point listening to Spanish was just as challenging for me as listening to French, German, and Dutch is now.
At first I treated my Semana Santa trip as separate from the rest of my semester, because I didn’t think traveling outside of Spain would have much of an effect on my study abroad experience overall. Being away from Oviedo for just a week and a half ended up making me think about how my interactions with the language and with the city have evolved over the last few months. I missed Spain more than I thought I would, and I started to realize what it will feel like to be homesick for my (short-term) Spanish home once I return to the U.S.