A Critique of Abroad

It's winter break. Sitting at a rather "hipster-chic" café, wedged in a narrow street in the heart of Seville, Spain, I casually sip my coffee and glance up at the auburn walls decorated with plates disguised at modern art. I give an invisible shrug and dive back into the latest Vila-Mates novel, accustomed to the monthly changing of the art. As an abroad student, time passes in dog years and light years at the same time.

Holiday vacation, Christmas lights, and nativity markets. It's a very distinct feeling living abroad not just for one semester, but two. Twenty minutes have passed waiting on (of course) a Spanish friend, and it's really starting to sink in. I realize it permeates through every daily action now, that I do live here (for now).

That easy feeling of anonymity and temporality has faded. I have local friends, regular routines, and I know that homeless man and his dog that always sit on that corner. I'm starting to feel like a "normal person" again. Like I'm really a part of the city.

Snapped from my reverie, my friend Luis was finally walking through the swinging door. A bit frazzled and panting from the bike-ride over, he "dos besoed" with me and we found a place in the corner to get comfortable and order a beer.

I remember this day distinctly, because one of his many "theories of life" talks really stuck with me. He calls it "La teoría del velódromo," or The Theory of the Velodrome, because as we go through the actions of our days it's like we're riding a bike. Some people are racing around as fast as they can to cross the finish line, and others are just enjoying the ride. But everyone is guilty of falling into this cycle, of visiting the same places with the same people when they get comfortable. It's a round about way of saying that we end up cycling in a circle, caught doing the same things, feeling comfortable in the "familiar." Which isn't necessarily good or bad. It just is.

At 22, you're in this period of your life where you know that you should know what you want, but you don't even know how to go about it. It's like you're trying to find your spot in the velodrome and veer away from it at the same time. Your trials and tribulations are like the beginning and end of the world, so dramatic. Sometimes you hate yourself, but you're still incredibly self-important. I've been embracing my age abroad.

Having your parents helping you to pay for the program, the "abroad experience" can be very staged. Sometimes it's hard, being here, and lonely. I'm still a bit of a stranger to the language and acutely aware of how I express myself and if I mess up my sentence structure. But it's also amazing and totally different every day. I think being difficult is kind of the point.

Searching for yourself, and for validation of who you've become, then learning more about yourself. Finding answers to questions you may not have even had before. To be so self-involved and genuinely interested in "the others" at the same time... It's an odd phenomenon.

I don't know if I'm ready to find my rhythm yet, to be going around that same track every day. I don't consider home as one place anymore. It's not necessarily Seattle or San Francisco, but I don't think I would consider it Seville either. I feel like I'm drifting a bit, floating between infinite spaces. Not sure I'm even on a bike anymore, but I'm loving every second. Abroad in your twenties, everything is so important yet so fleeting.