The hardest part of being abroad is also the greatest blessing. It can be summed up in a single word: people. Okay, I know that’s vague. Don’t worry – I’ve got plenty more to say about this, so allow me to explain.
Before coming to Spain for the semester, I expected to feel some culture shock and homesickness. Turns out that I’ve surprised myself with how much I miss people. I can’t lie; I absolutely love being in Spain. I love my life here. I love waking up and walking to school each day across the river and through the beautiful city streets. I love participating in Encuentro on the worship team and teaching English classes every Tuesday night and finding new coffee shops with friends. I love living with my host family and getting to know the people here in Sevilla and exploring new places outside the city. And yet… sometimes it’s hard to truly appreciate being here. Every once in a while, I’m hit with this feeling that yes, I’m getting a once in a lifetime experience in one of the most beautiful places on the planet and I’m experiencing new, exciting things and doing daily life in Spain, but the people I love most in the world are thousands of miles away. And that realization steals some of the joy in this experience.
When I miss my people back home, it’s not necessarily a crying-myself-to-sleep type of sadness. It’s more like a wow, I really wish I could give my dad a big ole hug right now, or a I just wish I could sit with my sister and talk about everything in our lives for a solid two hours. And the hard part is, with being in a different time zone and busy schedules, it’s been hard to find times to facetime my friends and family and get good, real talks with them. There have been so many times where I’ve wished I could have a certain good friend here to talk or be able to get my parent’s advice for a quick decision or just vent to my sister. So many times I’ve longed to be surrounded again by the people that know me inside and out and love my anyway.
Before this gets too depressing, I’d like to let you in on a little secret. When you leave behind the people you love most, the people who truly know you inside and out, the friends and family who make up your inner circle in life… it’s hard. BUT it also means you have room in your life for new relationships. The people I’ve met here in Spain have brought me endless joy and laughter. My host parents have shown me unconditional love by making me safe and cared for. The friendship I’ve found in my roommate, Hannah, and the friends I’ve made through school at SIS have been a bigger blessing than I could’ve ever imagined. I know my professors and everyone who works at the school truly care about me; I can go to any one of them if I ever need to talk. At the site where I volunteer teaching English classes to kids, the family who runs the organization has welcomed me into their lives and offered friendship and encouragement each week.
So yes… I do miss my family. I miss the friendships I left behind for a few months in the US. The reality is that I’ve found a new type of family here. What I know now is that what makes this place feel homey is not the city itself (even though it’s a gorgeous place) – but people. But for now, I’m going to focus on growing friendships here, on working to let myself be vulnerable and be real with people. I’m going to appreciate the new family I have found in Sevilla and be content with the people God has placed in my life here and now.