The Bittersweet End

By Grace Schmidt, Dordt University Student

Being sent home from our grand adventure abroad was incredibly sad news. “Sad” is such a simple word, but it seemed to be the only one I could use to describe my reaction initially. English, Spanish, nor any other language does not quite have the perfect word to sum up the way we felt upon receiving the news. After swallowing the truth and processing the reality for a while, the sadness morphed into a nebulous set of complex emotions and thoughts. This news was heartbreaking, because each of us had slowly released parts of our hearts into the enchanting city of Sevilla. The life change was somber, because we knew all those things we looked forward to—Semana Santa, feria, traveling around Europe and beyond—wouldn’t come to fruition in this period of life. Our new reality came with a wistful heartache, because we already longed for the return of our normal lives in Sevilla.

Although that pervasive sadness settled in within minutes, we soon realized the magnitude of the issue we faced. Before our eyes, Sevilla transformed from a lively and populated city to a ghost town. Closed storefronts and stay-at-home laws became the new norm less than a week after our program was suspended. My trip home, with its five airports and 36 hours, was a blur, and survival mode kicked in and overpowered any ability of mine to comprehend what was happening. As I settled into my quarantine, however, I started to realize that we weren’t special for being sad. Everyone was going through something. Everyone’s lives were uprooted and thrown off course by this emerging, unforeseen pandemic. And while our hurt still felt so real, the rest of the world suffered their own waves of sadness. Realizing this immediately humbled me and strengthened me; this issue was greater than ourselves, and that truth brings peace and comfort.

Even with the acknowledgement that our small story doesn’t stick out among the masses, each one of us has had to deal with the disappointing reality that our semester abroad, with all its hopes and dreams, had been cut in half. While groups from our program in the past had weeks to wrap up their time in Sevilla and a chance to treasure their final days, we were forced out the door with very little warning.

All of a sudden, our familiar and beloved routine would be no more. Walks through Sevilla became overwhelmingly bittersweet. Everything that I had gotten used to was about to slip through my fingertips. The roundabout sidewalks and bike lanes of our neighborhood, Triana. The ice cream place we frequented on the good and the bad days. The store where we bought those leather jackets. The little alley that led to our gym and the Spanish cycling classes that I took there. The phone store we visited every month when we inevitably encountered a problem with our data. That bakery we always meant to try. And the bridge, the bridge of Triana, and the whirlwind of emotion that went with it. The river was the heart of Sevilla, providing beauty and unity to the historic city. The everyday things made our time so special, and the everyday things make the goodbye so hard.

Despite all the sadness, I refuse to let the abrupt end to our semester abroad take away from the time that we had there and the memories we made. I will forever treasure the sights, people, and adventures that mark this period of my life. Although I’m yet to discover how this experience will impact my life in the long term, I can already see a new appreciation for the little things growing within me. I’ve always had a passion for life and strived to live fully in whatever my circumstances might be, but my time in Sevilla taught me to lean in to the everyday. The mundane was captivating; my excitement for the world around me never wore out. With that in mind, each day became a blessing and an adventure in and of itself. Pouring myself into every little experience in Spain made the tastes sweeter, the laughs harder, and the memories richer. These past two months, I lived with a careful balance of reckless abandon and earnest intentions, and that is something I will never lose.

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