Well, the last four weeks of our study away program have come and gone, and it turns out Saturday evening looks a lot closer this side of Thursday, with a very full Friday staring me in the face, especially given the fact that I’ve done very little packing to get ready. All that aside, however, it’s slowly becoming more real that in less than 48 hours, I will be on a bus, beginning my travels home, and because of that, I’ve been thinking about what it means to be leaving a place that has become “home” for me these past four months.
As much as I look forward to being home soon, seeing my family, and enjoying a few food options that have been less-than-available here, I realize that I am not only leaving behind the home I’ve created here, but also an experience that I will probably never recreate. If I were to try and cram all the experiences I’ve had here, all the things I’ve learned, or all the ways I’ve changed into one blog post, it would be far too long and could never communicate all that I needed it to. For that reason, I decided to create just a short list of the things that I will miss a lot- those that contributed largely to my experience, or from which I gained the most. It won’t cover everything, but overall, I think it sums up my experience here pretty well.
A picture from our first week here (L-R Myself, Nicky, Mariann)
So, in no particular order, here were some of the things I’ll miss upon my return to the U.S:
- The weather. Really, Oaxaca has a really excellent climate, and it’ll be a bit of a change to trade my Chacos and skirts for snow boots and a puffy coat when I get home. I might just turn into an icicle from the shock.
- The Food. Tlayudas, Pan dulce, chili relleno, Elotes, Jicama, Mole, tortillas, I could go on for a while, but I think it speaks for itself.
- The Celebrations. I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve been walking through the centro only to be caught up in a Calenda, a mixture between a parade and a party that could be because of anything from someone’s wedding to the anniversary of a school. It involves traditional music, giant puppet-people, and cuetes (fireworks that don’t light up, they just make noise).
- Being able to walk everywhere, and have that be perfectly normal, even expected. This really depends on your city, but here, walking everywhere within the centro is absolutely normal. I can’t recall how many times we found somewhere to eat dinner just by walking around the centro to find somewhere we might not otherwise have gone.
- There’s nearly always something happening. Oaxaca nearly always has cultural events going on in various locations around the centro, and they were almost always free or very minimal charges for going. Theatre, poetry, movie screenings, musical events and discussions were nearly always happening, and at times it was hard to choose just one to attend!
- Speaking Spanish. There really is something exciting about learning to communicate in a language besides your own. I’m not talking about verb conjugation or pronouns, but actually learning to use a language in a conversational setting, picking up phrases and idioms, and occasionally making (embarrassing) mistakes. I loved being able to learn meanings of words and phrases local to Oaxaca (only to find out they may be highly offensive elsewhere in the Spanish-speaking world), and being able to converse with people in Spanish, especially during high-tourist seasons, started things off on the right foot when meeting new people here.
- The ICO. I will definitely miss the beautiful campus of the ICO and all the people who make it what it is. They provided us with an academic home away from home and couldn’t have done a better job.
- Our group. 12 people, 3 universities, and several states represented. It’s not always easy to be around the same dozen people for four months, but our group did a good job of having each other’s backs, and being really open about, well, nearly everything. Studying abroad isn’t always an easy experience, but it helped to have a group of people who were all experiencing it alongside you.
- The City. It may not be the biggest city, or the most famous; some people can’t even pronounce the name correctly, and other tourists might not give it a second thought. But Oaxaca has tons of cool things about it, from it’s culture to its linguistic groups, plus architecture, cultural celebrations, food, people, and art, to name a few things. I know I’d like to return one day, but even if that doesn’t happen, this city has already given me memories to last a lifetime.
It’s hard to believe that the semester’s already coming to a close, and I’m less than two days away from leaving behind an incredible experience. All I can say now is how grateful I am to have had this opportunity, for all that I’ve learned and all the ways that I’ve grown. And now I’m headed home, back to the familiar and the comfortable, but I know I’ll continue to notice the changes from this experience even after I return to the U.S.