On the evening of December 20th, I hardly left my room. I scurried through my history notes and browsed the internet for a topic on a 6-page opinion essay that was due by 11:59 p.m. via email.
My right index finger, in pain from a stressed induced hangnail, played with my laptop keyboard, hoping I could miraculously type this last-minute essay out of thin air. If you didn’t know it by now, I put the “pro” in procrastinator this semester.
I set my laptop aside and took a long look around the room. My large silver suitcase stood upright near the bedroom door and leaned backwards from the four months of accumulated contents stuffed inside. The hanging closet was completely bare. Previously graded assignments were folded and loosely tossed in the trash bin. It’s already past 9. Let’s get back at it, Jen. Four pages down, two more to go…
At 11:47 p.m., I freed myself from the shackles of academic imprisonment. I left the room, plopped on the dining room chair, and sat with my host family in front of the television. Then it hit me: This is my last night in Córdoba.
Little Carmen and Diego embraced me with a warm hug. Mama Carmen handed me a holiday gift bag with a stunning wide-cuffed bracelet and a fitted “Córdoba” tee that she bought from Córdoba’s historic Jewish Quarter. She pulled me in for a tight hug, sniffing back her tears. I noticed there was a card inside the bag, and promised I would read it on the way home.
Mama Carmen drove me to the bus station, helped me unload my suitcase from the trunk, walked me inside and hugged me one last time before we tearfully parted ways.
Before my 1:00 a.m. departure, my friend Santiago met me at the station and brought me a piece of pastel Cordobés at my request.
He kept me company before I boarded the bus for Madrid. At that moment, I lost the immortal battle against my tears. I never thought that saying goodbye would be this hard.
Determined to uplift my wistful mood, I pictured myself cruising through the streets of Barcelona with my friends on our rusted beach cruisers during our Gaudi bike tour. My smile broadened as I leaned back and thought about the strolls I took on Rome’s cobblestone streets with my friend Kathy. I was impressed with Alice’s superb Parisian itinerary and imagined Sahar’s delighted facial expression as she took her first bite into Laduree’s salted caramel macaroon.
Midway through the bus ride, I pulled out Carmen’s card. Her long, heartfelt message ended like this:
“…Gracias por tu sonrisa, y alegría, tu paciencia con nuestros malos dias, en fin, por todo tu cariño. Te deseas lo mejor.”
Here I am now, two weeks later, reunited with my family and beginning a new quarter back at the University of California, Irvine. Who knows where life will take me after graduation, but I know that the best is yet to come.
I am not going to end this travel blog with a boring soliloquy, rather, I would like to take this moment to simply show my gratitude:
To my new friends (and staff) from UCEAP Córdoba, I am privileged to have shared this experience with you. Eventually life will take us on different paths, but my memories with you will never perish. I wish you well now and always.
To my family and friends here in the states, I appreciate the love and support you’ve shown me throughout my travels abroad. I hope that I’ve inspired you, in some way, to bring out your inner explorer and to take pleasure in the unfamiliar.
A mis amigos en Córdoba, ha sido un gran placer a conocer un grupo de amigos simpáticos y divertidos. Voy a echar mucho de menos y espero que nos quedamos en contacto. Sin duda yo volveré a Córdoba.
To relive the moments from this incredible journey, click on the link below to check out the vlogs created by my friend Andrew, who was another student from the program.
The Spaniard by Andrew Phou
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain