How Participating in a Dance Contest Led to My European Fling

How Participating in a Dance Contest Led to My European Fling

I had been studying abroad in Salamanca, Spain for a few weeks when my friends and I saw a poster for a dance contest at a bar near our classes. As I had always been one to to participate in dance contests, I knew I had to give it a shot.

I ended up winning the contest after a few too many sangrias and thought that that would be the end of it; I was very wrong. A few days later, a guy came up to me at a different bar in Salamanca and showed me a video of me participating in the dance contest. “Eres la chica! (You’re the girl!)” he said.

I laughed and replied, “Sí, ese soy yo. (Yes, that’s me.)”

He started laughing and immediately replied, “Eres Americana (You’re American).” To my surprise, he switched to English and asked me if I’d like to dance. I was in a long-distance relationship with my boyfriend back in the States at the time, so I politely declined. He didn’t seem too bothered, and went back to drinking with his friends. I always saw him around Salamanca (it’s a pretty small city), but we only exchanged glances rather than speaking.

When my boyfriend and I broke up about halfway through the semester, I was heartbroken. Not only did I not see it coming, but I was also halfway around the globe from my family and friends back home. Little did I know that Martín would change everything.

My friend and I went out on a Thursday night (arguably the biggest party night in Salamanca) and were at out favorite spot, Chupitería Daniel’s. I had on my favorite shorts and my booties, so I was feeling good. I saw Martín out of the corner of my eye and noticed that he was looking at me. Rather than look away like I’d usually do, I let myself linger until he gave me a funny look and started walking over.

Had I not participated in the dance contest or stayed positive after the breakup, I wouldn’t have opened myself up to someone who made my experience that much better.

I learned that his name was Martín, he was a student at the University of Salamanca, and was originally from the Canary Islands. We stayed out together all night and exchanged WhatsApp information. I wasn’t sure we’d speak again, so I was pleasantly surprised to receive a WhatsApp from him on my birthday (only a few days later) that read “Feliz cumple! (Happy birthday!)” We made plans to meet up that week and spent nearly every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday (the best nights to go out in Salamanca) together afterwards.

Martín was a great distraction. He helped me with my Spanish, showed me the best spots in Salamanca, and always seemed to convince me to stay out until the early hours of the morning. Sure, we were nothing serious, but I will never forget his smile or the way he laughed when I made a language mistake.

Had I not participated in the dance contest or stayed positive after the breakup, I wouldn’t have opened myself up to someone who made my experience that much better. Martín is one of the most fun people I’ve ever met. He was always looking to go out, giving my friend and I a one-euro box of wine (yes, those exist) to drink under the cuarto arco (fourth arch under the bridge), or helping me climb through his window via the fire escape.

It may have just been a semester fling, but that doesn’t mean I’ll ever forget dancing the night away or hearing his broken English as he tried explaining what he did that week or where he was going next. He taught me to never turn down an opportunity because you don’t know where it will take you. He said he’d let me know when he comes to New York in a few years; you never know what could happen.

About Rachel Petty

Rachel PettyRachel is a recent graduate of James Madison University. She is from northern New Jersey and spent four months studying in Salamanca, Spain. She also got to travel to many other European countries and has been on mission trips to Costa Rica and Jamaica. In addition to traveling, she loves writing, reading, going to the beach and spending time with friends.

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