Studying abroad, just as anything in life, comes with its ups and downs. Having lived in Spain for seven months I consider myself lucky to have run into such few conflicts or difficulties. At the beginning of every study abroad experience students are briefed on all the possible setbacks that could happen while living in a different country. However, no matter how many times we are told to watch out for pickpockets or told what to do in case of an emergency it is hard to believe that anything bad can or will happen to you while abroad.
One of the greatest fears of anyone traveling to Europe are the ever so infamous pickpockets. I cannot count the times I have been warned to watch my pockets while on the metro, never carry anything valuable into touristy areas or never take my eyes off my purse. While I definitely take precaution with my personal items while traveling I have never had an issue before and never believed that I would be pickpocketed. However, just a few weeks ago while taking a jam-packed metro to watch the Spanish national soccer team play Italy in a friendly match that is just what happened. The thought of possible pickpockets at such a crowded event definitely crossed my mind, however when my iPhone was taken right from my pocket I was in complete shock. To make matters worse I was then left with no way to take photographs of my favorite Spanish soccer stars during the game. While losing your phone has to be one of the greatest fears of any college-aged student, I can now say, after having gone a few weeks without a phone, that it is not nearly as bad as it seems. Sure, I am using a wind-up alarm clock from the 80s and communicating with friends and family via email, but I can honestly say that not having a phone has helped me not to waste my time abroad on Facebook or snapchat.
Nearly a week after the mild crisis of losing my phone my friends and I went on a trip to Valencia Spain for a local festival called Las Fallas. Las Fallas is a festival unique to the city of Valencia that celebrates the beginning of spring, however it can best be described as a weeklong, nonstop, out of control party. Due to the popularity of Las Fallas many travel companies in Madrid offer low-priced bus rides to Valencia for the festival. However, these cheap rides come at a price. Buses left Madrid for Valencia at nine in the morning and did not return to Madrid until six a.m. In other words, I chose to go on a trip that entailed exploring a new city for nearly 21 hours straight with no sleep, all for the low price of twenty euros. The trip went well up until about 2 a.m. when pure exhaustion and confusion started to kick in. After losing our group my friend Clayton and I wandered the city in search of a place to wait and stay out of the cold until our bus’ departure at 6 a.m. Thinking we had plenty of time we started to look for a taxi around 5 a.m. to take us back to the meeting point. However, we soon came to realize that catching a taxi in Valencia is no small feat. Due to the lack of taxis in Valencia and innumerable amount of people in the city that night we soon realized that we would have to find an alternative route to the bus. At this point, pure panic started to set in. Now, nearly 5:50 in the morning with ten minutes to go before the bus left my friend called my nearly non-functioning Spanish cell phone to tell me that the bus would not be waiting on anyone and that I could try finding another bus the next day. With just ten euro in my pocket I then realized that I would be stranded in a foreign city with absolutely no way home. However, just at that moment, my friend was able to catch us a cab. I had never ran so fast in my life, but finally, exhausted, delirious and in tears I reached the bus that would take me home to Madrid.
The setbacks that present themselves while abroad, though tough and sometimes annoying, are a true test to the flexibility and ability to overcome difficulty that students who chose to study abroad possess. No one ever told us that studying abroad would be easy, and if they did I would not have been driven to do so. Studying abroad has taught me a number of things, and not just foreign language skills. The personal growth that I have experienced during my time in Spain is something that I believe to be unique to a study abroad experience. I am now fully confident that I can take on anything, anywhere.