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June 28, 2012

Republished from their personal blog with permission from the authors, we’re going to catch up with Gamecock volleyball student-athletes Cara Howley and Lindsey Craft during their trip to Spain as part of their international business program. Content may be edited from its original form. These were originally posted on June 15.

It has been about a week since we landed on American soil, and our lives have already picked up where we left them. It amazes me how things stay the same even when you feel like everything in your life has changed. I wanted to share how I felt about our journey and the things Spain has taught me (us). Although it had its obvious ups and downs, the journey forced us to grow up a little bit and see the world from a different perspective.

Spain. Where I transformed myself. Where I learned a second language. Where I felt angst, confusion, happiness and pure joy. Where I left my safe, comfortable life and threw myself into a pit of the unknown. I left my life of cookie-cutter schedules, stressful classes, loving friends, family and boyfriend, the comfort of volleyball and discovered things within myself I never knew I would. I discovered that I could thrive in another country, find peace within the unknown, let my mind rest and become at ease with serenity.

There is a beautiful word in Spanish that has trailed me this entire trip: tranquillo. This word describes everything in Spain, the people, the food, the schooling, the relationships and the mindsets. It is the word that made me feel like a fish out of water when I first got there, as I am so used to over thinking everything in my life. I am always so concerned with controlling everything in my little world, worried what would happen if I let go of my grasp. But here I am, one month later, and I’ve released my tight grasp. I feel content with letting the world pan out as it may and just living in the moment. I wrote about Carpe Diem earlier in this trip, emphasizing seizing every day. However, I have realized that seizing each day is not so much about making plans but getting lost, not so much about discovering happiness but stumbling upon it. I have encountered so many different experiences here in Spain. I have observed traditions, soaked up culture and discovered that I had the capability to live a life not too dissimilar from the one I have found myself thrown into.

Although this journey started with confusion and resentment, it has ended with respect and an immense amount of appreciation. It has forced me to become a better person and to put myself first for the first time in a long time. I have done what I have wanted to do, only what would fill me up, and have had no remorse. So yes, I will indeed miss the tranquillo city of Salamanca but for much more than solely the outward appearances. I will miss it for its hidden beauties, for its rich traditions, for its way of life, but most importantly, I will miss the person that this city has turned me into.

I made a promise to Lindsey yesterday that we would return to Salamanca in 10 years. A decade can surely change a person. You can fall in and out of love, you can switch jobs, finish school, move in and out of homes and apartments, but Salamanca will always be here waiting for our return. It is a place for us to come and escape. It is a place for us to find ourselves again on the cobblestone streets, to drink the Spanish wine and to eat a healthy dose of chocolate.