The final week of my study abroad experience was filled with many “lasts”: my last Jaime dinner, my last day of class, and my last night with my new friends. I made a concerted effort to see these “lasts” through an optimistic lens, rather than hyperfocusing on the sad and sometimes anxious feelings that arose when I thought about how it was my final week in Spain.
As we entered the final week, I decided to make the last five days about the people I had met and the things that I had learned. If you find yourself focusing too heavily on the idea of leaving rather than experiencing your last week to the fullest, I would suggest trying to adjust your mindset in whatever way works for you! For me, I savored every moment of my last week so as to not let it pass me by too quickly, and reminded myself that although many of these experiences were “lasts,” they were also potentially only “lasts in Spain.”
Our last dinner with Elena
During our trip, my friends and I met an extremely friendly and kind Spaniard in El Colegio Mayor dorms — Elena. She was in Oviedo completing a pharmaceutical internship, but even with her job she always made time to spend time with us and help us practice our Spanish. As our last week approached, we knew our time with Elena was getting shorter. To thank her for all of her help with Spanish, and to celebrate our friendship, our group decided to take her out to dinner. Although dinner fell on the night before our final exam, I found myself thinking little about the exam. I was able to enjoy the company of my friends, eat great food and celebrate Elena that night. I reminded myself that although this might be our final dinner with Elena in Spain, life is unpredictable and there always exists the possibility that we could see Elena in the future in the U.S.! We talked many times as a group about Elena coming to visit us in Philadelphia, and she seemed very set on the idea of coming to see us. This optimistic mindset allowed the night to feel less like a “last” or a “goodbye,” and more like a “see you later.”
Our last Jaime Dinner
Another “last” experience that I found myself making a positive spin on was our final Jaime dinner. We went to Restaurante Parrilla Buenos Aires– a beautiful restaurant on the way up to the peak of Mount Naranco that had a breathtaking view of Oviedo. This location seemed to bring our trip full circle, as just 5 weeks ago we had been hiking up to the top of Mount Naranco during our orientation week in Oviedo.
Every so often someone would mention how fast the trip had gone, how crazy it was to think this was our final Jaime dinner or how sad they were that the trip was coming to a close in just two days. Most of the dinner though, we laughed, ate amazing food and focused on expressing our gratitude to Jaime for such a wonderful program. We were thankfully reminded by him that this in fact was not our last Jaime dinner– only our last Spain Jaime dinner. We would arrange another dinner together in the Fall with Jaime to catch up and practice Spanish– this definitely made what at first felt like a bittersweet night into just sweet.
Our last day of class
Another “last” that we all experienced together was the last day of class. This day felt surreal. What had felt simultaneously like one of the longest and shortest months of my life was coming to an end. On our last day, we took our final exam and met for the last time with our professors. For my morning class, our original professor was out sick, so the last day didn’t feel very final without her. She had sent our class an email expressing that this may not be our last time seeing her; we had her email and should keep it in case we ever found ourselves in Oviedo, or if we ever needed help with Spanish in the future. This gesture made the day feel much less final, so I stressed less about the end of classes and felt more excited about the potential of being back in Oviedo some day and chatting with my old professor.
The following day we attended our diploma ceremony. All of our professors and program coordinators were there to celebrate our course completion. Yet again things were feeling full circle– the diploma ceremony was held in the same auditorium as our orientation session was on the first day. After our ceremony, the Temple students took our final group photos, signed our Temple flag, and said our goodbyes to all the friends we had made from the other universities. Instead of being overwhelmed by feelings of sadness and loneliness, I felt supported and grateful — I have learned so much about myself and others, and we have made so much progress in our Spanish-speaking abilities. Each of the students on the program with me was going through the same mix of emotions, so I wasn’t alone in that moment, and we all had an amazing five weeks to reflect back on while we stood on the steps of La Casa de las Lenguas celebrating the end of classes.
Our last night
On my final night in Oviedo I spent it with my closest friends from the program. We had our last dinner together, made one final visit to our favorite bar, and said an official goodbye to Elena. We made that night about enjoying each other’s company rather than thinking about the following morning’s departure. As I sat across from my friends that night I felt so happy that I decided to apply for this program. Although there were moments of anxiety, uncertainty and preoccupation before and during this trip, this final night with my people made very clear to me all of the great things that outshone those few moments of doubt. It may have been our last night together in Spain, but it felt far from our last night together as friends.
“Lasts” can be scary, sad and anxiety producing. They can make you think about all the opportunities you may have missed out on, how fast time passes by, and worry about whether the relationships and memories you’ve made will last. Something I feared as I entered my last week in Spain was that I would get so caught up in all the things I hadn’t yet done and focus too much on classes and the logistical aspects of departure, that I would completely miss out on my final week here. For that reason I was intentional about changing my thought process in that final week.
After experiencing my last week in Oviedo, and turning my final moments into “temporary” or “conditional” last moments, I feel confident that the relationships and memories I’ve been lucky enough to form over the past five weeks will last once we’ve all touched down in the States. I’m looking forward to running into these students on campus, practicing Spanish together on FaceTime with Elena, and especially planning our next Jaime dinner in Philly so that we can reunite altogether!
Thanks for following my journey in Oviedo; I’m excited to keep sharing my experiences with you all. Stay tuned for my next post- nos vemos!