I’m here to talk about my favorite country in the world, Spain – and also why you should consider participating in a semester abroad there. Every other summer (since I was born), I would spend three months in Poland with my family.
I’m here to talk about my favorite country in the world, Spain – and also why you should consider participating in a semester abroad there. Every other summer (since I was born), I would spend three months in Poland with my family. Once my Dad got his vacation time, he would go overseas to visit my mom and I and then the three of us would see another country for a week (since everything is so close and the flights were super cheap). The summer right before starting my freshman year of college was no exception to tradition, and my parents decided that we would visit Barcelona for a week. Barcelonaaaaaa, Españaaaaa – the words just rolled off my tongue. Now to your surprise, at the time, my stupid 18-year-old self was a little disappointed. “Spain? What’s in Spain? Why can’t we just go to an island in Greece or something cool?” My opinion of Spain quickly changed after spending a week there. In fact, I was so smitten with this amazing country that I swore I would study abroad there. Fast forward to the fall semester of my junior year of college – doing just what I said I would.
They were the best four months of my life, and I don’t regret anything, not even that extra chupito (shot) that made me puke, tubs of paella, gelato, and even the 26 pounds I gained abroad – it was all more than worth it. I’ve made lifelong friends and memories that will be with me forever. My definition of study abroad can be best described as: what other time in your life can you be absolutely carefree? Your homework consists of picking a new city or country to travel to every weekend, filled with endless adventures. And partying till 7am every night? Not a problem (thank you Spain for your 3-hour siestas). Here are my reasons for studying abroad/visiting Spain:
- Rich Culture – Each town and city in Spain is filled with rich culture and various traditions. The city I studied abroad in, Valencia, had Roman, Muslim, and Spanish roots that could be seen in the stunning architecture throughout the city. Each region of Spain even has its own dialect. I could go to a town an hour away and the atmosphere could be totally different. This is what makes Spain such an interesting country – every city is completely different from one another. The major cities I recommend visiting are Madrid, Barcelona, San Sebastian, Valencia, Granada, Cordoba, Seville, and Zaragoza. Each has their own mini-culture and distinct, yet pleasant, quirks. Fun fact – Valencia has a yearly tradition in March called Las Fallas aka a week long party filled with paella contests and setting sculptures that were built specifically for this occasion on fire.
- Beaches, Mountains, Rivers – Anything you want to do, Spain pretty much has it. Various cities and towns have great beaches with some awesome scuba diving sights (check out Javea). Go north and hike in the breathtaking Pyrenees Mountains. I was also very lucky to go white water rafting up there, which I seriously recommend to everyone!
- Central Markets – I had never in my life been to such amazing food markets until I came to Spain. Literally every city in Spain has some sort of central market. Though the one in Barcelona is immaculate, as is the one in Madrid (they made fresh mojitos there with crushed berries!), my favorite was the Mercado Central in Valencia. Everything was so reasonably priced there and I could get anything I wanted. Fresh watermelon juice, dried strawberries, jamon (ham), wine, handmade soap, the largest bell peppers I’ve ever seen, and even the best homemade hummus I’ve ever had. One of the favorite parts of my week was going grocery shopping here.
- Nightlife – Spain has a world-renowned nightlife and for good reason – the Spanish know how to fiesta. First off, clubs don’t even really open till 1am (hence siesta until we fiesta). So you’re dancing the night away, and before you know it, you look down at your phone and it’s 7am… literally. That is a completely normal time frame of nightlife in Spain. While every club and bar is an unreal time in España, I loved the clubs right on the beach – I’m talking about you Opium Barcelona. I also think it’s important to mention that you get a lot of alcohol for your money. I’m talking about 1 euro shots people. Mojitos are amazing here as are the gin and tonics.
- Castles – I can’t even tell you how many castles I saw in this country, they’re just everywhere! I even got to see a monastery in the Pyrenees Mountains that was built in the 1400s. There is just so much history everywhere you turn, it’s actually incredible. My two favorite castles were in Xativa (Castillo Xativa) which is reminiscent of the Great Wall of China to me and in the Pyrenees Mountains (Castle Lorrae) which is where parts of the Kingdom of Heaven were actually filmed!
- Food – Tapas, paella, chorizos, chocolate con churros, and gelato. What more do I need to say?
- Plazas – Every city and town in Spain has one or multiple plazas. Way back before we ever had cellphones this was the way people would meet each other – they picked a plaza to meet at. Each plaza is different in terms of shapes, sizes, and architecture, but they are all beautiful. My favorite was the Plaza de la Virgen in Valencia. There was a beautiful fountain in the center, marble tiles covering the ground, an amazing view of the pastel pink basilica, and outdoor cafes surrounding the plaza.
- Way of Life – I am an NYC native. I am always in a rush to go somewhere and always have to plan everything I do in advance. Spain is all about taking your time. You could spend hours in a restaurant (no joke) and the waiters never push the check on you – you’ll be the one who has to ask for it. It’s all about family and enjoying time with those you love. Nothing needs to be scheduled, a very “take it as it comes” mentality. I loved it.
So go ahead! Check out the country that has completely won over my heart. On a side note – people often ask me what I miss the most about Spain. While I do miss the crazy nights with my friends, I often find myself missing the little things – sitting on the fountain at the Plaza de la Virgen with my friends, basking in the sun and eating gelato. I miss going to the Mercado Central and asking the kind Turkish lady for her freshly made hummus. I miss just aimlessly walking around through those tiny alleys and admiring the intricate designs of people’s balconies. I miss it all and I hope that you guys get to experience all the things I saw and did in this amazing country.
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