Were you in Barcelona or Madrid? … No.

“Were you in Barcelona or Madrid?’ Now perhaps I have developed a bit of a tolerance to this type of question. For the last five years when I tell people I go to college at ‘Iowa’ they often respond, ‘Oh, Iowa State?’ I find myself hit with a slap of indignation each time I hear this, but generally respond with a simple, “No,” quickly followed by the explanation that I go to the University of Iowa (Go Hawks!), and no it is not in Ames but Iowa City.

True Hawkeye fans!

True Hawkeye fans!

Given my experience with confusion over where ‘Iowa’ is actually located, I should not have been surprised that when I studied abroad in Spain I started to get similar questions.

The conversations tend to go something like this.

Me: I studied abroad in Spain and it changed my life! (or similar eloquent explanation of what my Mallorcan year meant to me)

Person to be educated: How cool! Were you in Madrid or Barcelona?

Me: Uhhhh…. No.

Now I do not expect every American to have a general understanding of the fact that there are more than two cities in Spain any more than I expect any Spaniard to know where Minnesota is, let alone Iowa. (I have actually yet to meet a Spaniard in Spain who does.)

While you may find that you want to ‘educate’ individuals like this with a strong look of disregard and a roll of your eyes, restrain yourself. I am here to save the day with a trick adapted from Michiganians everywhere (though I think my version makes more sense than yours does. Sorry I’m not sorry.).

Making a quick map of Spain

Whether you live on the peninsula or on of the magical Balearic Islands, this trick is for you.

If you have a right hand (or even a left, but right is preferred), you can instantly show everyone where you live. Making a fist and holding your wrist at a 90 degree angle, like you were secretly doing a low fist bump with a friend, tuck your thumb under and find your imagination. Your arm has just become France. Those creases in your wrist that form by holding your hand at this strange angle are the Pyrenees mountains. The joint of your pointer finger is now Galicia and Portugal. The joint on your thumb is now Gibraltar. The center of your fist, Madrid.

If you are confused the internet and paint have helped me show you what I mean.


Don’t judge me on my art skills.

How do you explain where you are from when you travel? Do you have a go to reference? What do you wish you could explain with a quick line or phrase to your friends at home or abroad?