As I mentioned in a previous post, I don’t exactly have a “bucket list.” My fear of not completing my goals keeps me from making goals that I’m not sure I can accomplish. There are, however, times in my life where I’ve looked around and realized that I was living a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, something that would definitely be on my bucket list if I had one. I have admittedly been blessed to have had a bunch of these moments, so many that I’ve had to separate them up into multiple posts!
This week, I wanted to discuss those retroactive bucket list items that were study abroad related. Since I was able to study abroad twice and have a serious case of FOMO, you’d better believe that I was taking every opportunity to do once-in-a-lifetime things! Even my study abroad experiences in and of themselves were once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Seriously, how frequently can one say that they up and left for a completely different country and lived with host parents? But there are a few experiences that really stick out to me, a few true “Oh damn, did I actually do that?” moments. I thought it would be fun to share those.
Staying up all Night in Spain
I have never been a night owl. Most people that know me can attest that I essentially turn into a pumpkin after 9 pm. For some reason, once I’m tired, I just cannot keep my eyes open. Have you ever seen that scene in Fairly Odd Parents where Timmy isn’t at all tired at 8:59 then falls fast asleep when the clock hits 9 pm? Yeah, it me.
There have been very few times in my life when I’ve had the motivation and the reason to stay up all night. I think most of them have been dance-related. And there are even more occasions where I’ve vowed to stay up only to cave and cry for my bed by 11pm.
When I was studying abroad in Spain, one of the Spanish college students said that they used to stay out all night all the time as teenagers and get churros for breakfast in the morning. The moment I heard that, I turned to my friend Yessenia and said, “We’re doing that.” It just sounded like such an amazing once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that we would never get the chance to do again! I could feel my FOMO raging. I just had to stay awake for this.
Unlike almost any other of my nights in Spain, I put on my going-out clothes. I warned my host mom that I wouldn’t be home until morning and I’m pretty sure that she didn’t believe me. I was usually in bed before even she got home for the night. What were the odds that I’d actually be able to do it? To be fair, I was dubious of my ability to stay out all night, too, but I had to try.
The night was long, to say the least. We stayed out dancing until we got tired of the club scene, then went to sit in an alleyway. It was early in the morning, and we were getting ready to throw in the towel. I was too tired to function, and I knew that if I sat still for much longer that I would just want to go back to my host mom’s apartment. We had tried, but what was there left to do until 8 am when the churro places would open? Then we met a kind, albeit super-drunk, man named Nacho. I cannot remember any of that conversation, but I know that the buzz of anxiety from interacting with someone in a different language gave us just the boost we needed to make it.
From there, we went to a nearby park and played on the playground equipment. With no kids awake, we enjoyed the slide and swings by ourselves until we could get breakfast. Churros in Spain are delicious, by the way. Definitely worth staying up all night for. This will always be one of my favorite and proudest memories. And that should tell you all that you need to know about how difficult it is for me to stay awake at night.
Le Foyer Anglais
When I spent the semester studying abroad in France, one of our requirements was to spend a certain amount of hours doing community service. While this was a great way to integrate us into society and allow us to give back, I was terrified. Would I really be able to communicate effectively enough to work in the community? And what would I even do? Some of the other students in my class talked about tutoring children in English and/or watching them after school, which didn’t really appeal to me. I knew that I would complete my requirement, I just wasn’t sure how.
Our first day at the French university was spent with an English major showing us around. Mika had attended our college as an exchange student the year before, so he showed us the ropes at his university. At the end of the tour, Mika said that he was going to the lounge specifically made for English majors (Le Foyer Anglais) and we were free to join him if we wished. While the other students continued on to a different part of campus, I followed Mika to see what the foyer was all about.
I instantly fell in love with it. The Foyer was a room full of comfortable seating, posters that the English students liked, and, against the wall, a place where you could buy coffee, tea, or ramen. The students hung out there in between classes to talk casually and practice English together. I asked Mika if I could work at the Foyer selling coffee and tea and washing mugs for my community service. The rest, as they say, is history.
I spent most of my afternoons in the Foyer either manning the coffee pot or practicing my French while my new friends practiced their English. Mika also introduced me to his friend Nora who frequented the Foyer. He explained that Nora wanted to attend my college in the US next year so it would be good if we got to know one another.
Nora and I quickly became friends for life. We had the same sense of humor and got along really well. She took me out for my birthday when I turned 21 in France. She showed me all of the best places to eat in Toulouse and invited me over to her house. When my parents visited me in France, she came out to dinner with us and my parents fell in love with her too. When she studied at my college in the US the following year, she spent Thanksgiving with my family. Nora was an integral part of my experience abroad and quickly became part of my family, and I have the Foyer to thank for that.
“I Want It All”
I am a huge fan of the band Karmin (now Qveen Herby). When they announced their 2014 US tour dates, I was devastated to find out that I would miss their concert because I would be abroad in France. Then came a miracle.
While I was there, they actually announced a competition where you submitted a music video to their song “I Want It All” and they would fly the person with the most YouTube views out to California to be in their next music video. While I was worried about embarrassing myself, there was no way I was going to pass that up.
My friend Emma, who was studying abroad with me at the time, was happy to do the filming for me and we immediately started brainstorming where we could film it. I really wanted to film it on the metro, but Emma was (correctly) worried that we would bother people and wouldn’t be able to get everyone’s permission to have them in a music video.
We ultimately decided that I would create a video dancing in front of the giant murals at our French college, Le Mirail. It was a super vulnerable thing for me. I think that I’m a great dancer, but I really was putting my skills out there for everyone to see. I was beyond thrilled that I got to share this moment with Toulouse.
There were a lot of things I did abroad that I still can’t believe I had the chance to do. This is one of them. I also didn’t win, but I can’t really be salty because I didn’t realize that YouTube has a way from stopping you from inflating your own views. Whoops.
Let’s Pretend We’re Dancing in the Street…
Because of how close many of the European countries are, many of us studying abroad tried to visit as many countries as we could. Emma and I decided to take a few days and visit Barcelona. We looked up a fairly cheap place to stay, did some minor research on things to do, and headed for the train station.
When we arrived at the address of our hostel, it became apparent that it was above a bar. When we first entered our room, we found our faucet leaking, and each night when we returned, we had to retrieve our room key from the bartender. Besides the thin walls, this hostel was my favorite place to stay. It felt so hip to stay above a bar. And there was some forced community from us having to give our keys to the bartender every morning and retrieve them every night. A sort of “where everyone knows your name” vibe.
While walking down the street our first full day in Barcelona, there was someone passing out flyers for a flamenco show. While I had seen a small flamenco performance while studying in Malaga, I hadn’t seen a huge production. We bought tickets and spent the rest of the day in search of flamenco scarves like the dancers wore around their hips.
The show that night was spectacular. In a grand venue where the shouts of the performers and the audience reverberated off the walls. While I may see many shows in my life, I sincerely doubt I will get another chance to make a snap decision to see a show while standing on the street in Spain.
This post is part of my “Things That I Didn’t Know Were on My Bucket List” series, where I talk about some once-in-a-lifetime opportunities I’ve had. I hope that it inspires you to reminisce about yours, too! You can find my previous post in this series below: