No te vayas! No te vayas! the kids shouted, springing into the air. Don’t leave! Don’t leave! Carmen, my newest friend, stood atop her miniature desk chair, the perfect boost to reach and kiss my cheek. María clung to my leg and held on tight, as if my body were a tree swing. The rest of the class followed. Even Nacho, the notorious nose-picker, put his finger aside to say “goodbye.” Twenty-five precious little bodies tackled me in the center of the room, forming one giggly dog pile.
I forced the rickety classroom door shut as my first-graders squealed, pleading for me not to leave. Profesora! Profesora! I proceeded toward the marble staircase, past the statues and bulletin boards, and then heard a noise: the sound of squeaking tennis shoes and stomping feet.
To my surprise, the kids had burst open their door and chased down the hallway after me. The crowd grew. One by one, they gathered at the top of the staircase, waving and jumping up and down. Adios! Adios! Adios! No te vayas! No te vayas!
What’s been the highlight of my abroad experience? That single minute of pure joy. That minute when I heard my name on repeat. Those twenty-five smiling faces. Talk about a feel-good moment.
I’ve never felt more loved.