Monday, 22 May 2017

”Og når jeg vender hjem, ved jeg så meget mere, end da jeg tog afsted.”


ENGLISH BELOW
Overskriften stammer fra et blogindlæg, som jeg skrev et par dage inden jeg drog til Salamanca i juni 2012. Den opmærksomme læser (joke) vil vide, at jeg startede denne her blog i sommeren 2013, lige inden jeg rejste ud i verden efter gymnasiet. De færrste ved, at jeg havde en blog, som jeg startede helt tilbage i 2009. Der var ikke mange, der kendte til den, og læser jeg den nu, er jeg glad for, at det var tilfældet. Tåkrummende, for at sige det mildt. Jeg stoppede med at skrive der, da jeg startede denne her. Men jeg skrev om Salamanca. Salamanca var nemlig en stor begivenhed, det var min 2. sprogrejse og hele historien fortjener næsten at blive delt her også. Det bliver en lang smøre! 

Min familie ved det godt, men mange af de mennesker jeg har i mit liv nu, kom til efter mit gymnasieliv. Så I skal have det lille stykke af Sofies livshistorie med. Salamanca var nemlig på mange måder med til at forme den person, som jeg er i dag. Dramatisk, hva'? 

I december 2011 sendte jeg en mail til vicerektoren på mit gymnasium (Aalborghus Gymnasium), hvori jeg vedhæftede en ansøgning til skolens årlige rejselegat på 5000 kroner, som blev uddelt af Aalborghus' Venner. Jeg fortalte om min kærlighed til det spanske sprog og om hvordan jeg ville bruge pengene på at rejse til enten Spanien eller Latinamerika for at nærstudere sproget der, hvor det bliver talt. Jeg husker meget tydeligt, hvordan jeg et par dage efter, at mailen var sendt, fik en mail tilbage fra min e-mailudbyder om, at mailen ikke kunne afleveres. Og jeg kunne se, at min mail var havnet tilbage i mine kladder. Jeg tænkte ikke videre over det, da jeg vidste, at kampen om legatet var hård, da forrige års vinder havde virkelig ambitiøse mål og jeg huskede godt, hvor imponeret, jeg var over vedkommendes ansøgning. Men på en eller anden magisk måde, var mailen alligevel kommet frem, og i vores spanskblok d. 15. december 2011, bankede vicerektoren på døren ind til lokale 136, hvor min klasse, 2.c, sad og terpede spanske verber. Han hev mig udenfor lokalet og fortalte mig, at det var meget vigtigt, at jeg dukkede op til skolens fødselsdag, som blev holdt dagen efter. Altid d. 16. december. Stor morgensamling for hele skolen efterfulgt af galla om aftenen. Først havde jeg ingen anelse, hvad han snakkede om, men stille og roligt gik det op for mig. Med et slog det mig, og nervøsisteten skyllede ind over mig som en 2 meter høj bølge. Det var ikke spænding over at have vundet; jeg var dødnervøs for at skulle op, foran hele skolen, og modtage legatet.

For ikke at tale om, at legatet også indebar at jeg skulle fortælle om min brug af legatet på skolens fødselsdag et år ude i fremtiden. Det vidste jeg nemlig godt, var en af kriterierne, hvilket også var grunden til, at jeg ikke var alt for nedtrykt over, at min ansøgning tilsyndeladende aldrig kom afsted. En fremlæggelse, foran hele skolen? Nej tak. Men der var ingen vej tilbage nu. Heldigvis var dette jo først et år frem i tiden. Det kunne jeg godt glemme. I hvert fald for nu.

Da jeg kom ind i klassen igen, kiggede de alle sammen på mig. Vicerektor kommer ikke uanmeldt for ingenting, men jeg fik besked på at holde min mund. Så det måtte jeg jo gøre. Nogle af mine klassekammerater synes vist nok lige, jeg var på den høje hest, men jeg havde egentlig heller ikke lyst til at snakke om det. Jeg var allerede ved at spille skrækscenarier i mit indre fjernsyn. Vi havde naturgeografi og idræt i de efterfølgende blokke. Der skulle øves lanciers til galla den følgende dag, og jeg var lige ved at kaste op. Jeg spiste ikke noget efter spanskblokken den dag af ren nervøsitet. Jeg sov vist heller ikke om natten. Nu tænker I nok.. selvsikre og seje Sofie, hvorfor var hun så nervøs (husk det ene gran salt!)? Så slemt kunne det ikke have været!

Det var det skam heller ikke.. Jeg skulle jo ikke tale eller noget.
Det var nemmere end en fremlæggelse foran min klasse.

Men det var heller ikke udsigten til at skulle stå foran hele skolen, der gjorde mig nervøs. Det var udsigten til at skulle op foran ham.

