Every day now the end of my journey looks closer and closer, and I’ll have to start saying my good-byes soon. My first farewell though is to my readers, as it is time for a wrap up of this diary and a conclusion for this story.
It has been a quite amazing year, for the best and for the worst.
On the dark side, I should be honest and say I have probably never cried so much in my life. Especially at winter time, I got very sick of my job and tired of not seeing many friendly faces around. I got really depressed with loneliness and missed my life back in Bath as much as England misses having a decent football team. Probably didn’t help my boyfriend was on the other side of the world either.
Placement years can be quite challenging because of the emotional and psychological pressure of adapting to a new life style, and for all the nostalgia of university life. The word “nostalgia” actually comes from that wonderfully poetic language that is Ancient Greek, “algos” (=pain) + “nostos” (=return, homecoming). Ulysses was nostalgic of Ithaca because he desperately wanted to go back home, so much he almost felt physically sick. From my experience and from talking with my friends, it seems a lot of us got ill with the wish to return to university this year.
But I do believe people should hold on and don’t let the feeling of missing take the upper-hand. Things do improve. And indeed, life got much better eventually. I made great friends that will stay for life. I lived the Spanish way, with its chilled attitude based on relishing life in all its forms: from food and drinks to love and friendship to street life, with its music, dances and protests. I enjoyed the beach and the wine, and I loved finally not being the only one talking too loud and with my hands. I discovered I could write a blog that people apparently are interested in reading. And I’ve got confident enough in Spanish to do the major part of the research for my dissertation speaking the language with natives.
Things indeed got so much better that I will come to miss them: for example, the sense of camaraderie in the office. I felt it more than ever last Friday at the usual work breakfast. The dismay everyone had on their faces for the Brexit turned into smiles, as we all consoled and tried to cheer each other up.
As I said before, because the office is so small it really facilitates intimacy, cheerfulness, and a sense of “I’ve got your back”. Never could I have imagined the arguments on politics with my boss, the surprise parties, or the Christmas chants we would have had together.
I am pretty satisfied with my life now, if it wasn’t for the melting summer temperature. Some days, with the sun shining up in the blue sky and a gentle breeze carrying the smell of jasmine, it really feels like heaven isn’t far away.
And still, I am happy to go back to Bath soon.
So, what is the morale?
I am convinced more than ever that a placement year is an incredibly valuable opportunity. Even if the risk of ending up with dull tasks for months are quite high, is still really valuable to get some hands on experience and just learn how things work in the workplace (no bad pun intended). For example, I have often been told I have a “bronze face”, meaning I too often speak my mind when I shouldn’t. I learnt the importance of diplomacy and of controlling the need to express your thoughts at all costs, and how my more feisty side can be moderated without necessarily meaning a loss of authenticity.
The whole year has been a series of life lessons I will bring on in every future job and interview.
I would recommend anyone that had the chance to do so to go abroad. Not only for discovering new cultures and ways of living, meeting new people and integrating in a new society, without even starting going on about the usefulness of learning a new language. But also, I feel being abroad would prevent the stress related to not feeling you are using your potential in your job, as the whole experience would give you meaning and satisfaction.
Finally, I do need to act a bit pretentiously and talk of the “journey of self-discovery”. On one of those more depressed days I was reading the great Andalusian poet Federico Garcia Lorca, and one of his verses stuck in my head: “Pero yo ya no soy yo, ni mi casa es mi casa” (but I’m not myself anymore, nor my home is my home).
I feel this year changed me in ways I can’t yet quite underpin, but that I definitely recognize in so far as I am not the same person who arrived here at the start of September. The whole experience opened me up, teared me apart and then repositioned my pieces, so that I feel like a Picasso painting (accidentally, he was born in Malaga!). I would need the clarity of time and distance to be able to reconstruct the picture in a way that makes sense to me.
I didn’t want this post to be heavy so I better conclude, although I feel I have so many more thoughts, just too meddled to be put down on paper clearly. The whole experience has been chaotically beautiful, and if I had the chance, I’d do it all again.
Thank you everyone for reading my posts throughout the year, it has been a pleasure to write for you.
*Unfortunately I didn’t come up with such a brilliant title myself; it is taken from a book by David Lipsky (“Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace”).