A Review of a Month Sin Móvil—AKA Don’t Get Your Phone Stolen in a Foreign Country

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Caroline Hallmark
November 17, 2022
A Review of a Month Sin Móvil—AKA Don’t Get Your Phone Stolen in a Foreign Country

As one may be able to infer from the title, yes, my phone was stolen. And, yes, it did suck. A lot.

To be honest, I debated whether to write this post: after all, what value would my tale of woe give anyone? But the lack of a cell phone has had such a profound impact on my study abroad experience that it would be impossible to not write about it.

It all began the fateful night of September 27: I was waiting for dinner at Plaza de la Trinidad with two other IES Abroad students. My phone was nearly out of battery and, in an effort to be social, I stashed it in my pocket for the night. Five minutes later, our trio was seated at our table when, suddenly, tragedy struck—my phone was gone. 

After a thorough search of the plaza and two frenzied calls with my parents (who were surprised to find me on the other side of my friends’ cell numbers), we concluded that it had been taken—all we could do was hope that whoever had the phone would return it. But when 2 hours later I received an email from my bank alerting me to a suspicious charge to my now-canceled credit card, hope sagged. It seemed phone-lessness was now my new reality. 

Am I being dramatic? Yes. It was a dramatic event. 

The next day I spoke with IES Abroad staff who, much to my gratitude, were kind, helpful, and supportive. In addition to lending me emergency cash to make up for my stolen credit card, they helped me fill out a Spanish police report and even lent me a digital camera to capture photos for a Mediterranean Ecosystem field trip I had that weekend. 

Basically, I had two options: I could buy a cheap phone with a new Spanish number here in Granada, or I could wait for my parents to ship a replacement phone with my regular number and credit cards. After weighing the options, I decided to wait for a replacement phone from the United States: I needed new credit cards anyways, and FedEx’s shipping would, apparently, only take 3 days.

Suffice to say it did not. It took dozens of calls with Spanish customs, a signed letter from IES Abroad, and countless delays to finally receive my long-awaited shipment over a month after the original delivery date.

As one might imagine, this was not ideal: it meant that going out with friends was a logistical nightmare, that staying in touch with people from home was harder than it already was, and, of course, that traveling was a virtual no-go, at least at first (flying around Europe without a credit card or cell phone is, after all, a disaster waiting to happen).

Now, don’t get me wrong: not having a phone was bad. At the same time, though, the lack of a cell phone forced me to see the city through a new lens. Without reliance on Apple Maps, for instance, my ruinous sense of direction saw vast improvement. Not having a phone also forced me to interact with Spaniards instead of hiding behind my screen and challenged me to find creative ways to reach out to my friends. 

Above all, though, not having a phone was a lesson in adaptation. There’s a quote from Yvon Chouinard that was popular at the outdoors program I partook in last semester: “it’s not an adventure until something goes wrong.” Whether it’s a stolen phone, cancelled flights, getting lost, or accidentally telling a Spaniard I had 20 anos, not años (Google the difference), study abroad has been full of somethings gone wrong. When plans inevitably fall through, though, you have two choices: to distress (my natural reaction), or to adopt the characteristically Andalucian no pasa nada (literally “nothing passes”) philosophy and go with the flow. And, as tempting as the first may be to my American tendencies, I’ve found that accepting unexpected circumstances with humor and a casual no pasa nada has given me a little more sanity during my month without a cell phone.

Still though, I would not recommend my experience: I give getting my phone stolen 1.5/5 stars.

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Caroline Hallmark

Hola! My name is Caroline (she/her), and I am a rising junior at Bowdoin College studying History and Economics with a minor in Mathematics. Beyond the classroom, I’m a Wordle enthusiast and love spending time outside (though I am a notoriously slow walker). Another fact about me--I love the em-dash. Looking forward to sharing a sliver of my life here in Granada!

Destination:
Term:
2022 Fall
Home university:
Bowdoin College
Hometown:
Chevy Chase, MD
Major:
History
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