During my last week of studying abroad in Seville, Spain, I finally had the opportunity to go rowing in the canals of the Plaza de España, something I had been looking forward to for the entire semester. Even though I lived a five-minute walk away from the Plaza, I somehow hadn’t carved out the time to go rowing until the last possible moment.
I was especially excited to go rowing because my parents and sister were visiting me during my last week in Seville, and I thought it would be a fun activity for the four of us to partake in.
While it was a lot of fun, it was deceivingly difficult at the same time. The canals were narrow and curved into a semicircular formation, and the rowboats only allowed for one member of your group to be rowing at a time, which made the job even more taxing. Nevertheless, despite the struggles, I rowed with a smile on my face as I was happy to be reunited with my family.
I share this story because, when I look back at the photos, I only remember the happiness of the memory, while the specifics of my rowing struggles tend to fade away.
Similarly, when I reflect on my time spent in Seville as a whole, what sticks out to me are the cheerful memories surrounded by friends. Going out for tapas after class, climbing up the Giralda tower and watching the World Cup with friends are all fond memories that bring me joy and nostalgia.
Meanwhile, I tend to forget how difficult it was to adjust to the city at first, to feel like a “fish-out-of-water” in a classroom filled with only Spanish students and to spend time wandering around the city unsure of what to do because I didn’t know anyone yet.
Now, as I have returned to Hopkins this semester, I can say that it’s comforting and heartwarming to be back — but it’s also overwhelming and disconcerting.
On one hand, I’m overjoyed to see so many familiar faces and be reunited with friends that I haven’t seen in months. Yet at the same time, I feel swamped with the fast-paced routine of my classes and extracurriculars. It’s only the beginning of the semester, yet I already feel an insurmountable amount of stress piling up.
I miss my routine in Seville, where every day felt rejuvenating. Whether it was exploring new neighborhoods, meeting new people, trying new foods or practicing new Spanish slang, every day felt like a unique experience with lots of insight and growth.
This past semester allowed me to discover so much more about myself, who I want to be and what kind of energy I want to surround myself with. It taught me how to be more independent, how to enjoy my own company, how to cherish the present moment and how to value my friendships.
I don’t want to lose the person that I’ve become due to the stress of this upcoming semester.
If I’ve learned anything about myself while I’m at Hopkins, it’s that I tend to bite off more than I can chew. I try to be self-sufficient, so I struggle to ask for help, even when I really need it.
As I was packing my car up a few weeks ago to move into my apartment at school, I naively believed that I could do the entire move on my own. When I realized that this was not possible, my parents spontaneously rearranged their schedules and drove down with me to help me move in, which I’m immensely grateful for.
I don’t know why, but, after being across the Atlantic for a semester, I felt embarrassed to ask for help on a smaller move from New York to Baltimore. Nevertheless, I’ve learned that it takes an extra level of self-awareness and cognizance to reach out for help and know when I need assistance. Even further, I’m thankful to know that, whether I’m in Sevilla or Baltimore, my family is there to support me no matter what.
It’s an interesting duality. While I was abroad, I yearned for the sense of community, comfort and belonging that I feel here at Hopkins, and now that I’m back, I yearn to be outside of my comfort zone once again in Seville, to be spontaneous and to live more freely.
Being back on campus, I’m trying to manage my stress better than I have in previous semesters. I’m valuing the time I spend with my friends, and I’m appreciating having my community nearby once again. I’m taking classes that interest me, and I’m valuing the quality of my education here while also staying aware that one grade cannot make or break my happiness and that the world is so much bigger than that.
When I compare my last semester to this semester, I realize there is not ‘one life’ that is perfect. There will always be elements from one place or another that we will long for; we just have to learn to make the most of our current situations and cherish the experiences that we have.
Gabriel Lesser is a junior from Westchester, N.Y. studying Neuroscience and Romance Languages. His column explores his memories along with his current reflections and the lessons that he has learned.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly spelled Seville.
The News-Letter regrets this error.