The American Pressure
I’ve never stopped and thought about the immense amount of pressure placed on the shoulders of college-aged students. Did you realize we’re expected to graduate from college, start a successful career soon after, find a husband or wife, and start a family ALL before the age of 30?
For me, this was never my plan, but for many students around 20-25 years old, this is the ‘norm’ in the U.S. After talking about customs like this (school, career, marriage) with other Spanish students our age, I found out it’s quite the opposite … and much more relaxed … in Spain than in the U.S.
First off, Spaniards place a high value on their university education. If you attend, it’s your number one priority. They study HARD! Their finals last an entire month and they don’t do much else other than study for them. From my experience, ours last a week and we still find time to sneak in one last hoo-rah before the end of the semester. Because school is so important, and necessary in Spain’s damaged economy, relationships and starting families is definitely not on the minds of Spanish students. Many say they’re planning on graduating and finding a good career much before getting married to someone. They also have dreams to travel after school and before a career, pushing back the marriage date even further. I asked one of my friends who’s 21 if he planned on marrying his girlfriend, he laughed because it’s something he hadn’t even thought about … I told him not to tell his girlfriend that.
In Spain, many people don’t get married until after 30, and have kids even later. The focus is on finishing school and finding a proper job. Many people also expressed that they’re just not ready to make that kind of commitment when they’re that young, and mentioned it’s necessary to live more life before you settle down. In fact, the average age of independence in Spain is around 30; meaning they don’t move out of their parents house until then. How different than the U.S.!
While I agree with some of these ideas, such as graduating and finding a supporting profession before starting a family or not being concerned with an age of marriage, I do appreciate my freedom from my parents at the time we leave for college. In some instances I think the youth of America have a lot of pressure to do three big life tasks in a short 10 years of life, a more relaxed view on this could save a lot of stress, bad marriages, and lead to better career choices. All in all, it’s interesting to have discussions like these and observe the differences in customs that seem so engrained in life. Before I came here, I just figured our customs were normal everywhere. Apparently, life will still go on if you live with your parents until 30 and get married after! Or something like that …
Moral of the story, you don’t have to do it all now! Tranquila.
Courtney Cerniglia is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point majoring in business administration and Spanish.