I was reminiscing (again, surprise surprise) with some of the lovely friends I made while in Spain, and I got to thinking.  Perhaps one of the most cliche phrases to say about a study abroad trip is, “I learned so much about myself.”  I mean, it’s true.  I learned that I am a capable, strong person.  Perhaps I already knew that, but at the same time, it’s nice to see it in action and really know that’s who I am.

So here’s 3 things I learned about myself from studying abroad in Spain for 2 months that were unexpected, yet valuable nonetheless (the admittedly to different degrees- see #3)

#1
Though Maybe Slightly Obvious, Making Friends can be Fun.

Of course new friends are fun, you say.  No, I’m talking about making friends.  I’m a pretty introverted person, and putting myself out there is not something I particularly enjoy.  I like having friends; I’m just not a big fan of the process it takes to get there.  I do it and on a fairly constant basis because that’s this world, but it’s not something I’m particularly fond of.

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We had barely spent a week together, and look at these goofballs.

Then I went to Spain, where I knew practically no one.  I went over with 17 other students from my university, most of whom I recognized on sight and some I knew slightly better but none I would say I was really friends with.

Some of these people will be life-long friends.  I mean that in the cheesiest, most glorious way possible.  I love them.  I never get tired of reminiscing about Spain with them.  They were the ones that were there for me in a foreign country, definitely the longest distance I’d ever been from home and the most amount of time.  I went to school with them, I hung out with them, I laughed, cried, complained, danced, lived with them for 2 months.

But there were more.  I’d meet someone in the plaza the day before, see them on the street, and strike up another conversation with them.  Usually, I’m the avoid eye-contact, maybe if I look distracted I won’t have to think of something socially acceptable to say type person.

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Some Spaniards I spent a few hours watching soccer with. Instant 2 hour friends.

Complete strangers would cycle in and out of the apartment I was living in, and it was great.  One of my favorite memories from living in Spain was when all us living in the same apartment gathered in one room.  One of my housemates was playing guitar.  Two others were working on a school assignment.  My roommate and I were just in there, singing along, talking, whatever came up.  There was nothing really that exciting about it.  It was something that could have just as easily happened in Missouri as Spain.  But there was something about that bond and that atmosphere, though I may never see most of those people ever again, that was really special.

Part of it was that we were all going through the same experience; that’s for sure.  But it’s really something that’s transferred over to my life now.  And I’m not saying that now I’m a champion people person, but it’s a lot easier.  And even fun.

#2
My Irrational Fear of Getting Stuck in an Elevator is Not as Irrational as I Thought but Also Not a Big Deal

I’ve been slightly scared of being stuck in an elevator for many years now.  I know it’s irrational, but I can’t help it.  In a way, it’s good because I take the stairs more often (Unless it’s one of those creepy stairwells were the chase/shooting scenes always happen.  You know the type).   And it’s not like I start hyperventilating when I get in an elevator.  I can handle it.  It just makes me uncomfortable.  So of course the first (and only) time I got stuck in an elevator was in a foreign country.  I don’t know what those odds are, but they have to be low.

I think it was my first day in Spain.  I was still in Madrid.  There were several of us from my university group.  One crucial fact- the elevators in Spain are absolutely tiny.  I think it was limit 8 people, but that was pretty generous considering the amount of space.  Still, for some reason we decided it was ok to fit 10 of us in.  And by us, I actually don’t mean me.  But I didn’t say anything, so I guess I went along with it.  I barely knew these people, and I didn’t want to become “that girl” already.  We hit the button to go up, and the elevator just started going down.  And down.  Very slowly, but definitely the wrong way.

And then we were stuck.  At first it wasn’t too bad.  Jokes all around.   I took pictures.

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Still happy.

Then we started getting worried.  People started wondering about oxygen supplies, and was that even a legitimate concern in elevators?  But oddly, I wasn’t really panicking.  I was absolutely cramped into the tiniest of elevators with 10 people that I barely knew, and I was fine.

Then the call firefighter button didn’t work.  Concerning.  We didn’t really know if we should press it or not, but when the decision was made, it didn’t work.

Plan B.  One of the guys in our group literally just wrenched the doors open.  And we were free.  Like 10 minutes later.  We were in an unknown parking garage, but we found the way out, and we were less than half a block  away from the entrance of the hotel.

And it became a good story, like, did I tell you that one time I got stuck in an elevator in Madrid?  It became one of my go-to interesting facts about me (you know what I’m talking about).

Did I take the stairs the rest of the time?  Yeah.  Except when it came to carrying luggage.  But I’m fine.  I’m back to careful avoidance.  But really, it was kind of fun being stuck in an elevator.  Though not something I’d really want to repeat.

#3
I Like Vegetables
(Perhaps Not as Important in the Grand Scheme of Things but Notable)

I am a vegetable person

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If you look carefully, there are some glorious vegetables behind the water bottle. And of course, my wonderful host mom, Luisi.

I would not have considered myself a vegetable person before I went to Spain.  I wouldn’t even eat lettuce.  I just had what I call the Big 3.  Broccoli, green beans, and corn.  And maybe you’re thinking, oh, she went to Spain, was trying new things, and realized she likes vegetables more than she ever realized before.  Yay self-discovery.

Nope.

No. No. No. No.

Everyday, I ate my iceberg lettuce salad because that was likely the only vegetable I would see all day.  As I said before, I didn’t like lettuce.  Occasionally I’d eat some green beans, but that salad was literally some of the only edible vegetation I’d see for weeks on end.

And to make it clear- my host mom was a great cook and all around fabulous person.  I appreciate everything she did for me so much.  I really, truly do not think that the experience would have been the same without her.  There just weren’t a lot of vegetables.

So, I discovered I liked salad.  After I came home, I wondered, what other vegetables do I like, that maybe I’ve never gave a chance before.  I won’t bore you with the details, but there are a lot.  Iceberg lettuce isn’t really on that list, but I’m glad it was there for me when I needed it.