Lad os bare sige, at der var et specielt individ, som jeg havde et meget godt øje til, som helt sikkert ville være tilstede, og som jeg håbede endelig ville lægge mærke til mig. Jeg havde vitterligt brugt måneder på at håbe, at han ville lægge mærke til mig. Jeg havde meldt mig til en gruppe for litteraturnørder på skolen og jeg havde meldt mig til gruppen, der organiserede OD-dagen for gymansiet. Der var ikke nogen, der skulle komme og sige, at jeg ikke prøvede. Og så skulle det skek sådan her. Foran hele skolen. 17-årige Sofie og hendes teenageforelskelser, altså. Men det var stort for hende. For mig. Jeg kan stadig huske hvordan de sommerfugle baskede løs.

15. december blev til 16. december og jeg havde matematik i første blok med tre af pigerne fra min egen klasse og så ellers ene drenge fra eliteidrætsklassen. Jeg lavede absolut ingenting den time og jeg var lige ved at gå ud af mit gode skind. "Det er ikke det værd, jeg takker bare nej til legatet, der er intet der er denne her kvalme værd!" nåede jeg at tænke en god portion gange, imens jeg prøvede at lytte til vores lærer, der var ved at forsøge at få os til at forstå differentialkvotienter. Timen rindede ud, og vi gik alle i samlet flok over til vores store gymnastiksal, hvor morgensamlingen skulle finde sted. Vi fandt sammen med resten af vores klasse; vi havde alle sammen haft vores B-valgfag den morgen. Jeg husker næsten intet af det, der skete i løbet af de to timer, som morgensamlingen varede. Jeg husker kun tre ting.

Jeg husker hvor musestille og stivfrossen jeg sad, da rektor begyndte at læse min ansøgning højt. Mine klassekammerater kiggede på mig, da det gik op for dem, hvad alt ståhejet havde drejet sig om. Han behøvede ikke engang læse den færdigt, før de forstod, at det var min ansøgning.
Jeg husker at stå deroppe, ved siden af rektor, med udsigt til 800 elever, hvis 1600 øjne kigger i min retning. Det tog vitterligt kun et minut eller to. 
Og så husker jeg, at han sad lige foran mig og smilede, imens han klappede af mig sammen med resten af salen. Og min lykke var gjort.

Og således blev det, at jeg nu skulle til et spansktalende land i sommeren 2012. Nu var der ingen vej tilbage. Efter min sporgrejse til London havde det været på tale meget løst, men det her var sparket, der fik mig til at gøre det. Jeg skulle jo ligesom give dem noget at skrive i nyhedsbrevet, så jeg gik i gang med at undersøge destinationerne. Latinamerika var pebret og langt væk, så det var klart, at det skulle være Spanien. Valencia og Málaga var mest på tale. Jeg hældte mest til Málaga, da jeg var meget tryllebundet af muligheden for dagsture til Marokko. Jeg havde jo aldrig været i Afrika, så det var jeg meget betaget af. Første gang Salamanca var på tale, var da vores vikar i spansk foreslog byen. Vores højtelskede spansklærer måtte tage fri i et par uger og det faldt sammen med min beslutning om hvor jeg skulle tage hen. Vi syntes alle sammen, at vores vikar var en nød. Det ord brugte jeg endda i en email-korrespondance med min onkel, da vi snakkede frem og tilbage om destinationer. Vikaren synes ikke, at Andalusien var oplagt da de ikke ville være de bedste rollemodeller mht. til at lære spansk og hun afskrev Valencia grundet det valencianske sprog. Så foreslog hun Salamanca og jeg nægtede, ikke om den nød skulle ende med at give mig vinderdestinationen. Men det kom hun til, kan I jo nok gætte jer til. At Salamanca så er epicenteret for unge udlændinge, der kommer hertil for at lære spansk er en mindre detajle. Det vidste jeg jo ikke dengang. Det er bare en sjov detajle.

Hold da op, det blev en lang smøre. Godt gået, hvis I stadig er med! Vi er sleeeeeet ikke færdige endnu. Jeg har jo ikke fortalt om selve opholdet!

Efter at have definitivt afskrevet alle andre byer i Spanien, faldt valget så på Salamanca. Jeg fandt et dansk bureau, der havde kontakt til forskellige sprogskoler rundt omkring i Spanien og de fandt min skole til mig. Hvis der nogensinde er nogen, der overvejer at tage til Spanien, så kan jeg på det varmeste anbefale min skole (tryk på linket for at komme til deres hjemmeside). De har lækre og billige lejligheder og deres lærere er fantastiske. Det vil I ikke fortryde. Ok, reklame slut. 

