Major: Spanish, Finance
Universidad de Burgos, Spain, Fall 2018
During my time in Spain, I have had a lot of free time. The classes here are by no means a walk in the park, but I would say they are easier than the classes back in Kalamazoo. With less homework and tests to worry about, there is more free time to experience culture, relax, and of course travel.
While abroad in Europe, you will find it easy to travel, even if you only have weekends free. During my time here, I have traveled to neighboring countries like France, the Netherlands, Ireland, and Switzerland. I stayed in each country for approximately two days. Two days may not seem like a long time, but it is plenty of time to explore one city, so just choose wisely. We usually leave on a Thursday, have Friday and Saturday to explore, and come back on Sunday. For example, I just recently traveled to Dublin, Ireland. Dublin is a smaller city, so I was able to take one of the two days to go on an excursion to Northern Ireland where I saw the Giant’s Causeway and Carrick’s rope bridge. The next day I explored Dublin and was more than able to see most of the tourist locations and experience the Irish culture, in one day.
Traveling in Europe also is easy because it is cheap! There are many travel options available to you while you are researching where you want to go. There are cheap plane tickets that can bring you anywhere your heart desires. When I traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, I was able to buy a bus to the airport, a flight to Switzerland and back to Madrid, Spain, and an AirBNB for three nights, all for under 300 euro, which is roughly $338.
In addition to traveling to other countries, I would also recommend traveling throughout Spain. Much like the states in America, each distinct autonomous community and city of Spain has its own distinct cultural differences. The Burgos program has a week free where you are encouraged to travel. I took the opportunity to travel through Andalucía, the southern part of the country. The culture and customs there are what you may consider the stereotypical idea of Spain: flamenco dancing, seafood, and good weather. Moreover, the program includes one day trips to different cities around Spain. We have seen Segovia, Salamanca, Madrid, and many others. They are all super engaging and educational.
Traveling is a great way to learn about the different cultures that prosper here. Each European country that I have visited has an overall European feel, but each is different in their own distinct way. All European countries are very social, so people will go out to restaurants to sit with their friends or families and talk about their days or life in general. Although this is true in all the countries I have visited, Spain is the only country with a Tapa culture. People will go out to bars to order a drink and a small bite sized appetizer, sit and chat, and then move to the next Tapas bar for another. Ireland, on the other hand, did not do this, but they had a strong music atmosphere. Almost every bar or restaurant I walked past was playing live music. Inside the bar people would sit with their friends and enjoy the Irish folk music that was being played.
Although I spent a lot of time traveling to neighboring countries of Spain, I also spent even more weekends in Burgos. These weekends are definitely more relaxed. I usually spend them by going out to coffee with some of my Spanish friends to practice my language skills. At first, it was difficult to make friends from here, but I soon found out that Spanish people were just as interested in getting to know me, an American, as I was to get to know them. Getting coffee with them is a great way for me to speak in Spanish and learn a little more about their culture, specifically the culture of the younger generation.
I also spend time watching soccer games. Soccer is huge in Spain, almost every TV will have soccer playing almost 24/7. Recently, El Clasico the soccer game between the two biggest teams in Spain, Real Madrid and Barcelona, took place in Barcelona. I was lucky enough to be in the city while it took place. Unfortunately, the tickets for the game were unbelievably expensive. El Clasico can be compared to the Superbowl of the Spanish fútbol league, La Liga. I spent the game in a bar right next to the stadium and the atmosphere was incredible. There were people everywhere and you could hear chants and cheers throughout the whole day. It was an amazing experience as a sports fan. I would also recommend trying to see a basketball game in Burgos. The fans were incredible, and I was blown away by the atmosphere they created.
Although I learn a lot in my classes, it is during the weekends where I learn the most. Practical experience is far more edifying than book knowledge. By traveling, making Spanish friends, and living the life of a typical Spanish person, I have learned so much. Don’t be afraid to get out of your box while you are abroad, because it is impossible to regret it!