Monkey See, Monkey Do (But Please Don’t)

Shalyn Vukich is a student at Saint Vincent College. She is an ISA Featured Blogger and is studying abroad with ISA in Seville, Spain.

The Story I’ll Tell Employers and Interviewers about Studying Abroad

ISA, my study abroad program provider, took us on a day trip to Gibraltar. Gibraltar is a British territory, so passports are required to cross the border (this will be important later).

After touring some caves and seeing a few monkeys, we had free time to explore on our own. I was itching for more interactions with the monkeys, so I took a cable car up to the summit of the mountain where I entered an area called the Ape’s Den.

Almost 200 monkeys roam the top of the rock, and believe me when I tell you this – they were EVERYWHERE. Unlike before when railings separated us, this place was open. They were wild animals, and it was clear that we encroached on their space by the way they sauntered about. Desperate to get the picture I came for, I cautiously approached one sitting on a ledge.  After making my friends take a million photos, I still wanted to get a selfie.

I approached the second monkey that was also sitting on a ledge. I unzipped my backpack to get to my purse to pull out my phone so I could take some selfies. Immediately after, I put my phone back in my purse, back in my backpack, because I was in the habit of not setting it down somewhere. (You’ll see the irony in this shortly).

All of the sudden, the monkey looked me dead in the eyes while he reached into my still unzipped backpack. He pulled out my purse by the strap and just help it, taunting me. He started to turn away, and I thought he was going to make a run for it. Seems kind of funny, huh?

Let me explain the gravity of this situation.

If he had made off with my purse, I would’ve lost my phone, money, credit cards, MY PASSPORT, passport copy, and all other forms of identification. Meaning, I would be stuck in Gibraltar with no way to get back to Spain, the U.S. or anywhere without a way to call for help and without money to get by. What did I do? I only had a few seconds to act.

These were the thoughts that were running through my head:

“Do I let him go, leaving me stranded in a foreign country? Do I try to steal back my things at the risk of frightening him or aggravating him and provoking an attack?”

I had so many options that rushed through my head at a mile a minute, but I knew what I had to do. I got myself into this mess, so I had to get myself out. I hyper-focused on the primate with in my eyes. I crept forward and prayed he wouldn’t flee. His attention was fixed on me and I didn’t know if that was a good or a bad thing yet. With light speed, I flung out my arm and yanked back my purse. I dashed backwards, but it wasn’t over. The monkey leapt after me in hot pursuit. That was when the panic really sunk in. After what felt like an eternity of bobs, weaves, and laughter from amused onlookers, the monkey finally retreated. I was safe.  

At this point, my future employer is probably wondering why I’m telling them this story.

This story highlights invaluable skills I gained from studying abroad, including:

  • Owning up to my mistakes
  • Staying calm in a crisis
  • Thinking quick on my feet
  • Willing to take risks

Besides, how hard can a job be after making it to the other side of a Planet of the Apes? After all, I survived the Ape’s Den. Could I get a t-shirt or something that says that?

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