Godt 6 måneder senere sad jeg på et fly til Madrid, hvorfra jeg tog bussen til Salamanca. Salamanca har ingen lufthavn, hvilket er et minus. Men det lærer man at leve med. Så vidt jeg husker, var det første gang, jeg nogensinde fløj alene. Hvis man altså ikke tæller indenrigsflyvninger til København med. Og det gør jeg ikke. Jeg var spændt som en fjeder. Jeg forventede ikke dette eventyr til at være ligesom mit eventyr i London det forrige år, men jeg forventede en ligeså fantastisk tur. Som jeg skrev i et afsluttede blogindlæg på min tidligere blog, da jeg kom hjem: "Turen til Spanien var anderledes. Meget anderledes. Der var færre faste rammer og det eneste holdepunkt, jeg havde dernede, var det, at jeg skulle i skole et par timer hver dag. Det var frit. Jeg kom i en klasse med en helt masse fantastiske piger, og det var vildt anderledes, end alt jeg havde prøvet før." Jeg boede med to piger: Saori fra Japan og Fabiana fra Brasilien. I sandhed to af de mest godhjertede og store mennesker, jeg nogensinde har mødt. Jeg tog på tur til Segovia og Madrid med nogle af mine venner, lavede uendelige mængder af lektier, terpede hvad der føltes som en million nye spanske verber- og tilhørende tider. Jeg havde en fantastisk måned. Der er specielt en aften/nat, der skiller sig særlig meget ud, og som, så dramatisk som det lyder, har været med til at forme den person, som jeg er i dag. 

Omtalte aften starter ud i en park, der ligger et par minutter fra den lejlighed, hvor jeg boede. Skolen holdte en 'fest' for alle elever, måske en jubilæumsfest, det husker jeg ikke. Jeg dukker op lige på slaget 19. Man er vel skandinavisk. Jeg er selvfølgelig den eneste elev, der er kommet så tidligt. Jeg sætter mig ned og snakker med de lærere, der er ankommet. Jeg må være ret optaget af vores samtale, for jeg bemærker ikke, at der sætter sig en gruppe elever ved bordet bag mig. En nyligt ankommet lærer prikker mig på skulderen, peger på gruppen bag mig og genner mig over, hvor hun gør signal til, at jeg skal sætte mig ned. Det er lidt akavet, men jeg præsenterer mig på spansk og de smiler alle sammen og er meget ivrige for, at jeg skal sætte mig ned. Så det gør jeg. De viser sig at være de marinesoldater (i træning), som jeg har hørt så meget om, men aldrig set på skolen. Lidt ligesom Loch Ness-uhyret. De er i Salamanca for at lære spansk, går alle sammen på US Naval Academy i Annapolis og er i gang med deres 2. år på universitet. Det spanske går ikke for godt, så jeg slutter mig til samtalen på engelsk. 5 drenge og 2 piger. Klokken er 19.30 på det her tidspunkt og jeg rammer min lejlighed igen omkring kl. 3 om natten. Efter en helt fantastisk aften. De var alle sammen et par år ældre end mig, og 17 årige Sofie var helt euforisk. De roste mig for min amerikanske accent, syntes jeg var så modig for at have rejst til Spanien helt alene (amerikanere..) og de var meget interesserede i at lære om Danmark. En af dem troede helt legitimt at Danmark var frossen. Ligesom Grønland, går jeg ud fra. Altid godt at kunne oplyse folk, ikke? De fortalte mig om livet som fremtidige marinesoldater, og jeg havde aldrig grint så meget på en aften. Pigerne bad mig om ikke at dømme alle amerikanere ud fra drengene, der var ekstremt fjollede og stillede de mest mærkelige spørgsmål. Men hvis alle amerikanere var sådan, så skulle jeg da til USA. Det var helt sikkert! Jeg havde en fortryllende aften og jeg var overbevidst om, at jeg lige havde fået venner for livet.

Meget til min skuffelse, skulle de videre næste dag. De havde været på skolen i alt den tid jeg selv havde været der, og så møder jeg dem på deres sidste aften?! Jeg var godt gal i skralden og fuldstændig overbevidst om, at jeg nu skulle til at savne mine nye bedste venner. Men der var noget, der havde ændret sig i mig i løbet af de foregående 24 timer, da jeg sagde farvel til dem op ad eftermiddagen. Jeg følte mig lige pludselig udadvendt på en måde, jeg ikke havde følt mig udadvendt på før. Hvad end det var det, at jeg var blevet velkommet ind i en gruppe af mennesker, der allerede kendte hinanden og hvori jeg følte mig 100% komfortabel eller om det var det, at de alle sammen havde været ekstremt søde da vi sagde farvel på trods af at nogle af dem helt sikkert ikke kunne huske mig dagen efter (alkohol, I ved..) men alligevel alle sammen skrev søde hilsner på mit flag - det ved jeg ikke. Det var nok en kombination af det hele, men jeg lærte noget meget vigtigt i løbet af korte bekendskab med marinesoldaterne. Hver gang jeg stopper mig selv fra at kaste mig ud i situationer som potentielt kan være akavede/ubehagelige, er der en chance, hvorend lille, at jeg går glip af noget, der ville gøre mig glad. Jeg forventede en meget akavet dagen derpå med nogle af dem, da umyndige amerikanere har det med at drikke lidt mere end hvad godt er, når de endelig er i udlandet. Men de gav mig alle sammen deres Facebook og deres telefonnumre. Der var slet ikke noget akavet ved det, og det var en perfekt afsked. Alligevel spøjst at en enkelt aften med 7 kommende marinesoldater kunne give mig den livslektion, ikke? Vi har oftest mere at vinde, end vi har at tabe, og det har jeg husket lige siden. Det var ikke alt det spansk, jeg lærte, som jeg husker bedst fra min tid i Salamanca - det var aftenen med de 7 marinesoldater.  

