Brett is now a Wholesale Commercial Insurance Broker. Allie is a Certified Public Accountant for a private equity company. They recently married and agreed to share their story with us. Brett hilariously describes meeting Allie for the first time below:
“He spotted her from across the room, less than 72 hours after they had landed in Madrid. His mustache wriggled creepily at the sight of her. He couldn’t put his finger on exactly what drew him to her, but he felt magnetized. Perhaps it was her smile, which illuminated the room like a lit wand. Or it was her eyes, each like a cloudless sky on a perfect summer day. Whatever it was, he had to meet her.
It took many weeks before he plucked up the nerve to talk to her. He approached her outside a coffee shop, which he occupied like a tenant,
“Hey Allie! Would you be free tonight?”
“Uhh…” she stammered, searching around for any plausible excuse, “I can’t tonight. Sorry. I need to, uhm, feed my host-family’s rabbit. Maybe next time.” She finished, whilst backing away as if she had wheels on her shoes.
Feeling foolish, he watched as she rejoined her group of friends and continued on her way without a second look back. His mustache trembled slightly, as it reacted of its own accord to the failed proposition. As he resumed his seat at the table and saw her golden-brown hair disappearing into the local university, he was determined in his pursuit.
Over and over he would ask her out, substituting different activities, all to no avail.
With every declination, he went back to the drawing board. And then it struck him. Over the course of the semester, he observed her and came to learn quite a few things as an outsider looking in. First and foremost, she was an incredibly diligent student. A fact which offered no assistance to him, as he had not learned his schedule, now eight weeks into the semester. Second, she was a Hoosier, and a proud one at that. He’d seen her dressed in various school garb over the prior weeks, sometimes the same garb multiple days in a row. He felt his fortunes changing as the lightbulb gleamed above his head. His high school aged sister would be coming to visit in a few days’ time, and therein lay his opportunity.
“Hey Allie, would you mind talking to my sister this weekend? She’s going to be applying to colleges next year and is really interested in Indiana.”
Her IU tour guide instincts had kicked in, and she happily obliged to meet his University of Southern California-bound sister at Taberna el Papelon. Following a few glasses of chilled red wine, a small amount of selling to an uninterested buyer, the ice began to melt between them. With a bit of additional, virtual conversations taking place, they had agreed on dinner plans. In this moment, he consulted the local blog and found the DontReignOnMySpain, 5-Star Certified restaurant, Vineria San Telmo. They ate tapas, drank wine and finished the night with a walk through the adjacent park.
As the semester came to a close, they looked back on the prior weeks with the sad realization that their weeks of joy and nights wandering the Sevillan streets were coming to an end. Neither was sure where things would go from there. They could not predict future. They couldn’t feel the heat from the hellish apartment later that summer. Even the vacation-esque weekends they would spend together in West Palm Beach multiple years after their Sevillan vacation and a proposal in Rockport, MA would have been nothing more than wishful thinking.”
Events according to Allie: We were both on the same ISA program. We met day 1. He was a wild, party boy. He wore a weird scarf and grew a mustache to assimilate to the Spanish culture. I thought he was nuts. We were in a few of the same classes at Universidad de Sevilla, and we traveled with ISA together on most weekends, especially at the beginning of the semester. He asked me out a few times, and I politely declined. We danced the night away at Buddah, a Spanish club, on one particular night, and I conceded. It was the best first date ever.
How did you both keep in touch post semester abroad?
We visited each other, went to date parties at respective schools, facetimed, etc.
Did Spanish culture influence how you look at love and life?
Allie: The Spaniards seemed more open and free than Americans, in my opinion. Lots of love in the air – kissing in the streets for example, but “PDA” doesn’t have the bad stigma that it does in the US. To Spaniards, it’s more of a happy, “seize the moment” type of love.
Brett: The Sevillan culture was so laid back, it’s an attitude I like to maintain in my life now.
How about other relationships made abroad – do you keep in touch with anyone you met while studying?
Allie: I still talk to my host parents and my roommate often.
Brett: Five of my close friends from abroad were at our wedding.
How has studying abroad affected your career?
Allie: It has taught me to explore without fear. There’s always more to learn and new ways to grow. While a change of environment can bring about many challenges, I know it will force me to grow stronger and smarter.
Brett: Studying abroad introduced me to Allie. In our search to live in the same city, I’ve lived and worked in CT, FL and now IL. Each place has brought new challenges to overcome and I feel more resilient for experiencing them.
Any advice to potential students?
Allie: Live it up! Let yourself be immersed in the culture. Don’t be afraid of new opportunities and maintain a positive, open mind.
Brett: The experience will be whatever you make of it, but it’s also an opportunity that doesn’t come around too often. Take the chance to go abroad and make the most of it.
Interview conducted by Jessica Terrell, an ISA Alumni Relations Coordinator.
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