This is the fifth and final installment of Tiffany Dixon’s (M.Ed.- Languages) travel journal of her time studying abroad in Trujillo, Spain. She’s seen some amazing historical sites, danced until she dropped in a discoteca, and even dipped her toes in “the other side of the Atlantic” in Portugal. Now that she’s at her journey’s end, she and Tommy la Tortuguita (her terrapin travel companion) are taking a moment to reflect about their life-changing experiences. In case you haven’t been following her adventures, be sure to catch up now, and then read the exciting conclusion below:
During my last week in España, I finished my research paper and took two final exams all in a matter of three days. While we were all stressing out, I knew I could handle the extra work load because I had learned from both my undergraduate and graduate experiences how to pace myself throughout the term in order to avoid a breakdown in the end! I was very pleased with how my research findings had come together. Also, I was very happy about meeting all of the new people I had interviewed, some of whom I had made friends with, spent time with, and would remain in contact.
Most nights I could not hang when it came to partying like a Spaniard, but the night we finished all of our exams I did! We danced all night long and made it home just before the sun came up. The discotecas in Trujillo, and Spain in general, are very safe. Most people do not start to go out until around midnight. When my friends and I arrived around 9 or 10 o’clock, the discotecas were almost empty. That night we had a blast celebrating all of our hard work. I was very tired the next day. When you come home from a night out in Spain instead of saying you got in very late last night, they will say you got in very early. The late, or “early,” night life was so common that even my host parents stayed out late when they went over to a friend’s house for dinner the next night.
The day after our exams was Saturday. Surprisingly, I got up very early, walked around the city one last time, told my new friends goodbye, and spent the rest of the day with my family. My host sisters and I took part in my favorite past time–singing songs in Spanish on their “Rock Star” Nintendo Wii gaming system. The next morning it was time to say good bye to our families before we made our way to Toledo, Segovia, Madrid, and finally the USA!!! This was a very sad occasion. I miss my host family very much, but will always keep in touch with them.
As we visited Toledo, our fantastic bus driver, Carlos, dropped us off at the base of Las escaleras mecánicas (mechanical stairs). After visiting a cathedral we ventured off around the city where I did a lot of shopping (well, mostly window shopping). I purchased a few pieces of gold inlay or damasquina jewelry, for which Toledo is famous, for some of my family.
Next, we went to Segovia where we visited the Alcázar of Segovia. Alcázar is the Arabic word for castle. It is said that this castle is the inspiration behind the one in Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty and the symbol often used for Disney productions. The Alcázar was absolutely gorgeous! This castle was where King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella lived for many years while the royal court of Spain was in Segovia before it was moved to Madrid. We saw many important rooms that were a part of the Catholic Monarchs lives, such as the Coronation of Queen Isabella, the Throne Room, and the Armory Room.
For our last few days in Spain, we travelled to Madrid. While there, we were able to do a lot of walking around the city and catch the subway. We went to the Plaza Mayor, or Main Square, and did a little bit of shopping in stores like El Corte Inglés, a huge department store that features many different stores in one. For example, there is a grocery store, several department stores (like Belk or Dillards), a home improvement store (like Home Depot), and several upscale boutiques including Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Gucci. With that being said, it is definitely possible to go there and complete all of your errands without having to go to a separate building.
We also visited the Prado and Reina Sofía museums, where we saw many pieces of art work that we had studied in class. Unfortunately, we were not able to take many pictures in the museums. When we got to the Reina Sofía (“Queen Sofia”) museum, named after the current queen of Spain and wife of King Juan Carlos I, we saw Guernica by Pablo Picasso. This painting is a depiction of the devastation in this city of the same name, located in the Basque Country (País Vasco) in northern Spain, after a bombing on April 26, 1937 during the Civil War. The Spanish Civil War lasted from 1936 to 1939 and resulted in a more than 30-year dictatorship under General Francisco Franco. I know you are thinking that since classes have ended and we are in the midst of travelling before we depart for the United States that we did not have any work to do, right? Wrong! We had a paper about Guernica, which was due to our professors the evening before our flight home. This gives real meaning to the term study abroad. But, who would mind studying when you’re doing so in the midst of such wonderful sights?
To me, family is most important. I had very mixed emotions about coming home. On one hand, I was very sad because I knew that I was officially leaving my new family that I had come to love over these last 5 weeks. On the other hand, I was very excited to see my office family whose warm smiles, hugs, and personalities I had missed very much. Best of all, I was overjoyed and could not wait to get back to all of my family that have loved and cared for me all of my life! Pictures in Spain just wouldn’t do!! Finally, I mentioned during Week 1’s blog that my very good friend Amber had compiled letters from various family and friends to remind me of home. I opened one letter each week when I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with my studies, got frustrated because I was lost in the city, or just needed a pick-me-up. The letters were from my mother, sister, and coworkers/friends, including Amber. These letters were filled with pictures and words of encouragement that reminded me of home and/or made me laugh. Also, being able to e-mail and call my family while I was abroad was so special to me. All of this really touched my heart! I am so happy to know that I both came home to and have a family abroad that really care. This is a big part of what makes life worth living.
After I returned home, Spain made it into the finals of the World Cup. The day of the final match against the Netherlands, I wore a shirt I had purchased in Spain that said España, and I put up the Spanish flag in hopes that they would win. Also, I chanted the following:
“¡Ganó España, ganó España-La Copa Mundial…son los campeones! (Spain won! Spain won-The World Cup! They are the champs!)
P.S. from Tommy la Tortuguita:
Before we began this trip my previous owner told Tiffany that I like sunny days and strawberries. Fortunately, we experienced many bright and sun shiny days in Spain. Some days I even had to stay inside of my shell because it was so hot! However, I did poke my head out for the important attractions like the Roman ruins in Mérida, La Alhambra in Granada, the cathedral in Sevilla, and the Reina Sofía museum in Madrid. Now, I was a little unhappy about the lack of strawberries on the trip! When we went to the feria (weekly market) one time they were selling fresas (strawberries) and Tiffany wouldn’t buy me any. Also, her host mom made a delicious strawberry and yogurt treat of which I partook none! She did redeem herself when she shared some of her chocolate cake topped with strawberries, also made by her host mom. It was yummy! Despite the fact that I was deprived my favorite fruit, Tiffany was a great travel companion. She took lots of pictures which I facebooked so all my other “shell-tured” friends could see my fabulous life. “Shell-tured,” get it? Sometimes I crack myself up!! Anyway, I enjoyed visiting Spain and will definitely return with her in the future. ¡Hasta luego!