Jeg så dem aldrig igen, på trods af at jeg har været i USA tre gange siden jeg mødte dem. Venskaberne holdt ikke og det kunne jeg nok have sagt mig selv. En aften var ikke nok, og det er helt ok. Jeg har i den grad lært efterfølgende, at de bare var begyndelsen. De forberedte mig på hvad der ventede mig forude. For første gang mærkede jeg den følelse, som jeg har stiftet bekendtskab med en del gange siden da. Når man rejser, møder man mange mennesker, og nogle af dem bliver man glad for. De kan forsvinde ligeså hurtigt, som man mødte dem. Det kan gøre virkelig ondt. Det har jeg lært på egen krop. Min aften med marinesoldaterne skulle ikke være mere end bare det. Det, jeg lærte af dem, lærte jeg imens vi var sammen, og det er endnu en livslektion, jeg tog med mig derfra. Ikke alle dem, jeg krydser på min vej, skal have en plads i mit liv, uanset hvor meget jeg har nydt at være sammen med dem. 

Der var dog andre mennesker, som blev i mit liv og heldigvis for det. Jeg besøgte Saori i Tokyo året efter vi havde boet sammen i Salamanca og jeg boede hos Fabiana i 5 uger i São Paulo (brasilianerne vinder helt klart prisen for klodens mest gæstfrie folkefærd!), da jeg var i Sydamerika. Havde du spurgt mig, da jeg tog hjem fra Salamanca, om jeg i min vildeste fantasi havde forestillet mig, at jeg ville se dem så relativt hurtigt igen, så havde jeg rystet på hovedet og grint af dig. Indtil jeg tog til Salamanca, var de af mine venner, der boede længst væk, dem der boede i København. Samme land, samme kontinent. Det var nemt. Men nu, nu skulle jeg vænne mig til at have venner, der boede flere oceaner væk og på andre halvkugler. Nu her, 5 år senere, er jeg (desværre) mere end vant til at nogle af mine bedste venner bor på andre kontinenter. Den dag jeg sagde farvel til Fabiana, lovede jeg hende, at jeg ville komme og besøge hende i Brasilien. Tomme ord var det vel, for jeg troede ikke, det ville være muligt før langt ude i fremtiden. Men siden da har jeg aktivt gjort mig umage for at passe de venskaber, som jeg gerne ser vare resten af livet. Også de oversøiske. Og der, folkens, har I en af grundene til, at jeg rejser så meget.

Mit liv ændrede sig på mange måder efter Salamanca. Da jeg kom hjem igen, besluttede jeg mig endelig for, hvad der skulle ske med mit liv efter gymnasiet. Jeg startede 3.g to uger senere. Jeg kedede mig som ind i helvede i spansktimerne det år. Mange af mine klassekammerater kunne knape bøje grundverberne imens min spansklærer bedte mig om at være hjælpelærer. Det eneste, jeg manglede, for at kunne runde min sprogrejse af, var fremlæggelsen. Foran hele skolen. Igen. Jeg havde næsten lykkeligt glemt alt om den, da jeg var i Salamanca. Jeg brugte en god portion timer på en video i løbet af efteråret, men det var svært at lave en film, som jeg ville være komfortabel med at skulle fremvise for hele skolen. Min tur betød meget for mig, og jeg var ikke sikker på, hvor personligt jeg ville lave den. Jeg ville lave noget, der viste hvor langt jeg var kommet med legatet økonomisk, men jeg ville også have et personligt element. Ellers så var der jo ingen pointe. Jeg endte med at lave en lang sekvens af billeder og videoklip af de steder jeg havde været, mine venner, de fester jeg var til og lignende. Det musik, jeg selv havde lyttet til, imens jeg var i Salamanca, havde jeg lagt som baggrundsmusik. Det bragte følelser og minder frem i mig, og jeg håbede vel nærmest, at folk ville forstå, at tonen i musikken reflekterede min kærlighed til det, de så på skærmen. Slutningen af video var et minut med videoer og billeder fra aftenen d. 1. juli 2012. Det var den aften, hvor Spanien vandt 4-0 mod Italien til finalen ved fodbold EM. Jeg befandt mig på Plaza Mayor, det absolutte centrum af Salamanca, sammen med Fabiana og nogle af hendes venner.

