La vida de España
Before I begin, I just wanted to thank everyone for reading my blog. Being so far from home has made me realize what is most important to me in my life, and I am very fortunate to be supported by such great friends and family. Not only do I feel support and love from friends and family, but I am grateful for the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point International Programs and, of course, the College of Professional Studies. Both have prepared me and helped me in my journey of studying abroad and just in general in my education path. I appreciate everything they have done and I cannot wait to be back in Stevens Point this fall. I am even more excited to graduate, begin my career path and hopefully be able to give back to those that helped me along the way.
This past weekend was the Spanish holiday of Carnaval. It is one of the most popular and important celebrations of the year for the Spanish people. It takes place all across Spain and everyone knows about it and celebrates it wherever they are. There are two cities that are known for their Carnaval celebrations, Cadiz and Tenefrife, they have grand parades and al sorts of festivities, but the rest of Spain is still fun too. Many of the students from my school traveled to different parts of Spain but I stayed in Valladolid this weekend. We didn’t have school on Monday or Tuesday so it was an extra long weekend. Even though Valladolid is a small city and not particularly famous for its Carnaval celebrations, there were still parades and various events set up around town. On Friday night some of my friends and I dressed up in costumes and went out, we soon found out that just about everyone in Valladolid had the same idea. It was fun to see what everyone dressed up as and I noticed there were a lot of costumes that had come from American movies. I also thought it was funny to see so many guys dressed up in girl costumes, in the United States it’s a rarity to see that, but here it’s common and my friends and I spent an hour talking to a man dressed up as Snow White. It was a fun night and it was nice to be out and experience a great time of the Spanish year firsthand. This is a great event in Spanish culture and a great time in their community.
Another aspect of Spanish culture that I love is socializing with friends. I have already seen in the couple of weeks that I’ve been here that growing up in Spain is very different than growing up in the United States. Probably the biggest difference I have noticed between Spain and the United States in regards to socializing is the location. In the United States many people, especially young people, spend time in their house or a friends house. While in Spain, when you want to socialize with friends it must be done in a public place. Teenagers go to cafés or go shopping in order to spend time together, instead of just hanging out at a house with each other. I like to go walk around the park “Campo Grade” when the weather is nice. The park is filled with fountains and peacocks run wild, it’s like mini Central Park in Valladolid.
In regards to shopping, right now in Spain all the big stores are having huge sales. This time of year, right after the holiday, is called “rebajas” and basically it’s like Black Friday in the United States but for all of January and February instead of just for one day. Obviously, all of the American girls and I love this; I already bought a new pair of shoes and too many clothes. Ha ha! There are stores on the streets otherwise there is one large mall in Valladolid. I prefer to shop downtown where you get to be outside more but the mall is also fun.
There is also a farmers market almost every day in Plaza de España and when I walk by I usually buy and apple or orange from one of the stands. Sadly “rebajas” is almost over so I have probably come to the end of my clothing shopping. Shopping is just one way that young people can hang out, but going out to bars is another very common place to hang out with friends. Once everyone comes of legal drinking age, which is 18 in Spain, going out for a drink becomes a regular occasion. When you go out for a drink, it is common to be served a “tapa” which is basically a small appetizer like a baguette with ham, or small egg and potato omelet. In Valladolid, every Thursday all over the city in just about every bar there are deals for drinks and tapas, 1-2 Euros for a beer or glass of sangria, and a tapa. It’s a fun time because there are so many people out, I love being able to socialize with people in my community and immerse myself in their culture.
Overall everything has been going great for me! I am loving school and getting really good grades on all the tests I have taken so far, so I am pleased with that. This week we have to select our topics for a big independent study paper, our monograph about Spain. We can pick just about any subject but I think I want to write about some aspect of the history of Spain, maybe about Francisco Franco. I am very excited to get started on this paper and continue on with school. I can’t wait to come back to the States and Stevens Point and hopefully be able to use all this Spanish I am learning. Being here definitely makes me think about my career path and what I want to do after graduation. I feel that this experience is opening countless doors for me. Basically all is well with me and I’m happy with everything that I’m doing, talk to y’all in a couple weeks!
Alexia Szabo, a junior majoring in accounting, Spanish and international studies at UW-Stevens Point, is blogging about her study abroad experience in Spain.