My last final was on Wednesday, the 13th. I remember feeling relieved when I turned it in as I normally do at the end of final exams – it’s a good feeling to have zero academic responsibilities after the stress of studying for finals. However, as soon as I walked out the classroom door, it hit me. I realized that my semester in Spain was over. Most of my friends would be flying back to the United States the next day. My commute home was very nostalgic. I know that I’ve said this many times, but I’m going to say it again. I’ve met so many wonderful people this semester and it makes me very sad to think that when I return to school in the fall, they won’t be there. I remember a couple of weeks ago, I was at Tierra (sort of like Chipotle, except they serve margaritas too) with a few of my new friends, and one of them said to me: “Ya know, it’s cruel that they let us get so close to each other just to tear us apart!” SLU Madrid is a very small school (only about 600 students). The people that I met, I not only spent a lot of time with, but time that I spent with them was time that composed what many of us would consider to be the best, or at the very least, the most exciting four or five months of our lives.
My semester abroad was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity. I arrived in Spain with 20 other Lafayette students. I knew some very well, I was acquainted with others, and a few, I had never met before our informational meetings. The 21 of us definitely have a special relationship with each other now and we will be able to enjoy the closeness of this shared experience throughout the rest of our college career. I am thankful for that. I took a full course load of engineering classes just as I would have at Lafayette. What made this semester special was that I got to live, study, and play in what I now consider to be one of the best cities in all of Europe (I’ve been to quite a few) with 40 or so of what are now some of my closest friends.
On Wednesday night, a few of us went to Alhambra for dinner to celebrate the end of final exams. It was delicious as always (again, highly recommended if you ever find yourself in Madrid), and then we went and sat at a bar for a few hours. Because most people had a flight Thursday morning, no one stayed out too late. On Thursday morning, I rolled over as my roommate left for the airport around 6:00 am, and then woke up around 8:00 to start packing. I had to move into a room down the hall as a new student was moving into my room that very day. After I packed, I met a friend for Lunch at Los Rotos (it was wonderful as always, also highly recommended) before hopping on the metro to meet my Grandparents at the airport. Though the thought that I would soon be leaving Madrid and not returning was still haunting me, these thoughts were pushed to the backburner as I was very excited to see my grandparents and to show them around Madrid – a city with which I am very familiar and fond of. On Thursday evening, I opened up Instagram and did a double take. The first picture I saw was one of Alex McKay sitting on the Lafayette quad with some friends. As I had just eaten dinner with her the night before (in Madrid), it took me a few seconds to wrap my mind around the fact that she (and most others) was no longer in Madrid with me.
There was a festival going on in Madrid this past weekend. We got to see fireworks in Retiro Park. They were synchronized to music and it was really cool. There were also some outdoor concerts (we didn’t get a chance to go to any though). I showed my grandparents around Madrid, and I think they really enjoyed their stay. On Sunday, I said goodbye to my host mother and others and we left for Berlin. It was a time of very mixed emotions. I was sad to be leaving Madrid, excited to be embarking on this river cruise with my grandparents, and excited to be going home soon and seeing my family, my friends from home, and my dog. Berlin is a really cool city that is full of history – some of our tour guides have even been able to tell us firsthand what it was like to live in divided Germany. My trip with my grandparents to Germany has just begun and so far it’s been amazing, but I feel like I left a piece of me behind in Madrid, and while I have every intention to return someday, it will never be the same. I miss the country, but I also miss the people I spent my time with there, probably even more so, and when I return, it won’t be the same because the people won’t all be there. You can’t step into the same river twice. I know that from experience.