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Despite magical experiences when studying abroad, there’s no place like home

Ally Marotti / Copy chief

Six months. That is how long it has been since I have taken a class in English. It has been four full months (at least) since I’ve taken a step on Ohio State’s campus.

Coming to work again for the first time since June, I passed demolished buildings on Woodruff, a street that I had not yet seen without its orange cones. Walking into the newsroom that I haven’t visited since July, I passed through hallways that had no ceilings the last time I was here. And when I came in, I was greeted by a new set of faces. Some of them I was familiar with, some of them were fresh.

I spent the last three-and-a-half months studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain. Let me tell you, the whole experience was magical. Seriously, complete and utter magic. I took classes at a Spanish university, lived with a host family and created a life for myself in Barcelona. I bettered my Spanish skills, learned a little Catalan, the other official language of Barcelona, made friends and ate a lot of delicious food. A lot.

I also got to travel. I took a ferry across the Straight of Gibraltar, rode camels through the Sahara Desert, visited a medieval castle in France, ate authentic Irish potatoes in Ireland, climbed to the top of Cologne Cathedral in Germany, saw multiple cities in Spain and spent a week in Italy. In between my weekend adventures abroad, I explored Barcelona and immersed myself in its culture. It was an experience I will never forget and one that I know I was incredibly blessed to have.

Seeing all of these different places was one thing, but what really blew my mind was meeting and getting to know the people. Whether it was a cab driver in Ireland or a host at a hotel in Italy, it was incredible to meet people from all of these different countries and hear their stories.

My host mom, for example, was absolutely incredible. She was a widow and ran her family-owned ceramic tile shop on one of the main streets of Barcelona. She was a little hard to get to know, but when she finally opened up, I learned things I never would have if I hadn’t put forth the effort. It was also a communication feat whenever I learned something from her, because she spoke no English. And that’s how it was every day. People kept talking to me in Spanish and I kept learning. It was great.

During all of this, I sent a million postcards to my friends and family and was constantly uploading pictures to Facebook in a mad effort to let some of my friends and family at home share in what I was experiencing. I blogged, I emailed, I instant messaged. This was a challenge since I didn’t have Internet in my flat. But it was certainly worth the effort.

I wondered why I felt such a desire to share my experiences so thoroughly with everyone at home. First I attributed it to my journalistic aspirations. I love being able to share things through words and to let people live vicariously in that way. I love sharing other people’s stories and capturing things that people otherwise wouldn’t be able to experience. But that wasn’t the whole reason. Then I thought about how supportive everyone at home was and how I wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for them, so maybe that’s why I felt such a pull to keep in touch. But it was about halfway through the second month when I came to my senses and realized that all of this rationalizing was just one big defense mechanism. I was homesick. I missed everything about home and everyone there. I missed OSU, I missed Columbus, I missed my hometown. I missed my parents, my brother, my boyfriend, my friends and even my casual acquaintances. And honestly, this freaked me out. I had always had it in my head that I’d grow up and travel the world. I’d do anything I wanted to and see everything there was to see, and I was scared because I didn’t want this stupid homesickness thing holding me back. But soon, after a brief period of freaking out, I realized that being homesick was a good thing, missing people was a good thing. It meant I had people that really loved me at home, and something good to go back to.

So while I traveled around Europe and lived in Barcelona, I let all my new experiences shape me and I learned from them. I had the time of my life, made new friends and saw things I honestly thought I would only see in pictures. And I was happy because I knew that I had people at home who would want to hear about it all when I got back.

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