Creating a “home away from home” isn’t an easy thing to do, but it surely makes adjustment periods easier. I love to travel and try new things, which often includes going to new places, therefore creating a few different “home away from homes”. Going into the study abroad experience, I had the hope that Seville would become like a home to me, but I also had the fear that it wouldn’t. Before I left, I was overwhelmed with questions like, “What if I don’t like the city? What if I get unlucky with my host family? What if I don’t make good friends?”, and anything else you can imagine. I so badly wanted to love everything about my time abroad, but I also needed to prepare myself for the alternative.
When I think about the aspects that make up a “home”, various things come to mind. A home is somewhere I feel safe and comfortable, somewhere I am surrounded by family and friends who love and support me, somewhere I feel connected to a community, and somewhere I would be excited to show off. I am so grateful to say that Seville checked all those boxes. It didn’t happen right away, but it was such a special feeling when everything just clicked.
I remember being on the first weekend trip with my roommate to Portugal. We were overwhelmed and just overall a little stressed about the long day we had just had. We were sitting in our hostel, on the floor of our room, and my roommate sighed and said, “I just want to go home”. I looked at her a little confused and said, “You want to be back in Massachusetts?”. She responded with a little chuckle and said, “No, I want to go home. I want to see Ana and Jesús (our host parents)”. We talk about this all the time now because we never thought we would get that feeling so quickly. On all our following trips, we would always be exhausted by the time Sunday night rolled around, and nothing felt better than getting back to our apartment, eating dinner with our host parents, and just going back to our room to decompress. There was a feeling of comfort in our little apartment that I can’t exactly describe, but it was so special.
Ana and Jesús became like a real family to me, and that was something I didn’t fully expect, which made me appreciate it even more. They were so loving and comforting, and treated my roommate and I like we were their real daughters. I remember when we flipped the switch from having almost silent dinners (due to the language barrier and our lack of Spanish) to sitting at the dining room table for the longest time laughing and sharing different stories. Saying goodbye to them was the hardest part of leaving. They had become such a huge part of my whole experience in Seville, and when I left it felt like I was leaving a little part of me behind. However, it’s a comforting feeling to know I will always have a home and a family to visit when I return.
While I left for Seville with such uncertainty of the experience that lay ahead, I came home feeling so overjoyed and grateful. The “home away from home” that I longed for actually existed. I had people I could call family, I fell in love with the city I was in, I made lifelong friends from all over the country, and I truly felt like I had a new community that was so loving and welcoming. Studying abroad is so much more than a short vacation to another country, but rather an experience of learning how to immerse yourself into a temporarily new lifestyle. I arrived as a doe-eyed tourist, so excited to visit every cathedral or museum while practicing my Spanish with locals, but I left feeling like a local myself. While sitting in my room, back in Massachusetts, and reflecting on the three months that just flew by, it brings me so much joy knowing that Seville can be added to the list of “home away from homes”.