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Reviving time abroad

Sheila Flynn | Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Everyone knows “that girl.”

She returns from studying abroad in a morphed, annoying, impossible-to-shut-up version of her former self. She insults America at every opportunity, spouting irritating theories of European superiority. She finds her stories hilarious and worships her abroad pictures to the point that everyone she meets wants to knock her out with her own precious photo albums.

I swore that I wouldn’t be “her.” Over the summer, I was pretty good. But I reserve the right to write one column about my abroad experience.

Here it is.

Before we left for Spain, there was a mandatory meeting for all students preparing to study abroad. We were told that culture shock could hurtle us onto an emotional rollercoaster, possibly resulting in such undesirable effects as clinical depression or agoraphobia.

I laughed. Maybe I shouldn’t have. No one I know developed a fear of leaving the house, but every other bizarre occurrence possible managed to happen last semester.

One of my best friends and I discovered a dead body in the mountains of Spain. My flight almost landed directly on top of another plane. I lost my wallet, sustained three permanent scars and slept for 12 hours on the floor of a broken-down train. One member of our program had his ACL torn in an unfortunate run-in with a bull (I am not kidding). Another group was on a train that derailed and ran into a river after hitting a flock of sheep. People fell down steps, fell for each other, got tattoos and got pick-pocketed. Some rented stick-shift cars they didn’t know how to drive, and others were nearly jailed by gun-toting Eastern European guards when they ran out of Czech currency.

That’s just an inkling of what went on. And it was great.

I realized, over the summer, that we’ll never get any of that back. Never again will we trip over cobblestones in the rain together, calling to the ever-present gimpy dog. We won’t drink cafe con leche five times a day and beg for more tapas. Never again will we decide, at 4 a.m., that it’s a good idea to lie on the sidewalk eating vending machine pizza. We probably won’t escape to a mountain or the panoramic top floor of our school on a passing whim. And I miss that.

What I will miss most, though, (and here I go with the clich̩s) is the people Рthe group of eccentric and amazing personalities that drove me crazy, kept me sane and became some of my best friends.

Thanks for everything, tios. Jo.