Dagen for skolens fødselsdag oprandt, nervøsitetskvalmen viste sit kønne ansigt igen, men jeg var i stand til at styre det denne her gang. Jeg var stadig ikke på toppen, men jeg var klar. Af grunde ingen af os var blevet indvilligede i, fandt morgensamlingen sted i vores gamle gymnastiksal, der havde plads til godt en tredjedel af hele skolen. Det faldt meget godt sammen, kan man vel sige. Det var en del mindre frygtindgydende end sidste år. Der var kun en lille håndfuld af mine klassekammerater, der havde haft valgfag den morgen, så der var kun to drenge fra min klasse, der dukkede op. Jeg skrev følgende i min dagbog om aftenen: 

"Jeg fremlagde min rejse foran hele skolen idag. Det var vildt. Der var virkelig mange, og jeg kunne knapt nok komme op foran af bare mennesker. Men jeg kom derop, og begyndte at snakke. Kunne godt mærke, da jeg snakkede, at jeg ikke hørte, hvad jeg selv sagde og at jeg var ved at snuble over ordene, men jeg gjorde det. Jeg snakkede bare, jeg gjorde det bare udenad og jeg lagde ikke mærke til, hvad jeg sagde. Jeg tror, jeg sagde det rigtige. Tobias og Joakim sagde i hvert fald ikke noget til mig, da jeg kom ned igen. Men altså, jeg snakkede færdigt og gik bagved da videoen spillede. Folk så med og var vist nok interesserede, men da EM-frekvenserne kom, var der nogle der måbede og jeg kunne mærke det fangede deres opmærksomhed. Det var godt. Da den var færdig, gik jeg med Torben ud foran scenen igen og han uddelte det nye rejselegat. Jeg stod bare deroppe og kiggede ned på folk og der var mange, der også kiggede på mig. Det var lidt pinligt. Men jeg gjorde det fucking!" 

Overstående viser vel udemærket, hvordan jeg havde det. Jeg var virkelig stolt. Denne gang var jeg ikke nervøs for at skulle snakke foran en helt masse mennesker. Jeg var nervøs for at skulle vise dem et lille stykke af min sjæl, det stykke sjæl, som jeg havde lagt i videoen. De fleste elever på mit gymnasium kunne ikke være mindre interesserede i at tage på sprogskole og jeg vidste udemærket godt, at de ej heller ville være interesserede i at høre om det. EM-frekvenserne fik folk op på dupperne. Det var noget, de fleste kunne relatere til. At være tilstede på sådan en aften, der hvor det sker, det er aldrig kedeligt. Nationalfest, når det er bedst. Jeg blev nævnt på gymnasiets Facebook-side og jeg fik lov at overrakke en pige fra 2.g med legatet, som hun ville bruge til at rejse til Chicago for at hjælpe udsatte et-eller-andret. Og så var det forbi. På et sekund.

Jeg har ikke været tilbage i Salamanca, siden jeg tog herfra dengang i slutningen af juli, hvilket er næsten 5 år siden. Sidste søndag tog jeg nattoget fra Portugal og meget tidligt mandag morgen kunne jeg endelig stige ud på perronen, hvor skiltet sagde 'Salamanca', badet i den tidlige morgensol. Det var et syn for guder. Gaderne var musestille. Jeg har været rundt i Spanien og Portugal for at se på potentielle skoler til min kandidat, og Salamanca har uden tvivl et af de smukkeste universiteter, jeg nogensinde haft æren af at besøge. Jeg kan ikke finde ordene til at beskrive hvor fantastisk og hvor mærkeligt det er at være tilbage, men jeg ved en ting. Tanken om at jeg skal tilbage til Madrid om et par timer er akkompagneret af en bittersød følelse. Og det er på trods af, at to af mine tætteste venner fra Skotland venter på mig i hovedstaden og på trods af, at vi har billetter til en af de koncenter, jeg ved jeg vil huske for altid, i aften. 

Salamanca føles som et hjem. Jeg kommer tilbage.  

ENGLISH A lot of the people who take up space in my life are people who I, on the most part, did not know 5 years ago. They're people I got to know after I finished high school, after I started travelling the world. Which makes sense, given that most of my friends are people I've met abroad and whilst travelling. Granted, my family and most of my friends from Denmark know the whole story, but most of y'all don't. So, I figured I'd tell you about an important thing that happened to me once. An important trip, that helped shape the Sofie you all met later on and that you have the absolute pleasure of knowing today (irony may occur). 

The title of this blogpost is a somewhat cheesy but also very true phrase which formed part of a post on my old blog, a post I wrote a couple of days before I left for Salamanca. It was June 2012. "Upon my return, I will know more than I did before I left" is the rough translation. Philosophical, innit? I was talented, even back then.

