Perseverance after failure


Shoshi Leviton

I stood in the airport waiting to meet my roommate for the summer I would spend in Barcelona. I didn’t know anything about her beyond her Facebook profile picture, but I envisioned us becoming lifelong friends.

When I saw a 6-foot-1-inch girl walking toward me, I knew it was her. She extended a hand and said, “you’re my roommate.” Before I could say anything, she turned around and walked away. The encounter was not what I expected. In retrospect, it makes perfect sense. my roommate had other ideas on her mind besides making friends in Barcelona.

As we started to unpack, I saw rolling papers and many substances emerge from her bag. She nonchalantly started smoking, disregarding the giant “no smoking” sign.

The first night felt awkward to say the least. As I sat in our room, I could only think “how did I get here?”  Let’s just say I got rejected.

While a summer on the Mediterranean sounds like a privilege, I would have preferred a small camp in Wisconsin, to participate in a selective counselor-in-training program. I naively assumed I would get accepted to the program. It always seemed like the pinnacle of the camp experience. When I got the rejection E-mail, I felt shocked.

As my departure for Barcelona neared, I felt thrilled for the new experience. After the rejection, I challenged myself to move beyond the comfortable community where I had previously spent my summers. After all, I’m going to college soon.

In Barcelona, La Rambla was bustling, Park Güell was magnificent and the hike at Montserrat was breathtaking. But what I remember most fondly is the space between the big events: getting to know the shopkeeper who let me pay him the next day when I didn’t have enough money, talking with our landlady about the best restaurants and awaiting the laughter sparked by my broken Spanish.

As for my roommate, her trip got cut short. The program didn’t tolerate her behavior. No lifelong friend for me with this roommate (zero for two on my summer goals, perhaps). But her presence provided me an opportunity to advocate for myself, adapt to a challenging environment and keep things in perspective.