When I graduated high school, I hugged crying girls and comforted them with the blatant lie, “oh don’t worry, we’ll definitely stay in touch!” It’s not only me; we all do this, a kind of detaching old friendships to open space for new ones. One thing studying abroad has given me the chance to do is reconnect with people from my past.
It all started my senior year of high school. I was attending Walsh Jesuit in Cuyahoga Falls, and one program for seniors was to host Spanish exchange students. In return Walsh students could travel to Barcelona in the spring. Though I did not host an international student, I quickly became friends with them and have stayed in touch since, emailing every few months. When I landed in Madrid I promised my Spanish friends I would make the trek up to Barcelona for a weekend and see them. So I did. I spent a night in Barcelona with a local, a friend I had not seen in over two years. I was able to speak Spanish and meet his friends and see the city in the most non-touristy way possible.
Gabriel was not the only old friend with whom I reconnected while in Barcelona. A group of girls on my hotel floor in Barcelona were American students part of the St. Louis University Madrid campus. A few of the girls had also gone to Jesuit high schools and had heard of Walsh, and one mentioned her friend at SLU Madrid who had also attended Walsh. I almost could not believe it. There was no way their Maggie Joyce from Walsh was my Maggie Joyce from Walsh—Maggie from my high school lacrosse team and my co-worker at an Akron summer camp. Surely enough she was, and here, 4000 miles from home, I was messaging Maggie in disbelief, making plans to meet up as soon as I returned to Madrid.
It is not only in Spain, though, that I have been able to reconnect with friends. This summer I worked in Massachusetts with three Irish students who had come to the United States for the summer. As our friendship grew throughout the summer, Ro, Ash, and Conor encouraged me to visit them in Ireland if I ever got the chance. After all their Irish hype, I wanted to experience Dublin and be able to use my newly acquired Irish phrases, such as “half-five” for “five thirty” and “Anna is anom dom,” which is Gaelic for “my name is Anna.” I never thought I would actually make it to Dublin, but here I am, less than a week away from my five-day adventure in Ireland in Northern Ireland.
It’s kind of funny how life works. How a senior in high school can say to a foreign exchange student “I’ll let you know if I’m ever in Spain,” then two and a half years later they meet up at a nightclub in Barcelona. How meeting strangers at a hotel can lead to realizing an old friend is living two miles away in a city of three million. And how one August day I can joke with friends about going to Ireland, then two months later impulsively buy a plane ticket to Dublin.
Maybe it is the unfamiliarity that comes with living on a different continent, but being in Spain has enabled me to bring back so many people I never expected. Throughout this experience, my thought process has been “well, why not?” Why not spend forty-eight hours in Barcelona, why not take a few days off of school to tour Ireland? I figure if I keep asking myself “why not?” now, in thirty-five days when I am back in Ohio, I will not be asking myself “why didn’t I?”
*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