But wait. Sofie. You created this blog in 2013, did you not? Oh why, yes I did. But younger Sofie also had a blog. I kept it a secret for everyone I knew, except a select few..which happened to be penpals that I had never met in person. Coincidence? Today, I thank my younger self that I never showed it to anyone I knew in real life. Cringe as fuck, I tell ya. But it's the perfect gateway to the past. I stopped updating it when I started this one, but all my posts are still there. Including the ones I wrote about Salamanca. Salamanca was a big step for me. It was my 2nd time going abroad to attend a language school. My family and my close friends from when I was younger know the story, but it deserves to be shared again.

Rewind to December 2011. I'm almost halfway through high school. My school (Aalborghus Gymnasium) awards one travel grant (5000 DKK) every year to a selected student who submits the best application. This grant is presented when we celebrate the anniversary of the school, every year on December 16. I remember how in awe I was of the person who won the grant the year before. I could never write an application that was even half a good as that. But nevertheless, I decided to give it a shot and I compiled a short application (really just a cover letter, application might be too fancy of a word) to the vice principal of the school. It was no longer than half a regular Word-page. I talked about my love for the Spanish language and how I would absolutely love to spend my summer in a country where full immersion into the language would be possible. Spain or Latin America. I attached it to an email and sent it off, on December 11th. A couple days later, I received an email from my email provider, letting me know that the delivery of my email was unsuccessful. It was past the deadline. Honestly, I was not too bothered. I was absolutely sure I'd wouldn't get selected anyways, so I got on with my life.

However - and this still puzzles me to this day - the email had somehow been sent, and on December 15th, whilst I was in the middle of conjugating Spanish verbs with the rest of my class in our second period of the day, the vice principal knocked on our door and asked if he could have a word wih me hallway. I remember what classroom we were in, I remember what we studied that period and I remember exaclty how I felt when it dawned upon me what was happening. He never actually said the words; all he said was that I had to be present at the anniversary celebration the following day because the grant was being presented. Something along those lines. See, usually I would be thrilled, and I was, but the overarching feeling in my gut was nervousness. You see, we celebrate the anniversary by gathering in our biggest hall for a two hour long assembly around noon on the 16th. The whole school's there. That's 800+ people for ya. I was thrilled to have been chosen, obviously, but as soon as I realized what I'd have to do the next day, I became sick to my stomach.

And this wasn't all. The grant also requires the recipient to compose a presentation upon their return, to talk about all the good things they did with the money and all. This would also happen at the anniversary assembly. This was a year into the future, but this did not help me feel any calmer. This presentation was also one of the reasons why I wasn't too bothered upon learning that my application was never sent. All I could think about was how I had to be up on stage in front of the entire school, not just once, but twice. But. No turning back now.

The VP congratulated me once more and then left me there hanging. The hallway was dead quiet. I had exciting new information that I couldn't even share with my classmates. Here I was, I'd just won a grant that was going to help me improve my Spanish and I couldn't even tell my Spanish professor! I went back into the classroom and all eyes were on me, curiously asking me what the hell was going on. The VP does not show up unannounced unless something's up and we all knew it. But he had asked me to keep quiet, so that's what I had to do. Some of my classmates thought I was just pretending to have a big secret that nobody could be let in on, but I had to stay on the high horse that had just been given to me. Besides, after the thin layer of excitement wore off, I didn't really want to talk about it. I was on the verge of puking for the rest of the day. I spent the following periods mustering all I had in me not to faint. I was unable to eat anything the rest of the day. Our last period that day was PE. The day of the anniversary celebration is also the day of the annual school dance, so PE was spent practising the traditional dance. Anyone want to take a wild guess as to how that went? I did not sleep that night and I didn't calm down enough to eat the next morning either. I have never ever been that nervous. As in ever. 

Now, some of y'all might be thinking..Sofie's usually pretty confident, isn't she? Usually not scared of petty stuff like that.

And you're right. I'm not. I was not. I wasn't even going to talk, it was literally just going up there, I'd shake the principals hand, pose for a photo and go back to my seat. It was easier than doing an in class presentation.

It wasn't so much the thought of standing up there in front of the entire school. It was the thought of having to get up there..in front of him.

I can't rationalize how I felt now because it wasn't rational. At all. I just remember how the butterflies turned into mosquitos, pinching the inside of my stomach. There was a special someone. Someone who I had hoped would notice me since August. Come December and I was pretty sure that he had no clue whatsoever that I even existed, despite my numerous efforts for him to look at me and get to know me. I joined a fucking literature discussion group and I joined our annual charity day committee. All in the hope that I'd get to know him. I had tried for months and now this was how it was going to happen? In front of the entire school? We were all 17 once, right? No? Anyways, this was big for this 17 year old. Teenage crushes. Constant butterflies.

December 15th turned into December 16th and the day came. The time from the VP telling me I won 'till the time I had to get up there and accept it felt like the longest eternity I had ever lived through. I had Math for first period, along with three girls from my class. The rest were boys from the athlete class. I got no work done that period whatsoever. I kept thinking that nothing, nothing at all, was worth feeling this crappy for. I felt like I had no eaten in weeks and the nausea was getting the better of me. But it was happening and I just had to suck it in. The bell excused us and we all walked to the giant PE hall where the assembly was going to take place. We sat down. I remember nothing from the two hours that followed. Except three things.

