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An Abrupt Adios

Sarah E. is currently a junior at SYA Spain and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from The Potomac School in Virginia.

Tuesday, March 10: I am sitting in my DELE class trying to figure out what order to sort the sentences on the multiple-choice section of our practice exam when I hear students coming out of their classrooms and gathering in the aula central. I ask to get up and go get water and as soon as I open the door a group of SYA students huddled around a phone frantically motion for me to come over. “Did you hear?” my friend Sophie asks me before I reach for the phone and see the heading: “SYA Coronavirus Update” followed by three bolded options: “1. Depart from SYA and return to your home school, 2. Return home and continue with SYA online until the end of the year, 3. Remain at SYA in-country”. A million things run through my mind, but above everything, I have one priority: convince my parents to let me stay in Spain for as long as possible. I see my friends come out of their classes and hug them as we assure each other everything is going to be okay, thinking we would at least have the rest of the week together.

Wednesday, March 11: I wake up at 7:45 AM even though Wednesday fieldwork starts at 9 and immediately check my phone to see if I have any new messages from my parents. I had called my mom and dad the day before trying to convince them to let me stay, but it wasn’t looking so good. Instead of a new message from my parents, I was flooded with over 50 messages in our SYA Spain group chat. The first being a screenshot from a news article captioned: “Coronavirus Live Updates: U.S Will Suspend Travel From Europe as Countries Tighten Lockdowns”. Immediately I text my friends What does this mean? Will we be forced to go home? But deep down I think we all knew our time at SYA was coming to an end. A few minutes later my host mom comes into my room in tears and hugs me saying: “No se que va a pasar”. I had never seen my host mom cry before this moment, and that’s when it hit me that this could be my last day in Spain. When everyone came into the aula central, we finally received the news we had anticipated: an immediate shutdown of the campus. 

Thursday, March 12 (Last Day): Shortly after our last school assembly I receive a call from my dad telling me my train to Madrid is at 6, and I have 3 hours to pack up everything to make it on time. The first thing I worry about is my host brothers, Mateo and Andres. They both had regular school days and I wouldn’t get to say goodbye to them if I left in three hours. Overwhelmed and upset I call my host mom, and she tells me everything is going to be okay and goes to pick up my host brothers from school so I can say goodbye. She helps me pack and we laugh and reminisce about the day I first arrived at my host families’ house when my little brothers were too shy to talk to me, and the walls of my room weren’t covered in pictures and Christmas lights. I remember how nervous I was that first day, struggling to put up my lights when my host mom came in and helped me, and here we were six months later, my host mom saying “tranquila, hija” as we took them down. After an exhausting three hours, it was time to go to the train station. As we got in the taxi, Mateo hands me a letter he wrote for me and tells me I can only read it once I got on the train. I hug my brothers and host mom one last time and they tell me I will always have a home in Zaragoza.

Two weeks ago, I thought I had two more months in Spain, but things changed overnight and before I knew it I was saying goodbye to some of the most important people in my life. However, being home has proved the bonds I’ve created with my SYA family extend beyond our experience in Spain. I call my friends daily, and my host family still facetimes me at 8 their time so we can have “family dinners” together. Starting SYA online will definitely be a big adjustment but it’s comforting to know that we are all in this crazy situation together and I’m grateful to have such a supportive community by my side.

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