(Almost) one year later

Every day, I slip onto the middle finger of my right hand a gold ring: ivy, wrapping around my finger. I bought it at a tiny jewelry store on a side street in Seville, Spain, because it reminded me of the ivy growing on the tiled walls of the Real Alcázar, the palace I walked past every day on my way to class.

On the days I forget to wear it, I find myself constantly touching that finger of my hand, absentmindedly looking for that ring in the place where it should be. Wearing it brings surging forward fond memories: walking down the busy Avenida de la Constitución, ambling below the bright green leaves of Seville’s fragrant orange trees, or naranjos; botellones with my friends, sitting on a blanket beside the Río Guadalquivir, passing around 1€ bottles of Cruzcampo beer and containers of fresh strawberries while the sun set; standing in a crowded hole-in-the-wall bar in Seville’s Alameda neighborhood, sipping tintos de verano as a flamenco dancer stomped and spun on a square of plywood laid out for her in the center of the bar; holding my host mother’s new baby granddaughter Inés for the first time as the women of the family looked on, smiling at the tiny bundle of pink in my arms who gripped my thumb with her hands.

While I hate to be “that” person, I will say that the six months I spent studying abroad in Seville were some of the best months of my life.

Going into my experience abroad, I was so blissfully ignorant of that.

Almost one year ago, my fall semester classes were wrapping up, finals were quickly approaching and winter break loomed like a welcome reprieve on the horizon. I found myself constantly saying goodbye to friends and family, anxiously counting down the days until I would finally board a plane destined for España and begin my new, temporary life in the land of vino and flamenco.

Now, almost one year later, I sit in class and overhear my classmates discussing their own upcoming adventures on the other side of the world to places like Prague, Copenhagen, Madrid and Galway…

I can’t help but hurt a little.

As I listen to them talk about things like class schedules and flights, I find myself longing to be where they are. I long for the nerves, the excitement, the anticipation that come in waves in the days and weeks leading up to a trip around the world. I long for the stress of checked bags, the goodbyes, the gifts of luggage tags and packing cubes and neck pillows.

I long to leave.

Yet, almost one year later, I find my feet firmly planted in Madison, Wisconsin, worrying about impending finals and applying for big-girl jobs.

And that’s okay, because my time will come. The day will come when, again, I am the one standing in the international terminal of O’Hare, saying goodbye to whomever with tears in my eyes.

So if you’re reading this, and you yourself are getting ready to embark on your own adventure, my advice to you is this: don’t let the time pass you by. Be an active participant in your experience. Pay attention to the details. Take it all in, breathe it all in. It will go by fast, and before you know it, almost one year later you’ll find yourself somewhere else.

Feet planted firmly in the ground, dreaming of someplace far, far away.Cover photo by Susan Nitzke 

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