|travel@cazorla by Javier Medina on Flickr|
1) Speaking SpanishI’ve been studying the Spanish language informally since 2007, I took college classes on it from 2009 through May of this year, and I even went on a one-month jaunt to Costa Rica last year. Now, there are definitely many more opportunities to speak the language and consume Spanish media here in Texas than in, say, Vermont, but it’s difficult to actually speak the language because we speak English by default here. It’s difficult to start a conversation with someone who quite likely speaks Spanish because assuming they do speak Spanish based on their appearance would be, quite frankly, racist. And Spanish-speakers are unlikely to approach me in Spanish because I’m white and speak English natively. But there’s no obstacles like this in Spain where everyone speaks Spanish!
2) Learning culture first-handReading about something in a book is one thing. Coming face-to-face with it is another thing entirely—almost literally! I hear when Spaniards have conversations they stand far closer to each other than Americans do. So far, I’ve taken a class on “Hispanic Culture and Civilization,” read The Story of Spain by Mark Williams, a comprehensive history of the Kingdom of Spain, and right now am reading The New Spaniards by John Hooper, an exploration into contemporary Spanish society. But until I get off the airplane in Barajas airport, Madrid, it’ll only be book smarts that I have to say about Spain.
3) TravelingLet’s face it: airline flights across the Atlantic Ocean cost a lot of dough (and jetlag’s no fun, either!). Also, the tourist visa Americans get for countries in the Schengen Area (i.e., the vast majority of Europe) are only valid for a total of three months each half-year. This is a huge obstacle for
Enter the Spanish student visa!!! Although it, too, is valid for three months, it lets me apply for a type of residency, which would extend my stay to nine or even twelve months. And while I am definitely going to be hittin’ up all the autonomous communities while I’m in Spain, you know I’m not going to waste this opportunity to travel throughout Europe without visa restrictions!
Also, public transportation (from what I hear) is so much more efficient and widespread across the pond than it is here. I’m not even worried about not having a car, and I’m excited to ride a train somewhere!
4) Living on my ownI am very grateful for the loving home my mom and dad have provided for me these past 21 years. But I’m all grown up now, and I NEED to learn how to cook! Thus my plan to stake out a meager existence on the fringe of Spanish society. Heh. heh. Of course, once the school year’s over I’ll probably end up back home for the summer. We’ll see what happens.
5) Doing workThe mission statement of my alma mater, Ouachita Baptist University, includes the following phrase: “the university prepares individuals for...lives of meaningful work.” After four years of rigorous and, at times, wearisome classwork, I’m ready to exit what is endearingly called “the Bubble” for the Real World and excited to contribute to human society. (Non-melodramatic version: I have to pay back my student loans. Therefore, I need a job.)
Readers—tell me what you think is worth getting excited about in Spain! Or if you’re going to Spain as well, talk about what you’re looking forward to in the comments below!