Ryan Chartrand

Five months ago I found myself surrounded by suitcases and questions, air-tight storage bags and hesitations, long lists of things to do and fears. Yet, as I sit here today, I find myself in the same situation.

In January, I embarked on the journey of a lifetime, an adventure to top all adventures, and the greatest chapter of my life I have written.

My time in Europe has been a whirlwind, and upon looking back over the past five months, I am amazed. I have experienced things many people will never have the opportunity to, visited more countries than I can count on two hands, developed incredibly strong friendships and fallen in love.

As my time in Europe dwindles down, I find myself incredibly apprehensive about leaving, and as much as I love California and everyone there, nothing compares to the life I have been living the past five months.

Just as my life has continued and moved on since leaving the states, so have the lives of all of my friends and family back home. It makes me uneasy to think about returning and not being on the inside of all the stories I am bound to hear, the who’s been dating who, and what so-and-so did the other night at the bars. I will not be able to laugh at my best friends’ inside jokes nor will I have met their new boyfriends.

I will actually have to return to my job (and credit card bills), attend real class and take real tests. Goodbye Spain, hello responsibilities. And for as long as it took me to adjust to life in Spain, I am expecting it to take nearly twice as long to readjust to being home. Reverse culture shock, here I come.

The study abroad experience is unlike anything else I have ever known. It is incomparable to freshman year, or any length of time one may have spent backpacking throughout Europe; it is scarier than leaving home for the first time and more rewarding than any other achievement.

When you are thrown into a situation where you know one, maybe two, other people, don’t have family on the same continent, are more than 6,000 miles away from decent Mexican food and don’t speak the native language (at least not well), you finds him or herself in an incredibly vulnerable and yet incredibly open position – thus, the stage is set to make the friends of a lifetime.

Throughout this adventure, the people I have met here in Barcelona have become my family. We have celebrated birthdays and holidays, traveled, explored and learned together, comforted one another, and bonded in ways that are hard for me to describe. I owe who I am today and the success of my study abroad experience to them, for they have shaped me and my adventure in ways that I cannot even begin to explain.

Preparing myself to say goodbye to these people has been one of the most difficult and challenging things I have experienced since being abroad. The reality is that there are going to be people who I am close with today and yet I will find myself saying, “Well, have a nice life, see you . never.” It’s sad and difficult, and makes me wish that we never had to leave Spain – that we could live in this fairytale forever.

By the time you are reading this article, my best friends will be spread all over North America – two will be in Jamaica, some in Canada, lots on the East Coast, a handful in the Midwest, and (luckily for me) there are a few other in California. Despite the distances we will find between one another, these new friends of mine will forever hold a special place in my heart and remind me of one of the greatest journeys of my life.

Now on to the love of my life: Barcelona. When I first got here, I was slightly apathetic. Sure, it was a beautiful city, but it has gross food, the people don’t speak English, you can’t get anything you need on a Sunday or between the hours of 2 and 5pm, and it is full of pick-pocketers. Somewhere along the way, all of these things seemed to matter less and less; the sun started to shine a little brighter, we discovered happy hour, I befriended a precious elderly man named Emilio, and I started to see a different side of Barcelona.

Now, as I am living my final days in Spain to the fullest, I am upset and even a little scared about leaving and returning to the states. If I had it my way, I wouldn’t ever leave Barcelona. This has become my home, and it’s comfortable. I have a routine and an amazing flat in the heart of the city; I have found my favorite restaurants, bars and clubs, park, area for street graffiti and places to see the sunset; I found the best place to write in my journal after class, the most delicious gelato ever, and most importantly, I have fallen in love with it all.

As I have heard too many times, all good things must come to an end; it is time for me to close this chapter of my life and start to write a new one. As¡ que, hasta pronto Barcelona, siempre estarás en mi coraz¢n.

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