While studying abroad I anticipated a small number of manageable challenges, however, I never expected to get lost in a mountain range on the Iberian Peninsula.
To set the scene of this infamous day it all begins on a Saturday morning when after waking up late, my three roommates and I set off to go hiking on a nearby mountain. The first part of the hike was incredibly rewarding with magnificent overlook views, a manageable incline, and positive spirits from my roommates and me. After the initial 90-minute hike, we had come to the natural conclusion of our hike when we met a Spanish park ranger who told us about a waterfall on another hike farther up the mountain. Two of my roommates were planning to go up the mountain, and the other wanted to return back to Madrid, and I contemplated both decisions. I came into study abroad trying to be more spontaneous and decided that following through meant accompanying my roommates who I had only met weeks before into the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range.
Very soon into the second part of the summit, the physically taxing aspect kicked in and the adventure turned from a walk into an endurance test. On the way, we accompanied a pair of Spanish women who were friends and the opportunity to have a conversation with native Spaniards and have them understand my Spanish was one of the highs for the day. After three hours of hiking we reached the waterfall we had been searching for, and a while we sat and marveled at it. We began our descent at 4pm after having hiked 6 miles already in the day. After an hour on the way down, I realized we had not seen any markers for a while and as the sun set, we realized we were lost. After going in every direction along the path we could not find the orange tree markers that highlighted the trail we needed to be on. Panic began to set in as it was already 6pm and sunlight was fading on the mountain. An hour later we met someone on the path who told us we were hiking in the wrong direction. The following hours can be described as absolute panic as we learned we were six miles from the end of the trail, we needed our phone flashlights to see, and the last train of the night was due to leave town in two hours with or without us.
The thesis of getting lost on that mountain was that I learned to have faith in myself to overcome obstacles because not every situation can be prepared for. As a type A person, I believe that with adequate preparation and determination life should more or less go along with how I have planned it. This experience taught me to locate the moments when I struggle and find out ways to be grateful to them because I am learning a new skill or problem that I have not encountered before. Overcoming that situation is one of my fondest memories of study abroad because in a desperate situation I was able to rely on myself and it proved how capable I was. This experience can be summed up by the phrase “No Pasa Nada” a common Spanish phrase which means everything will be okay. My advice to Pitt students planning to study abroad is to challenge yourself all the time, whenever possible. Pick a country that speaks limited English, do not choose the same programs as your friends, sign up for activities you might fail at. Do not let fear from preventing you to grow on one of the best adventures of your life.