October 2015… I’ve been home for a little over two months now, and I’ve given away the souvenirs I bought for others in the little shops that crowded the Spanish streets. The pieces I’ve kept for myself line my shelves and windowsills for subtle reminds of my time away. But the piece that I hold most dear I could not put into my pocket and bring on the plane home. There wasn’t a trinket that could capture it for me, and so I keep it alive in the pictures, music, memories, and hope for returning.
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While abroad in Spain, I had the opportunity to visit many of the cities surrounding the areas in which I studied. Every weekend I would discover a new place and take in landscapes, architecture, and tidbits of Spanish history and culture. I felt that every new city I explored became my new favorite until I reached one that defined my entire trip. Upon arriving in Ronda, we first visited a park that approached the edge of the very cliff that the city sits atop. Lined with trees and statues, we strolled through the dappled sunlight to look over the vast expansion of hills, country homes, and arid vegetation reached towards a dazzling mountain rage in the distance. Following the path that runs along the cliffs edge and into the town, we wander past a small craft market, the bull fighting ring, and a city square with fountains, shops, spectacular doorways, and cafes filled with people seated outdoors. We continued through winding streets to find a restaurant with the perfect patio to enjoy tapas and practice español, traditional homes shaded from the Spanish heat, and a small church that took my breath away.
As we continued on our walk and my mind slowly wandered from the tour guide’s words, I began to hear music as we approached the bridge. Unable to find the source, and captivated by the sight of the bridge in the midday heat, I began to feel as though the music were the soundtrack to this very moment in Spain. I left the group to walk to approach the bridge alone and enjoy the music that accompanied my exploration, to find the guitarist sitting under a small umbrella near the bridge. I sat down with him to listen to him play in the sun, and breathed in the aroma of the dry plants growing around the cliffs.
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I feel that during a study abroad experience, one can be overwhelmed without even realizing it. When we find moments that make us take a step back and consider our place and our purpose, they can completely transform the experience and give it much meaning. Ronda fully encapsulates Spain for me. My experience there combined all of the history, culture, landscape, weather, language, food, and romanticism that I was attracted to and hoped to discover abroad. My experience there was the most self-reflective and I feel that of all of the places I went to, it is the most memorable and dear for this reason. I remember being unable to find a postcard that matched the real beauty of that bridge, but I still bought a few to flip through when I listen to the CD from the guitarist on the bridge.
Natalie Knezevic, a Binghamton University undergraduate student in a Language Across Curriculum (LxC) class, who studied abroad in Spain