For me, adjusting to life in Philadelphia has been a challenge. The first week back was filled with a lot of unpacking, jet lag naps and accidentally saying “gracias” and “hola” to people in the grocery store. Naturally, I found myself reminiscing about Spain and my time abroad frequently. After the first week passed by, though, my time in Spain began to feel like a distant memory, and that made me feel anxious about losing the language skills I had learned and the friends I had made. As soon as those feelings started to overwhelm me, I decided to put as much of a positive spin on my return home as I possibly could, so that I could feel less anxious.
I anticipated that going back to “business as usual” would be difficult for me, especially with my mental health, so I made sure to buffer my return home with some helpful activities. I planned to journal everyday, stay connected with Elena and my new Temple friends, develop my disposable camera photos and begin a scrapbook. All of these have allowed me to ease back into my routines at home while also reflecting on my five weeks in Spain.
As I’ve mentioned before in other blogs, to me journaling is one of the best ways to reflect and genuinely express your feelings about your experiences. I found myself re-reading my journals from Spain while also adding entries about my transition home and the feelings I was having about my language acquisition, my new friends, and plans to keep up with my Spanish skills in the future. All of this was very therapeutic and allowed me to pinpoint exactly what I was feeling and why, and that helped me ease some of the anxieties I was feeling in the first two weeks home from Spain.
In addition to journaling, I began gathering materials for scrapbooking. This activity brought some excitement into the concept of being home and ending my time abroad. I found myself looking forward to visiting the arts and crafts store just to buy some materials for my book, and the anticipation I had when waiting for my disposable film to develop was almost torturous. But, going through those photos once they were developed and re-living the memories I had forgotten I captured on film was so worth it, as well as a really great way for me to reflect on those weeks while home.
Something I thought about often in the final week in Oviedo was whether or not I would be able to stay in touch with all the new, wonderful people I had met. I wondered about how connected I could stay with Elena considering how far away she was, and I also thought often about if I would see my new Temple friends at all once we touched down in New York. Of course these thoughts felt overwhelming while in Spain because I had no experience to base my expectations on and I had no way of telling what would happen once we returned.
Now that I’m back in Philly and a couple weeks out from the trip, I can’t believe I ever doubted we would all stay in touch! The Temple students I met made a group chat to keep talking, and we already made plans to meet up and grab food on campus. Elena and I have texted in Spanish every week since I returned; catching up on each other’s lives and keeping my Spanish practice up. Those “temporary” friendships from my abroad experience are already lasting longer than most students expect when they meet people abroad, and I think that’s a testament to how close we all were able to get while studying together in Spain.
Regardless of whether or not you have a similar anxious experience when returning home after your abroad experience, a take-away I have from my own return and reflection experience is to appreciate the time abroad while you have it, and then find ways to keep the memories, learning and growth alive once you return. This helps in the transition from your host country, and it feels (at least to me) like I have little pieces of this program continuing in my life in Philadelphia and keeping my connected to Oviedo and the experiences I had there this summer.
My final thoughts and reflections have led me to one last conclusion: I am so grateful for this opportunity to study in Spain. I am extremely lucky to have experienced this, met the people I did, and to have learned so much, and I can never find the words to express how grateful I truly am. I have found that the most effective strategy in my reflection as I transition back to Philly is neither journaling, nor scrapbooking, but expressing gratitude often for the five weeks I spent in Spain. I hope anyone studying abroad has a moment to reflect and be grateful once they return because I’ve personally found it to be very impactful and a wonderful way to conclude a study abroad experience.
Thanks for following my journey in Oviedo; I’m so happy that I was able to share my experiences with you all throughout this journey. Be sure to check out my other posts if you haven’t already!