By Annie Bradford
(CIEE Study Abroad, Barcelona, Spain, Fall 2016)
I met my boyfriend Zach in Barcelona, which is ridiculous for a number of reasons. Not the least of which being that we found a photo of the two of us at the same party from six months before.
We were both from southeastern United States, both attended Vanderbilt University, and both loved the performing arts. We had no less than 80 mutual friends on Facebook (though we weren’t friends yet, having never spoken) when we met and introduced ourselves in Barcelona. It was our first day of the CIEE Advanced Liberal Arts program in the fall of 2016. At that time, I walked away thinking we hadn’t clicked well and that we probably wouldn’t be close during the semester.
Two weeks later, we went on a date to the Fountain at Montjuic and saw a beautiful show of lights and music. Less than two months later, we flew to Amsterdam alone together. Somewhere in between the two, we established that we were officially dating – something I had waffled around while Zach did things like hold my hand under the desk in class (gross) and make excuses to be in the same part of town during my lunch break. He also sent me locations of vegetarian restaurants he had found around town — a smart move.
Over the course of the semester, we traveled together to Paris, Florence, Rome, Amsterdam, and Madrid (thank you, RyanAir!). We studied together, which greatly behooved my Spanish. We ate as much ice cream as humanly possible. Whenever I squeezed his hand while walking down the street, he knew to look around to find whatever dog I’d seen.
When the semester ended, we went back to Vanderbilt together and kept dating. Zach graduated the year before I did, one semester after we came back from Spain, in May of 2017. He promptly moved to São Paulo, Brazil for a new job, and I stayed in Nashville lamenting all the times we joked about our “long distance relationship” in Spain from two side-by-side neighborhoods. We singlehandedly kept the Whatsapp video function in business, and I visited him in November of my senior year. After graduating last May, I moved to Buenos Aires — closer, but still not the same country. We each worked in our respective countries, me polishing my Spanish (with a significantly different accent than the one I spoke with in Spain), and him perfecting his Portuguese to make him trilingual.
One month ago, after nearly two years of dating long distance, Zach moved to Buenos Aires. We’ve been together for two and a half years, and I still can’t figure out if Barcelona was actually that stunning or if I just got lucky. I’m thinking both, but we’ll have to go back and visit sometime to make sure.