I’ve always thought that when it comes to being a millennial, the biggest burden we carry is our love of travel. We have found ease and comfort with travel — something our parents and grandparents did not have before us. Things like study abroad have become a norm for most college students, and we establish ourselves as global citizens as we have adventures in places like England, China, Argentina, or South Africa. We have found our independence and in turn, found ourselves. But like any good love story, our hearts have also been broken into a million pieces.
My first love story was not with a boy, a slice of pizza, or even my dog. I fell truly, madly, deeply (a la Savage Garden) in love with “my place” the summer going into my senior year in high school. I had decided to spend a month in Spain in a Spanish immersion program, but little did I know how much it was going to change my life.
We took a few trips to various cities, and when we arrived in Sevilla I knew I was done for. I remember walking in the neighborhood around our hotel and feeling at home but utterly confused. I had never been here before, so how did I feel so connected to this place? When we saw a flamenco show for the first time, I cried. I didn’t cry because the performance moved me. I cried because I knew that my short time in Sevilla was soon coming to an end, and I was missing a place that I hadn’t even left yet.
I returned to “my place” in college when I studied abroad for a spring semester. I felt more at home than ever. When my parents came to visit me, I remember feeling like they actually understood me now. It was then when I mentioned I wanted to go back, and about a year and a half later after graduation, I returned to teach English. I felt like I never wanted to leave.
As much as I missed my family every time I was gone, I was at my happiest because I was truly in love with who I was when I was in “my place.” I could walk down the streets like I had known them all my life, I danced flamenco in my flamenco dress at the annual Feria de Abril, and I now speak Spanish with a Sevillana accent. My friends from Sevilla lovingly call me “la Gitana de Boston,” a term which signifies my ability to blend in like a local. I was, and continue to be, changed for the better.
However, as millennials, our burden with our love to travel and ability to connect to a place is very much a blessing in disguise. I came back because I felt that’s what I needed to do: to start “the real world.”
Now that I’m back in the states, I never feel truly myself even though I’m surrounded by people I love and in the place where I grew up. I continue having a hard time finding the balance between regretting my decision to come “home” and believing that this is my path that was chosen for me. I feel like I leave a part of myself every time I go back and it’s painful. Half of my heart is left in “my place” and sometimes I don’t know how to deal with it. I ask myself: could my life have been different if I stayed? Would I continue to feel the same happiness I feel now? Should I just pick up and leave?
Let me tell you, millennials, however hard it is, I wouldn’t give it up for the world. This is life. We make decisions and hope we make the right ones. Although it’s hard sometimes, my experiences have given my life a richness I cannot explain. I remind myself how lucky I am that I have friends that treat me like family across an ocean. I am reminded that Sevilla is not going anywhere and that I am always welcome.
So go! Get on a plane, train, or in a car and leave your heart somewhere. Maybe if you’re lucky enough, you too will find your place.
About the Author:
Nicole Chininis is a Study Abroad Advisor currently living in Somerville, Massachusetts. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Global Studies and Spanish from Providence College, as well as a Masters in Business Administration degree from Bentley University. When not trying to encourage university students to travel the world, you can find her either listening to music, watching Boston sports or dancing salsa.