Reflections and Final Thoughts

Lili S. is currently a junior at SYA Spain and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from Sidwell Friends in Washington, D.C.

It’s crazy how fast Spain goes. I guess that’s what happens during the best years of your life—but it’s still sad. As we wrap up SYA Spain forever, we do a lot of reflective projects.

For our last English project of the year, we did a continuation of a creative and reflective piece we did in November. The project is called Cultural Inventory, and its main idea is that every student creates a piece that reflects who they are, what they’ve learned in Spain, and provides a way to look back on such a formative and exciting year.

I wanted to share parts of my project with everyone who is about to experience this crazy adventure for themselves in four months.

Little moments. Little things. Things that you can easily over-see or over-hear, things that stick with you long after they’re said and done. After this year, little things have a new meaning for me. The importance of being in the moment enough to notice and appreciate these fleeting, invisible-if-you’re not paying attention, actions are never given enough credit. It’s the sunrise you almost miss because you’re late for your early morning flight; that cup of coffee that tastes just slightly better than usual; those really pretty weather days and the street musicians that, combined, make you feel like you’re in a movie; it’s the puppy kisses and the mom’s hugs and the little brother’s clean version of your favorite songs blasting through his iPad. It’s the meeting your friends at the café you always meet at, sitting back and watching them laugh and talk and argue, taking it all in knowing that soon it’ll all be over, and then it’ll never be the same again. It’s walking into a room and absorbing all the big moments that have happened there, now condensed into small, insignificant-if-you-don’t-know-the-backstory type of memories. The big, important things become smaller, with time, and those memories are the best ones. When you can look back on a memory and only see the very best parts, those are my favorite little moments. You’re left with this bright but faint feeling of nostalgia, in the best possible way.

Surround yourself with people who love you and are good to you. This one can be hard to see, because some people can be really good actors, and some just say what they know you want to hear to get what they want. The only way to prove people like that wrong is to be better than them; to actually treat them well, to be strong in front of them, to put on an act and respond well and respectfully. Along with that, it is important to stand up for what you believe in and make sure that your voice is heard, but there’s definitely a fine line between standing up for yourself and treating others well.

Push through your hardest moments. It’s always prettier, always better, always sunnier at the top of a mountain, over the top of a hill, after the rain, whichever cheesy metaphor you want. Life can get rocky pretty easily, but pushing through those tough parts is what strengthens you. Working through the difficult times is what forces you into growth. That growth is something that you can carry with you forever, always able to take from that and lean against that in your times of need. The most uncomfortable ways of growing, the hardest situations we are put in, those are what cause us to grow in such noticeable ways.

This new sense of self is something I’ve never felt this strongly, and that’s something I will always be grateful to Spain and to SYA for.

Nothing can ever stay the same, nothing is here forever. Learning how to appreciate the small perfections that our world has to offer while taking all of the missteps and difficulties in stride is a very particular balance, one that, still, seems impossible to achieve for me. But, after Spain, that balance is infinitely closer than it was 267 days ago.

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A New Normal

Annika compares her new normal to her life in Rennes in her last blog.


Luke recalls a recent memory that encapsulates the lessons he learned from SYA.