I remember listening to my own words as they're being read by the principal who reads my application out loud.
I remember standing up there, next to the principal, looking at 800 people. 1600 eyes on me. 
But mostly, I remember looking at him as I go back to my seat. He's smiling at me and applauding me along with the rest of the school. I was so happy. It was finally over.

So, this is where the story of Salamanca starts. Still following? Credit! This is indeed a long story but hey, that's what this website is for. Stories. We're nowhere near done yet, so hang in there!

My hands were tied now. I had to spend my summer in a Spanish speaking country, studying Spanish and speaking Spanish all the time. I had to have something to talk about upon my return the following year, so I started researching. Latin America was at the top of my list but it was (obviously) the more expensive option, so Spain it was. Valencia and Málaga were amongst the best choices. I was blinded by the possibility of going on daytrips to Africa was I to choose Málaga but Valencia was also appealing. The first time someone even mentioned Salamanca was about a month after I got the grant. I was discussing my options with our substitute teacher for Spanish. Our regular (and beloved) teacher had to take a couple weeks off and this coincided with me having to make up my mind about where I wanted to go. My whole class (myself included) agreed that our sub was a dimwit, but in the end, she was the one who brought Salamanca to my attention. Life's funny that way. Valencia was too influenced by their own language and the Andalucians often left out endings in their spoken language, so going to either of those places with the intention to improve my Spanish would be useless. At least, that's what she thought. So she suggested Salamanca. I refused to even consider it.. I was not going to take her advice. I was convinced Salamanca had to be as tedious as the person who suggested it. Luckily for me, it wasn't! 

Salamanca also happens to be the place in Spain to study Spanish, but I did not know this at the time. After finally ruling out all the other options, I found a Danish agency that put me in contact with a school in Salamanca. And 6 months later, I got on a plane to Madrid. As far as I remember, that was my first time ever flying by myself. Pretty sure it was. I was so excited. I was all by myself, this was my adventure. I was not expecting my trip to Spain to be anything like the weeks I spent at the language in London the previous year, but I was expecting it to be just as memorable. My weeks in London were very organized whereas the only structure I had to my month in Salamanca was the fact that I had to show up at the language school every morning. I just had to attend school and I was free for the rest of the day. My class consisted of 10-11 wonderful girls and women and I loved them all. I shared a flat with some of the sweetest and kindhearted people I've ever met: Japanese Saori and Brazilian Fabiana. I went on day trips to Madrid and Segovia, did copious amounts of homework, learnt roughly a thousand new Spanish verb tenses and had a blast. And I remember one night, roughly halfway through my stay, that singlehandedly change who I am as a person. I do realize how dramatic that sounds, but it's all intertwined. 

Said night started out in a park not far from my apartment. The school threw a "party" for all the students and I showed up at 7pm sharp. I am not Scandinavian for nothing. I was almost the only one there. I sit down and talk to some of the professors who organized the whole thing. I don't notice, but a group of students gather around a table behind me. A couple of minutes after, one of the professors I don't know taps my shoulder and asks me if I want to join the group behind me. I'm still sitting with the teachers, so I can't see why not. I turn around, nervous, and greet the group, in Spanish. They turn about to be US marines from the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, people I had heard about but never met. Kinda like an urban myth. We were all pretty impressed with having marines at the school. Their Spanish was (very) poor (sorry guys), so I joined the conversation in English. 5 guys and 2 girls. That was around 7.30pm. I get home around 3am that night, having spent the entire evening with them. They were all older than me, sophmores at college, and 17 year old Sofie was in heaven. I was praised for my American accent and they were all super interested in learning about Denmark. One of them genuinely thought that Denmark was in a permanent state of being frozen. They told me all about the navy life and the guys were all acting so silly that the girls had to beg me not to judge all Americans based on these embarrassing individuals who were making me laugh harder than I had in ages. They were the definition of charming and funny. "If all Americans are like this, that's where I wanna go!" I thought to myself. I had the most amazing night and I felt like I'd gained friends for life. 

They were off to the south of Spain the next day and I was devastated. I was so sure I was going to miss them terribly. But something has changed during my short time with the marines: I found myself to be a lot more outgoing. It happened in less than 24 hours, but I genuinely felt a difference. Whether it was being welcomed into an already existing group of people who were super good friends or whether it was having to ask them all to sign my flag the next day, but I learned something during that very short period of time. Whenever I stop myself from entering a situation that can potentially prove to be uncomfortable, I could miss out on something great. I expected an awkward situation the next day due to the amounts of alcohol that had been consumed the night before, but everyone was super friendly and everyone signed my flag, wrote me greetings and gave me their Facebook-names and their phone numbers. I'm sure some of them wouldn't remember me at all - you know how underage Americans abroad can't handle their alcohol (jokeeee) - but they were all amazing. And from that day onwards, I stopping being scared of throwing myself into situations that had potential to be awkward. We tend to have more to win than we have to lose. 7 US marines-to-be taught me that and that might've been the single most important lesson I took with me when I left Salamanca. It wasn't the copious amounts of Spanish that I remember the most. It was my night with the marines.

