Winter Break - The Reunion and the Return

Abby D. is currently a junior at SYA Spain and a Campus Storyteller. She comes to SYA from Milton Academy. 

I reunited with my mom for the first time in three and a half months outside La Fama, Zaragoza’s most famous churrería. As special as it was, there was something anticlimactic about it. As we caught up over warm churros and chocolate, it felt as if I had seen her just the other day, a feeling that felt inadequate after all I had experienced in the past months.

However, the next morning as we walked through the city and I pointed out the places that had become my “usuals” during my first semester in Zaragoza, I realized how much of a life I had built apart from my family. I showed my mom Mr. Brioche, the café on Paseo Sagasta where I stop to get a café con leche every morning on the way to school with my friends, Chris and Milan. I showed her the spot in Parque Grande where you can see all of Zaragoza, and El Olivar, the club where I practice soccer every Wednesday and Friday. We had a croissant at El Criollo, the café next to school that every SYA student packs during our thirty minute descanso between third and fourth period. Most importantly, I showed her my host family’s house - the middle seat at the counter where I sit every night at dinner, and the drawer in the bathroom that has become home to my toothbrush and face wash.

It felt so surreal to explain every detail of my life to someone so close to me. But, as weird as it felt, it was also empowering. I realized that here in Spain, I have, for the first time in my life, created something completely my own. Yes, being stripped of the people you love and your familiar habits is what makes this experience terrifying, but it is also what makes this experience worthwhile. The challenge of starting from scratch and redefining my life, even who I am, at such a young age has given me an incredible amount of independence and maturity.

As empowering and inspiring this realization felt, being with my family over Christmas was very special. Although I did not go home, it felt as if home came to me. I got to enjoy everything that felt “comfortable” to me, like watching a movie or going on a morning walk with my parents. As the two weeks came to an end, I was nervous that returning to Zaragoza was going to be like arriving back in September - that I had gotten too used to the comfort of my family and I was going to feel homesick again.

My first day back in Zaragoza was January 6th, or Three Kings’ Day. In Spain, children believe that on the night of January 5th, the Three Kings come through the windows of each house and leave gifts. That morning, as I watched my host siblings open their gifts, my host mom offered me a pile of gifts labeled Abby that she had bought for me. It was at that moment, as I joined my host siblings in opening the gifts, that I realized that I didn’t need to worry - even thousands of miles away from my family I could still find a comforting sense of home.

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