Now that it’s April, it’s hit me. I will be leaving Spain in a little more than a month, and I still haven’t explored so much of the country.
After spending exactly two weeks backpacking through Rome and Greece during my spring break, I can barely explain how glad I was to be back in Spain. By this point of my study abroad experience, Spain practically feels like home.
Because backpacking usually entails traveling through many cities on a low budget, it’s unlikely that one would want to bring a 40 pound suitcase – when traveling, I’ve learned that less is more.
One of my classmates and I began our two week journey in the city of Rome. We booked a cheap hostel for 8 euros a night in order to save money, which meant that we could spend more money on delicious Italian pizza and pasta.
In about two and a half days, I had the luxury to indulge in the wonders of Vatican City, the Sistine Chapel, the Roman Colosseum, the Roman Forum and many other miraculous monuments and piazzas.
Overall, Rome is probably my favorite city in Europe. Despite the thousands of tourists and people attempting to sell us selfie sticks, Rome felt like an eternal city. Although we tiredly crammed in most of the city’s main attractions in a short time, there is still much more to see. Apart from Spain, I could definitely see myself living in Italy because the two cultures are so similar. Greece, on the other hand, is a different story.
After a rickety flight through a somewhat intense storm, we arrived in Athens at about 9 p.m. Once we got on the metro, I immediately felt like I was in another world.
In Italy, I could somewhat understand the language because it is so similar to Spanish. Because of the Greek alphabet, navigating Greece was sometimes a whirlwind.
Traveling to the ruins of Delphi, for example, proved to be a struggle when we were unable to find the bus stop due to our lack of understanding of the Greek alphabet. Plus, when we asked strangers for directions, few people could even understand us. Eventually, we made it to Delphi with a little help from our hostel receptionist and began to explore the rest of Greece.
Although I loved the Acropolis of Athens and the fusion of Middle Eastern and European culture in Athens, my favorite part of Greece was probably Agistri Island. It’s not the most populous island in the world, but it’s striking – it has the bluest water that I have ever seen in my life.
I also adored our last stop in Greece, which was Thessaloniki – a coastal Bohemian city in the north that is famous for its nightlife, delicious sweets and historic Byzantine churches. I enjoyed the beaches and the nightlife, but once I was back in Spain, I couldn’t really imagine leaving it again.
Because I have been living in Spain so long, I now feel like a Spaniard. The culture, the customs and the food are all second nature to me, so living in Greece for a week was somewhat of an adjustment.
I have my last big trip out of Spain planned at the end of April to Amsterdam and Germany – two other distinct cultures that I am very eager to explore. However, after that trip, I will be content in Spain until I have to leave at the end of May.
From the Spanish friends that I’ve made, to trying new things and improving my language skills, my study abroad experience has been extremely worthwhile, and I am thankful to everyone who has helped support me through the trip. The experience has opened my mind, my heart and my spirit in a way like never before.
Sienna Vance can be reached at @firstname.lastname@example.org.