Classes have finished for the second semester and all the students, locals and Erasmus alike, are in the midst of crazy exam-crunching time, trying to remember everything from the entire semester for one exam in each class. I myself have three more exams to go before a few days of relaxation (aka packing and doing last minute tasks and shopping like a maniac) before I jet off on May 30th.

That’s two weeks away.

In two weeks I will finally again be able to see my family and friends, play with my cat, have a decent-sized computer, sleep in my own bed, eat my mom’s cooking, go to all my favorite places, have a car, and enjoy life’s pleasures that I haven’t had here in Spain (dryers, vacuums, carpets, Magic Bullets…).

But, in two weeks, I will have to close this amazing, hard, wonderful, long, and quick chapter and begin my actual life. I won’t be able to see the faces of all the amazing people I’ve met here in Santiago or jump on a 2-hour plane ride to anywhere in Europe.

And although I’ve been homesick all year, complain a lot, and often have the desire to jump on the next plane heading back over the ocean… I think I’ll miss it all. I’ve traveled more in the past year than most people do in a lifetime. I’ve tested my limits and strengths. I’ve grown a lot this year, learning more about myself, Spanish, and different cultures in general.

I think one of the most important things I’ve learned this year is that the world really is just a small place. Although I admittedly went to mainly larger, touristic European cities, they all have one thing in common – plain old survival. This may seem obvious, but not until you see it in person do you realize that all around the world, people are just doing their own thing and making their own way, just like we do at home. Everyone is, at the core, just the same. Everyone just wants to make a living, keep their families happy and fed, and enjoy a little leisure. And this is what I saw in every city. From the street-entertainment in Rome to the bank tellers here in Santiago.

The second most important thing I learned this year was that I’m okay on my own. For example, I was wondering what it would be like to spend an entire week in Rome and Paris with nobody but myself and strangers in my hostels to chat with. You can imagine the horror on others’ faces when I told them that nobody would come with me. But who was I going to hang out with? Why would I go without company? Who would I talk to when eating at a restaurant? I was worried about all this for about a minute until I actually arrived in Rome, the #1 place I’ve always wanted to visit, and realized how much I love being on my own. Nobody to bother with, can do whatever I pleased, and especially eat whatever I wanted. As a classic introvert, a week alone exploring Rome and Paris was a true vacation. Sure, I chatted with the girls in my hostel room and enjoyed their company, but as soon as I walked back onto the street I was on my own and loving it.

Now I’m not saying I wouldn’t have enjoyed having someone with me, especially my family or boyfriend/close friends, but this first-in-a-lifetime experience of complete independence was amazing. So what if I wanted to spend only 10 minutes in Pisa? Or go to bed early every night? Or have Indian food instead of Italian one night? I could do whatever I wanted, and I did. One of the most fun parts of the trip was calling my family before going to sleep at night and telling them about my day’s adventure (aka letting them know I was still alive) and hearing all their jealous, awed reactions. Yeah, it is that cool 🙂

So, now that this year is nearly over and I need to think about collecting all my marbles before heading back home, I can look back on this as a positive experience that I’ll always treasure.

Sorry to end this post abruptly but I’m getting tired and have a lovely day of studying to look forward to tomorrow!

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