...left in Spain. I can't believe that it's the night before the night that I leave. Coming out here, three months in Spain seemed like such a long time, but now that I've done and seen everything I can't believe it's the end. I can't believe that I'm not going to be a train ride away from one of the greatest cities in Spain, let alone Europe. Although I'm traveling around Europe for another two weeks, I can't believe that I'm leaving this beautiful country, and possibly for good.
Life here has been one of the best experiences of my life--cliche, I know, but it's true. I came into this program with an open mind and heart, and I'm now leaving with a heart and mind full of love and appreciation for Spain and the Iberian peninsula and it's fascinating history. I'm so lucky that I was able to travel with 26 amazing girls (and 2 boys) who have taught me so much about myself and what I value, that I can't believe we're no longer going to see each other every day. I think that's what hurts the most--I'm not going to see the people that I've met and the friends that I've made while living here. I'm so used to seeing these beautiful girls every day that I can't imagine a road trip without all of them coming along as well.
It kills me to think that our little group of 5 will disband on Thursday. For the most part, we've spent every day together--EVERY DAY. That's nuts! After Thursday I'm no longer going to see Becca, Katy, Ashley and Michelle waiting for me at the train station; no more wanderings and adventures in museums, alleyways, and parks together. Not seeing them every day is going to be the culture shock that still hasn't set in.
What's so interesting about our group is how diverse and individual we all are, yet how we all mesh and compliment each other. We've had a running joke between the 5 of us this trip that each one of us has a use in our group: Becca's the leader/mom/older brother/boyfriend (when you need a shoulder to lie on) and is the designated Spanish speaker when we need something; Katy befriends everyone she meets, so gets us connections in random situations and opens the door for Becca to get down to the nitty gritty; Ash is great with bus lines and remembering train details, as well as being PHENOMENAL with money--she's the one to mentally split our bill when we eat out so that we all know what we need to pay--we've ended up with exact change all but once, which between the 5 of us is impressive; we joked that we couldn't find a use for Michelle and that she was the comic relief, but we realized a couple weeks ago that she brings the itouch to the table, which connects us to the internet and google and facebook when we need it (which happens more often than we'd like to admit); last but not least, I bring my little black book--it's my Moleskin Madrid city guide notebook that I bought prior to coming out here that has metro maps for Madrid, individual street maps of each district all around the city, conversion charts, and blank pages that I've used to write down everything important that could ever be asked. For example, I can tell you when museums are open (name one and I've got it--I've got them all), as well as how much you need to pay to get in somewhere and when you can get in for free, what metro line we need to take from the center of the city to a designated location, where to see Flamenco in Sevilla, as well as how to get to our hostel from the Lisbon airport, among other things. My little black book is really my secret power and without it we'd be destitute (or so I'd like to think), or at least have a lot of unanswered questions.
I'm so glad that even though I'm leaving Madrid on Thursday, I'm still going to see Becca and Michelle for another week--we're all traveling and renting an apartment in Paris until next week, which means that I'll be able to spend time with my two favorite people from this program for a little bit longer. I'm also fortunate enough that I get to travel to London with Michelle after our stay in Paris, which means that even though I'm losing my Becca-Bec, I still get to play in London with my Michelle-Bell. I've been planning this last 2 week stint with these girls all semester, and I can't believe that it's finally here! This is so surreal, and even though it means leaving Spain, I can't wait to go!
I'm so eternally grateful for my time here. I've learned so much while being here, mostly about myself, but I think the most important think I've learned is how I can have faith in Heavenly Father. Although coming to Spain was a leap of faith, I've learned that faith isn't something done in the heat of the moment. I like what Elder Scott said during last October's General Conference when he talked about faith in relation to character. He said, "Faith and character are intimately related. Faith in the power of obedience to the commandments of God will forge strength of character available to you in times of urgent need. Such character is not developed in moments of great challenge or temptation. That is when it is intended to be used. Your exercise of faith in true principles builds character, fortified character expands your capacity to exercise more faith. As a result, your capacity and confidence to conquer the trials of life is enhanced...We become what we want to be by consistently being what we want to become each day...As you walk to the boundary of your understanding into the twilight of uncertainty, exercising faith, you will be led to find solutions you would not obtain otherwise. With even your strongest faith, God will not always reward you immediately according to your desires. Rather, God will respond with what in His eternal plan is best for you, when it will yield the greatest advantage...Your character is a measure of what you are becoming". I think Elder Scott puts it perfectly. Hearing this talk last October seemed to be an answer to prayer, or at least a definition of what I was going through. This whole experience has helped me increase my faith in Heavenly Father and His plan for me. It's interesting to think that faith is built in the day to day choices we make, and living in a foreign country really helps you clarify those choices. Just to give you a glimpse of what my first couple of weeks were like in Spain, to retain a level of normalcy and brace myself against the impending tides of culture shock, I relied heavily on my daily scripture study, prayer, and my conference issue of the Ensign to make it through. Adjusting wasn't too bad and didn't take that long, but knowing that I had Heavenly Father to rely on, I knew I was going to be ok.
In short, my time spent here has helped me refine what I knew was already important to me. I've grown closer to my Savior, and not just because of the small and simple things I've tried to do every day. I can see His hand in the people here, most especially the members. Seeing the beauty and individuality of each city and region of Spain, I was taken aback by the wonders of His creations. Whenever I went into a new art museum or cathedral or saw another beautiful architectural creation, I knew that it was He who inspired the artists. Spain is a country full of love for the Savior, and my heart is full of gratitude and thanks that I was able to see all of it. This study abroad has turned out to be more pivotal for me than I could have ever dreamed of, and I'm sad to see that it's time to leave. Words can honestly not express how in love I am with this country and its history, but the best that I can come up with at the moment is: thank you, Spain, it's been a blast!