A version of the comment “tan joven!” (“so young!”) is something that I’ve heard many times here — both in English and Spanish. Yes, I am “only” 19, which usually makes me the youngest person around (albeit sometimes only by a few months); in fact, I think I’ve only met two people here who were younger than I am (excluding small children, of course). Due to my January birthday, back in the States I’m normally slightly older than most of my friends, although we’re all really about the same age. Here, it’s not uncommon for me to spend time with people in their mid-20s, or, while I’m at my internship, with people several decades older.
This doesn’t bother me at all, of course, and while others are sometimes surprised to find that my age still starts with a 1, they thankfully don’t have a problem hanging out with a teenager. Meeting people who are at all stages of life, work, and education — not to mention from all over the world — has been one of the best parts of being here.
However, while everyone else seems to think I’m still quite young, with “so much ahead of me” in life, I can’t help but feeling old. I cannot believe I will be starting my second year of college in a few weeks, not to mention the fact that I will enter my third decade of life in less than six months. Moreover, studying abroad for such an extended period of time is something typically done by college graduates, or at the very least by college juniors or seniors; even by that latter measure, I’m still a year ahead, and the only one of my friends back home who spent the entire summer this way. This whole trip has felt very adultish to me — yes, college is a big step up from high school in terms of independence and responsibility, but living abroad is a whole other giant leap along those measures and others.
While I certainly and thankfully was prepared for this giant leap, in all honesty part of me does miss the juvenile antics of freshman year, as well as being in an environment that permits and even encourages rash and imprudent decisions. This summer has proven that I can be more or less an adult*, but has also made me realize that perhaps I don’t want to be just quite yet.
* Full disclosure: this trip has been 100% funded by my ever-generous father, and I do admit that financial independence is not something I am close to achieving.