As we head back home after studying abroad, the time has come to say our goodbyes to the places we love the most.
Places that at once were strange, confusing to navigate, and full to the brim with possibility.
The date of departure, kept far from the horizons of our thoughts, now stands us right in the eye. But we still remain unsure as to how we are supposed to face it.
Nothing makes sense. What was once unnoticed now fills our hearts with joy: the color of a certain building, the smell of a certain season.
The buzz of a city became the white noise that lulls us to sleep. The colors of a flag that once felt foreign became colors that now resonate with our beliefs and our identities. The people we barely knew became good friends, best friends, to whom we cannot bear to say the dreaded “goodbye.”
The small things became big, and everything that we now fit inside our suitcases just simply isn’t enough. Google: How to stow away a few friends, a favorite building, a café I went to every day of the week…
It all feels unbearably heavy to think that we will leave these places and leave ourselves in these places along with it. Because although we may visit in the future, life in that moment will not be the same. People grow—we grow—and the time and place that we lived in past moments become exactly that: the past.
But to have things remain, as they are and as they will be, is not the point.
Life is a transition of stages, varying in people and place. We do not learn when sitting comfortably in the rooms we’ve had since we were 5. We do not appreciate the world in which we live unless we have a reason to.
And this is reason enough.
We are lucky because we have experienced something extraordinary that makes the thought of being ordinary so frightening and foreign.
We are lucky because we have met people and known places that make saying goodbye so heart-wrenchingly difficult.
We are lucky because the miracles we have known this past semester or year are miracles we will have our entire lives.
The joys we have experienced and knowledge we have gained will remain with us forever. The people we have come to love and the places we now call home will always be a part of who we are. As we do new things and go to new places, we bring a part of ourselves that was once built by them.
We will continue to discover, continue to learn, and continue to connect for as long as we live, whether we are abroad or not. Because the miracles of people and places—knowing, loving, connecting—exist all around the globe. And as long as we are alive, we have the chance to partake in them.
So amid the emotional roller coaster, we should choose to remain in good spirits.
Because underneath it all, we are happy, in simple light of the fact that we are doing something good. If we were to shed tears, they would be tears of sadness, but on the basis of pure joy.
The gratitude I feel and love I have will always outweigh the strange sorrows of leaving and ending. The future is bright, as is the present.
The reality is that we will leave things and end things throughout our entire lives. This is something sad.
But another reality is this: We will have things and start things throughout our entire lives. This is something happy.
And we can cherish them, love them, and reflect on them, for as long as we live.
And if there is anything we have learned while studying abroad, it is how to cherish, how to love, and how to live.
So if we are to cry, let us cry every hour of the flight back home. But may we know with full confidence that they are tears of joy.
And that we have every reason to be happy.