Ink Stains from Spain: Student experiences holiday season away from home

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Breanna Vasquez reflects on her feelings about being in Spain during Thanksgiving, thousands of miles away from her friends and family. Despite being homesick, she continues to immerse herself in the culture of Jaèn.
(Breanna Vasquez / Daily Titan)

You never know where life can take you. A year ago, it never crossed my mind that I would be living on my own in Southern Spain. Back then, I was content with studying abroad in Madrid for just three weeks. But after those short three weeks abroad, I realized I wanted more, and just seven months later, I was moving to Spain.

When you decide to move more than 6,000 miles away from home, you give up seeing your family and friends for an unknown experience. You walk into the experience expecting that studying abroad is going to be the greatest thing that will ever happen to you. For me, I anticipated the best and never the worst. This was one of the biggest mistakes I made. I anticipated the amazing travels I was going to have but never thought about the holidays without my family.

The week before Thanksgiving was the hardest for me. Here I was in Jaén, not a single turkey, pumpkin spiced latte or family member in sight. Not only was I the most homesick I had ever been since arriving three months ago, but I was also preparing for midterms and presentations in a foreign language. As I attempted to study, I watched friends and family joyfully Snapchat their experiences, friendsgiving dinners and parties. I didn’t think I was going to have a Thanksgiving like I would at home.

Thanks to my program, I still had a Thanksgiving dinner and it was one that I appreciated. I spent it with people I never knew before arriving in Jaén, but we all managed to create a Thanksgiving we’ll never forget for the rest of our lives. As I got lost in the laughter, wine and turkey, my homesickness faded away.

That same weekend, I decided to get lost in Jaén. With headphones in and The Doors’ “Morrison Hotel” playing, I left my apartment and headed out to explore the town. As I walked up and down the streets of Jaén, I passed people enjoying café con leches on the patios of restaurants, bakers placing their bread and cookies in the windows for passerby to see and people stopping on the sidewalk casually talking to friends while enjoying a cigarette.

That’s when I found one of the greatest views I had ever seen of Jaén. It was drizzling that morning. Clouds lined the sky and there was a slight cold breeze. From where I was standing, you could see Jaén’s Cathedral. In the distance, hills of olive trees created the background. Light pastel colors and white apartment buildings with terraces and cobblestone streets created the neighborhoods that I have fallen in love with.

When I saw that view, I realized I was home.

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