Everyday I have the privilege of waking up and looking out through my window to a more-often-than-not gorgeous and glorious Spanish morning view. I probably do not appreciate enough and, in light of recent events, may never aptly appreciate the value of this experience. But everyday in those small reprieves when your mind can wander away I try to remind myself to be thankful for the opportunity I have studying abroad in Spain. Studying abroad arguably is the most glorified of all academic experiences and maintains a hallowed and seemingly sacrosanct reputation. But however much romanticized this notion is, it is at least justified in that it can provide unforgettable memories, both joyous and tragic.
I never knew Austin Bice. What I know of him I have only ascertained from the stories and various news networks. From what I garnered he was a seemingly archetypal American study abroad student: born in San Diego, to an ostensibly classic loving American family, attended San Diego State University, was studying international business in Madrid, and loved college basketball. According to the news reports Bice was “physically fit, tall- six-foot-four and a specimen of health.” On February 26th Bice went missing in Madrid spawning a ten-day search that ended tragically. The body of Austin Bice was pulled out of a Madrid river on March 8th ten days later very near to the same discoteca he was last seen trying to enter. We had never met before but his memory and story will forever leave an indelible mark on my experience here in Spain.
Tasked with writing articles about my “study abroad experience” in Spain I grappled with the decision to write about something so tragic and so recent. I ultimately decided that my experience here is comprised of as much the joyous and positive experiences as it is the tragic and unfortunate. To acknowledge one without the other would not be a comprehensive account and would subsequently be a superficial portrayal. The story and heartbreaking events of Austin Bice have impacted me as much as any other experience or incident thus far in my trip. The story and terrible event has impacted me not only because of the apparent and obvious similarities, as I am an American student studying abroad in the Madrid area who also happened to live in San Diego and have found common ground with his statements. The news outlets had reported that Bice “was amazed at the Spanish party scene” and reported that he posted on his blog that he “should try to keep calm at parties and not try to be the typical loud and drunk American”, both sentiments I have found myself saying at one point. This story impacted me not only for the clear and obvious similarities we possessed as American students but because of the profound and intense reminder of the nature of life it provided and of the appreciation of the opportunities you are given. It deeply impacted me because it reminded me that, as essentially the entirety of my trip has been wonderful, things can change quickly.
As the Bice saga unfolded it sharply juxtaposed the contentment of my trip so far with the vociferous and powerful remind that life is fleeting and an experience like studying abroad in Spain should be conducted with heed and appreciation. Obviously, the recent events serve as a stark life lesson and it could never be more applicable and pertinent than now as I am studying abroad. So for each day that I can wake-up and look out of my window onto a scenic Spanish sky I will be entirely grateful and appreciative of the opportunities and blessings I have. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Bice family.