Transitioning from beach life to school life was a little rough. The part that made it tolerable? We were able to capture that Portugal sunshine and bring it back to Alcalá with us. After four months of rain and gloom and 50 degrees, the sun finally came out and we were hitting 75 or 80 every single day. It was glorious.
As I mentioned in my last post, exams and final presentations were upon us. I spent most of Monday and Tuesday working on a group project for my Spanish Literature class, a presentation about Spanish prose after the Guerra Civil, during the era of dictator Francisco Franco. It’s hard being an author during a time of extreme censorship. Many famous writers, including one of the most important authors during Franquismo, Camilo José Cela, could not get published in Spain during this era because their writings did not match the ideals of Franco. Interesting fact about Cela: despite the fact that he had to go all the way to Argentina to get published because of Franco’s censorship, he was a diehard supporter of Franquismo. He even worked as a Franquista spy.
After dominating our presentation on Wednesday morning, our Wednesday afternoon classes were cancelled for a special occasion: GRADUATION! Graduating before taking final exams is a concept that still baffles me. But I guess with all the craziness of exams and trying to leave the country the following week, it was easier to just get graduation out of the way now.
The next few days consisted pretending to study for final exams, enjoying the beautiful weather, and trying not to think about the fact that I have a flight back to the Western Hemisphere in a week. I reverted into my usual procrastination habits: “If I organize my room, I’m still being productive even though I am not actually studying.” Works like a charm. You wouldn’t believe how many possible things there are to do when you are trying to avoid actual schoolwork.
I sort of forgot what it was like to have a day off of school. I hadn’t spent a “no school Friday” at home since before Semana Santa. It was so nice to have the opportunity to relax at home with my family, while embarking on little adventures throughout the day. On this particular Friday, I had the pleasure of lunching with a study abroad advisor from the University of Iowa, who had come to visit the Alcalá campus. Since it was the last week of my semester abroad, it was really the first time that I had looked back on the experience at a whole. That’s when the fact that I was going home in seven days really started to sink in.
In celebration of the warm weather and our departure, the host dad of a friend of mine had a little “sangría party” for several of us. In case you are not familiar, sangría is a very popular Spanish beverage. While every Spaniard has their own variation of how they make sangría, the basic ingredients are red wine, chopped fruit, and some sort of sweetener, usually cinnamon. My favorite part is the fruit, which can be anything from oranges to strawberries to apples to mangoes.
Sunday was a blast. Caroline, a friend of mine from UW, is studying in Madrid for the 2012-13 academic year. We had been trying to meet up all semester, but our schedules never overlapped. Finally, on my last weekend in Spain, we found a day that worked for both of us. And what a great day it was! Caroline took me to mass at the Santa María la Real de La Almudena, the cathedral of Madrid. This cathedral is young. Finished in 1993, this cathedral is in its infancy compared to every other cathedral in Madrid. It’s the same age as me!
After mass, Caroline and I hit up the Rastro, an enormous flea market in Madrid. The Rastro occurs on Sundays and holidays near the Ronda de Toledo. There are hundreds of vendors that come out and set up booths to sell a variety of items—everything from clothes to bags to souvenirs to jewelry. The Rastro attracts many different people, including thieves and pickpockets, who then put the stolen items up for sale in a certain section of the Rastro. Hold on to your bags, wouldn’t want to have to buy your own purse back later!
We ended our day in Madrid with a picnic in Parque Retiro, referred to by some as the Central Park of Madrid. Perfect ending to a wonderful day!
My last school week in Spain was a combination of stressing about final exams, attempting to pack everything into the two suitcases I came with, and enjoying the sunshine as much as possible.
I’ve never really been good at saying goodbye to people. I spend the whole time thinking “don’t cry, don’t cry”, but then I start crying, anyway, regret wearing mascara, and fan my face like in Miss Congeniality when Sandra Bullock says “I really do want world peace!” Then everybody else starts crying and it’s just one big sobfest. So, I tried really hard to keep it together this time.
After being educated on the possibility of Reverse Culture Shock, I have to say that I am a little bit nervous to come home. I don’t want to be that kid that starts every sentence with “oh my gosh, this one time in Spain” or “when I studied abroad”. Because that will get real obnoxious, real quick. Instead, when people ask me about my experience, I’ll just say, “it’s all documented—check out my blog!”
As much as I am looking forward to seeing my beautiful family and eating things like waffles and macaroni & cheese again, I am going to miss Spain a whole heck of a lot. But if there is one thing I have learned this semester, it is that in Spain we never say “adiós”, only “hasta luego”. Don’t worry, Spain—I’ll be back soon!