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Halloween at Halfway: What’s So Scary About Abroad?

The Rock at Boston College is celebrating the spookiest day of the year in a big way by generating new content every day in our first-ever “HalloWeek”. The Rock is proud to present this installment in our holiday special.  


My roommate’s mom has a countdown of how many days until her daughter returns to Boston from Granada, Spain. On October 25th, she said to my roommate, “FIFTY-FIVE! That’s half!” And my roommate told me this, and we proceeded to look at each other with wide, disbelieving eyes as the fact of the matter dawned on us: we are halfway through our fall abroad experience, and there is so much still left to do.

DSC_0410To some of you who haven’t had the experience, abroad may seem like the time of your life—and let me affirm that Granada is, truly, the time of my life. I have a wonderful host family, my Spanish is improving, I jet-set from Spain to Germany and Ireland and Italy, and I have made incredible friends. The food is delicious and the pace of life is slower. Every day is spontaneous; plans are rarely made, but proposed and executed almost at once. It’s a completely different life from what I am familiar with at Boston College. But amidst everything so different, I do sometimes start to miss the familiarities of home.

Abroad can be scary. I’ve moved on to a new place faster than I could say “trick or treat,” hoping that the other side of the Atlantic had king-size Butterfinger bars at a time when Boston only had Smarties left to offer me. Here in Spain, stray cats (and dogs) roam the streets, most placidly but some looking a bit possessed. Money disappears like abracadabra. My Spanish lit professor is short and stooped, with wild gray hair straight out of Hocus Pocus. Sometimes I can’t think of the Spanish word I need, and my unlucky conversation partner will have to stare into my soul and read my mind. Most of all, I feel like I’m wearing a giant mask that screams “American.” I may have been in Spain for two months now—but I am still learning the customs, I am mystified by social norms, and more often than not I simply don’t belong.

For your additional information, Halloween is not a thing in Spain. As my host mom said at lunch today, it’s seen as a North American holiday. Sure, sometimes there will be dressing up or events, but overall if you asked Spaniards on the street what October 31st meant to them, they would say nothing. Even some of the Americans on my program had never heard the term “Halloweekend.” Sad. (I will be avoiding this issue by flying to Dublin, where the bars go crazy and costumes are important; this is somewhat comforting to me. Perhaps another article to follow…)

boston-college-campus-automatically-imported--bc-cp-auto-00002smdThe lack of Halloween isn’t the scary part about my time in Spain. The scary part is that I find myself in between stages of college life. For this period of time, my “costume” is American. It’s an identity I can hide behind when I don’t know which doorbell to ring, which candy to pick—that’s to say, which places to make my own, and which opportunities to seize.

Sure, it’s a good look for me; I would wear a form of it at BC all the time. But at the end of the day I’m not just American, and I’m not just studying abroad. I can’t wear the same costume every year. It’s time to develop a newer, truer identity. That’s a scary commitment to make, but I want to make it in the right way, for the right reasons.

Writer Gregory Malouf once said, “Part of being human is experiencing all feelings, including fear. Feel your fear… then move through it by embracing the authentic love that is always within you.” As I suffer through a lack of HalloWeek (at least until I step off that plane in Dublin), I’m doing my utmost not to be afraid.

Instead, I’m learning to love who I have started becoming in Spain: a laugher, a listener, a lover of wine and tapas, and a BC student ready to make a place somewhere else before she comes home. There’s no use hiding behind preconceptions, and there’s no use being afraid of my surroundings. This Halloween, I’m taking off the mask and putting love first. And when I come home fifty-five days from now, you’ll be seeing the real me.

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