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.
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.
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.
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.