As a disclaimer, I should begin by emphasizing that my year in Spain is certainly not representative of every student’s time abroad. That said, this is an honest account of my experience in Zaragoza thus far.
There’s a Salvador Dali quote that I have always loved that goes, “I was never capable of being average.” That’s almost the reason I came here: the thought that I was living a “normal” or “average” life disturbed me so deeply, I decided to desert everything I have ever known in Los Angeles and live in a city I have never been to, a place where I knew not a single person. If I would be considered reckless or naïve, I didn’t care. The notion that my life was already beginning to slip past me tugged at my chest; and even more bothersome was the fact that I have only learned so little of the breadth of knowledge there is to discover about the world.
My good days are dreamlike. I think my best day so far was when a friend and I took a day trip to San Sebastian and ate freshly caught merluza at a restaurant by the beach and shared the most interesting conversation I had had in months. Or when I took the train to Barcelona and spent the day wandering around the city. Days like those are the ones most prominent in my memory.
While here, I have observed myself feel disappointed with my experience on various occasions. I have encountered the exact dilemmas I had run into in Los Angeles and felt surprised to see them recur here. That’s when I knew for certain, aside from my need for adventure, that I had come to Spain to escape my own problems. I realized I could run away to Bangladesh or to Amsterdam or to Tokyo, but I could not run away from my own self. Though many will harp on the importance of self-knowledge or identity, I am haunted by a profound understanding of myself. Like my own perpetual shadow, where I go, my innermost self will always follow.
My school is compromised mostly of east coast boarding school kids. Academically, the school is almost identical to Buckley. The biggest difference is physical, and that is that I am always cold. Always. The east coast kids think I’m silly because I began to wear my parka zipped up even during class in October. Perhaps it’s stereotypical Californian behavior, but I can’t help it; I will get goosebumps and start shivering. A small part of me dies inside when someone complains about how “hot” the classrooms are or asks to switch on the air-conditioning.
I find the academic environment engaging, as nearly everyone possesses some impressive degree of intelligence. Class discussions encourage skepticism and questioning; arguments can be made contrary to a point mentioned in a lecture if you have sufficient evidence to support your claim. I feel I have become more of an active participant in my learning; I am eager to come to class and soak up as much information as I possibly can, not merely for an exam, but because the topics themselves I find fascinating.
Although the school is excruciatingly competitive from an academic perspective, we are truly all a “family” in the social aspect. Granted that specific groups of kids like to spend time together, we are a group of 70 American teenagers in a foreign country in the end, so there is certainly more of a communal bond between us.
While my good days belong on the pages of adventure novels, my bad days are among the loneliest I have ever had. I had a period about a week ago in which I underwent a series of difficult days that each felt intolerable. And then, one day as I walked home from school, greyish clouds began to shroud the sky above me and thick clumps of raindrops soaked my clothes until I was nearly drenched in the water in less than two minutes.
But instead of frustrating or angering me, the rain played with some childish part of me, and I found myself smiling. I now understand why so many authors use the rain as a symbol of rebirth, as it has such an intense, cathartic effect on the senses that rekindles your innocence w. I unashamedly jumped in several puddles, probably looking half mad. My shoes had soaked through, and I could feel that water had found its way inside, but all these things I didn’t and don’t care about because I know how lucky I am to see the summer blue of an August sky and to be in a European city in the midst of a thunderstorm and feel my hands tremble with the great and violent rush of being alive.
And I love the rain.