Absence makes the heart grow fonder

By Brittney Durbin

Today, as you know, is Thanksgiving.

As you also probably figured, in Spain it is not a holiday that is celebrated.

I’m going to be honest and say that when debating to study abroad in the fall or in the spring, this was a big deciding factor. Missing Thanksgiving was a top five reason why I picked this semester instead of the next.

You see, up until three years ago, this holiday was my favorite. My grandmother and I would spend the day cooking, she would tell me all sorts of stories and having my whole family together made me feel like the happiest kid in the world.

However, after she died in September 2009, it hasn’t been the same. In fact, that year we ate pizza on Turkey Day just because none of us wanted to have the meal without her.

I didn’t share that to have a pity party by any means, but to instead try to explain myself further. I thought that by running away to Spain that I could just be immune to these feelings of sadness, but boy was I ever wrong.

All I want to do right now is wake up in my own bed, with my fat dog named Bella suffocating my face because she doesn’t know how to sleep next to a person, only on top of them. I want to walk out of my room and see my parents having their morning coffee, and then run downstairs and wake up my sleeping beauty of a baby sister, like I always do when I am home.

I want to eat dinner with my family, and talk about how we wish my grandmother was here on this day, and how she would critique my father’s techniques on cooking the turkey or making dried noodles, because she always did it the best.

You see, people always talk about how amazing studying abroad is, but everyone that went before me left out the part about how homesick you get, or how hard it is to miss out on holidays and birthdays.

Don’t get me wrong, I am forever thankful for the opportunity to study here in Spain, but I guess what I’m trying to say is that although I wouldn’t trade being here for anything, if I ever get the chance to talk to someone about studying abroad, I would prepare them more for days like today.

I know that on Dec. 21 I’ll be going back to the states a different person — stronger, more independent. I’ll go back with a greater appreciation of not only my life at home, but the world. Every day I hear how different the Spanish is from what I knew before. I’ve seen the Mediterranean Sea with my own two eyes. I’ve seen a father play soccer with his son on a side street in Alicante. I tasted some sort of English meat pie, and although it was quite repulsive to me, at least I gave it a go. I saw Big Ben and the Eye. I could go on and on, but my point is that I have seen things that some people never have the chance to experience in their lifetime, and here I am, 20 years old, traveling the world.

Despite the beauty I have seen, the thing I have come to realize in this day, the day to be thankful, is this: Today, 5,000+ miles away from the people I love, I am more grateful for them than I ever was when I was sitting across the dinner table.

Since I have been here, I have realized how much I take things for granted while I’m home — like calling my Mom when I’m having a bad day, or jumping in car and driving 30 minutes to see my Grandpa.

Being away (and I mean far away, not just a state or two) really shows you how much you need the people in your life, how much you love them.

If I leave Spain with this one, humbling realization of how much the people in my life do for me, how much I need them and that I wouldn’t be able to do half the things I do without them, I’ll be completely satisfied with this trip. Although I chose to study abroad in fall on a whim and on my own desire to be away, I know that if I was home today, I would have the same mindset as I did three months ago. It’s sad to say it took being on another continent to discover this, but I think, no, I know, that its a lesson learned that I’ll remember forever.

Its really true; absence does make the heart grow fonder. But it also makes the heart grow wiser, and more appreciative.

Happy Thanksgiving, and to the people I have mentioned earlier, to those special ones who get me through each day and also to my grandmother, my Mama, know that I love and miss you all.

Until next time.

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