I never saw any of them again despite the fact that I've gone to the States three times since then. The friendships faded and I was ok with that. As I've learnt, they were just the beginning. People who prepped me for what was in store, shall we say. For the first time, I felt a feeling that I've felt innumerous times since then. When you travel, people can quickly enter your life and more often than not, they leave just as fast. And sometimes, it hurts more than you want it to. That night was only supposed to be that one night and that's a lesson I've took with me as well. Not every person I cross paths with is supposed to stay in my life, no matter how much fun we have and how much we laugh. 

I did, however, go to Tokyo the year after Salamanca to see Saori and I stayed with Fabiana for 5 weeks (the Brazilians remain uncontested when it comes to hospitality and kindness) in São Paulo during my time in South America. When I left Salamanca after my month there, I had never in my wildest dreams imagined that I'd see them so soon after we parted. Up until then, the only real 'long distance friends' I had were people who lived in different parts of Denmark. Same country, same continent. But now, for the first time, I had to deal with attempting to stay in contact with people who lived across oceans and across entire hempispheres. Today, 5 years later, I'm (sadly) accostumed (as one can ever be, I guess) to some of my best friends living on different continents. I remember promising Fabiana that I'd come see her in Brazil the day she left. Since then, I've made an effort to maintain the friendships that I want to last for a long time. One of the many reasons I travel so much.

In many ways, my life changed after Salamanca. I decided what was going to happen with my life after high school upon returning back home that summer. I started my 3rd and last year of high school a couple of weeks after I got back. I was bored out of my mind for the rest of my high school Spanish career. My classmates could barely form a sentence and I was once asked by my Spanish prof to be the TA for a couple of periods. The only thing left to do was the final presentation. I'd almost forgotten about it while I was in Salamanca. I spent a long time working on a video that I would be comfortable with sharing with the entire school. I wanted to create something that showed how far the grant had gotten me financially, but I also wanted to show how much the trip had meant to me. I ended up with a long sequence of pictures and videos of my friends and I, of the city, of the parties I went to and so on. The music I had listened to while in Salamanca played in the background, my own emotional soundtrack. I was hoping it'd show people how I had felt during my time there. The end of the video was a minute or so with videos from the evening of July 1st 2012. This was the evening the day after I arrived. Spain won the European championships against Italy that night and I was at Plaza Mayor, the absolute center of the city, watching the final with Fabiana and some of her friends from the school. 

The day came and although I did not feel as nervous and nauseous as I did the year before, I still felt pretty terrible. For a reason unknown to me, the anniversary assembly this year took place in a hall that was about third the size of the hall where I accepted the grant the year before. That morning, only a handful of my classmates had classes to attend due to us all having different electives. In fact, only two guys from my class showed up to assembly and I could not have asked for more. They were the only ones I wanted present. This time, however, I was not at all nervous about having to speak in front of that many people. I was nervous because the video was a small piece of me and I knew most of the students there would not understand how I could've possibly had such an amazing time when I essentially went abroad to..study. I knew a couple of other people who shared my interest but the majority had spent their summer breaks drinking their livers out. But I went up there and I remember how the lights blinded me just enough so that all I could see were the people sitting a couple feet from me. I mustered a couple sentences about how I had chosen to spend the grant, about Salamanca and about Spain in general. I wasn't paying attention to what I was saying at all and for all I know, I could've spoken Spanish. I had no recollection of it whatsoever. The video started playing and I felt like everything happened in slow motion. I realized (way too late, evidently) that I had put in way too many photos of the city, the music was too soothing and people truly tried to pay attention but even I was falling asleep. But then, I was saved the bell. The Spanish music from the championships started playing and the football sequences started playing. People woke up and they all paid attention now. This was something most people could relate to and it's never uninteresting when you witness a national celebration like that. And then, it was over. I got to announce the new winner of the grant that year, a girl who was going to Chicago to help god knows who, and just like that, it was all over.

I've not been back here since I left that day, almost 5 years ago. Last Sunday, I took the night train from Portugal and Monday morning I left the train station and walked out into the early morning sun. It was so beautiful. I've been 'touring' Spain and Portugal these past couple weeks to check out potential grad schools and Salamanca has one of the most beautiful universities I have ever set foot in. I have no words to describe how strange it is to be back here after all this time. I just know that the thought of going back to Madrid tonight is bittersweet. Very bittersweet. And that's despite the fact that two of my really good friends are waiting for me there and despite the fact that we've got tickets to see one of my favorite Latino artists live in concert tonight. 

Salamanca feels like home.

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