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An Overwhelming Farewell: the Heart Always Returns to Jerez

A group of students

On my last day at Colegio Albariza in Jerez, Spain, as a Language Assistant with Meddeas, my first graders were acting suspiciously. They had “a secret” and they giggled uncontrollably whenever I would inquire about it. Later in the morning, one of the professors requested that I join the school for a presentation in the main patio. At this point, I knew something was going on, but I had no idea what was coming.

Language assistant
With some of my students before my farewell.

Something Unexpected

Around mid-morning, I left my classroom to find the entire school gathered in the school’s central courtyard—each class and all the teachers. I felt my eyes widen in horror as I realized the reason for the gathering: my farewell.

The students beckoned for me to sit in front of the crowd. The director shared a few words and I was overcome with emotion at the enormous surprise before me. Needless to say, I immediately began to cry. Hysterically. What followed was the grandest outpouring of love I have ever experienced.

Language Assistant
My students in Spain.

A Gift from Jerez

The previous Friday, most of the professors organized a small farewell lunch in my honor, and I was presented with a series of souvenirs, among them a “flamenco dress” apron, castanets, and little flamenco shoe earrings. I already felt undeserving of their kind words and gestures—I had only been there one year, what kind of imprint could I truly make?—but I was wholly unprepared for the display by my students.

From the smallest three-year-old to the oldest sixteen-year-old, each class presented me with a special, handmade gift and a few words to accompany it. The gifts ranged from books of drawings and letters to an impossibly adorable poem about my time in Jerez. A few hours later, I would be stuffing all of these precious mementos into my already overweight suitcase.

Language Assistant in Spain
Students’ handmade gifts.

Now, looking at these drawings and cards from the comfort of my home in Miami, I am overcome with emotion at the memory. For these truly wonderful people at Colegio Albariza, my short stay left a mark. But what I realized was the incredible imprint this school has left in my heart after what has been the experience of a lifetime.

I left Spain with a heavy heart for many reasons, mainly for the strong bonds and friendships that stayed behind. The most important thing I took with me, however, was gratitude—gratitude for the kindness I was shown; gratitude for each blue sky that graced every morning; gratitude for the love I felt on a daily basis. They say that the heart always returns to Jerez, but I think mine might have stayed there.

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