I’m not the type to get homesick. The second week of my freshman year I was in the Office of Study Abroad trying to figure out how quickly I could get myself to Spain. Only a week after finals, I was driving to Massachusetts to spend the summer working before heading straight to Madrid. My adventures would rack up a total of about eight months away from home.
I was so content with the idea of being gone from familiarity that I never thought I would get homesick. And I wasn’t…until my grandfather unexpectedly landed in the hospital, and I found myself crying on the phone with my boyfriend, complaining about missing Chipotle and mechanical pencils, a phenomenon that has yet to be introduced to the Iberian Peninsula.
So in times of despair, I have found ways to get my American fix and pity myself for a few hours before remembering that I am in Spain, I am learning a new language, I am seeing some of the world’s most incredible sights, and I am going on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
The first way I battle homesickness is by finding a Dunkin’ Donuts. Madrid only has a couple of the Massachusetts-based coffeehouses, but for those dedicated Dunkin’ drinkers, I use the “locate a Dunkin’ near me” app on the iPhone to find a shop near me. Making a coffee run always ends up being a splurge, though, because a small coffee with a vanilla shot costs over four American dollars. About triple the cost I pay in the US.
The second best thing to do when I feel homesick is to go to the American store. Yes, there is such a thing as an American store. I overheard a couple girls at my university talking about it, so I decided to check it out. It is a hole in the wall market, which sells every flavor Goldfish, six-Euro packs of Pop-Tarts, red Solo cups, and real American Coca-Cola (Spanish Coca-Cola does not contain high fructose corn syrup). Oh, and peanut butter. That is not a thing in Spain; however, for all the Nutella fanatics, every supermarket sells about 15 brands of the hazelnut spread.
Lastly, I have found comfort in going to the bars when I am feeling a little homesick. It sounds stupid, I know, but the DiscoTechs and clubs and raves are very European, so sitting down at a sports bar is very familiar and reminiscent of good ol’ Athens.
One of the best experiences I have had thus far was when I was at a bar last weekend. I walked into the crowded space, expecting to watch every television flashing with whatever European soccer game was wrapping up, only to see scarlet and gray lighting up every screen. It was the Ohio State-Northwestern game, being broadcast over 4000 miles away, in the middle of a pub in downtown Madrid. The next thing I knew, I heard a crowd chanting “OH-IO,” which is when I thought I might have actually gone insane. But surely enough, a group of six twenty-somethings were staring up at the screen, high fiving and cheering for Ohio. I excitedly went over and asked if they were from Ohio. They were all recent college grads from schools around my great state and had moved to Madrid to teach English. All six met in Spain and immediately formed an “Ohio Alliance,” representing The University of Akron, Kent State, Dayton, OSU, and now, with the addition of me, Ohio University.
It is a moment like that, a moment of pure bliss and happiness that makes me forget that I am thousands of miles away from home, in a country where I am only beginning to learn the language, customs, and culture. It is the little American fixes I allow myself that makes the time pass so much quicker and makes me appreciate all things Spanish even more. Homesickness is normal; it would be heartless if I didn’t feel it. There is nothing wrong with trading a café con leche for a Dunkin’ coffee every once in a while, and there is certainly nothing wrong with skipping an evening of clubbing to watch my state win in a real game of fútbol.
*Anna Lippincott is a sophomore in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism studying journalism, political science, and Spanish. She is currently using an OU partner program, Academic Programs International, to attend Antonio de Nebrija Universidad in Madrid, Spain. @anna_lippincott