I studied in Valencia, Spain through the University of Virginia study abroad program. It was a remarkable experience that I will forever cherish.
It was there my perspective of life was broaden. I got to immerse myself into the culture.
I went to Valencia, Spain with very little knowledge of how to speak Spanish. I was taking a big leap. I remember talking with my mom the day before I went to the airport. She was shocked I was leaving. No one thought I would follow through, but I faced my fears and went.
I knew Very Little Spanish
I was so excited I arrived at the airport 2 hours early and I had to wait for my classmates to arrive. I wasn’t terrified of riding on the plane, I was scarred that I was making the wrong choice and I would be missing out on things at home. But I knew going to Spain was my opportunity to experience something different. I had always wanted to study abroad ever since my first year in college.
My scholarship helped me be able to study abroad so I knew I could afford to stay in Spain. I never considered how hard it would be for me to communicate with the people. When I first arrived everything seemed foreign to me. I remember the first day I had to walk to school from my apartment. I got lost and couldn’t find my way to the school.
The people must have thought I was crazy. I was crying and walking the streets lost. Luckily, I knew a few words and had the address to where my school was to ask for directions. I kept walking and I don’t know how, but I found my way to the school. I was very late for my first day, and I thought to myself this couldn’t be a good start. But things got better.
Walk 15 Minutes to School
I started my routine of getting up and walking to school everyday. It was an amazing feeling. Valencia is such a beautiful city. I loved taking the short cut through the park to go to school. I had my iPod and I was prepared for each morning.
I usually walked the 15 minutes to school rather than take the bus, because it was expensive to ride everyday. I didn’t mind walking, because it helped me prepare for my day. It was a normal part of life to walk everywhere in the city. Most cars are really small, because gas is very expensive.
My classes started at 8am Monday thru Friday. During the evenings around noon I would go home for lunch. My host mom would cook me lunch. It was always a good feeling. On my way to lunch, I would always see people laying on the park benches taking a siesta.
Take a Nap For Lunch
It was a normal part of life in Valencia to take a nap during the day. Businesses would shut down, and everyone went home for lunch. It was a very leisure lifestyle compared to the fast paced 12 hour work days in America. I loved being able to take a break and relax during the day.
For breakfast, my host mom would give me an orange or an apple or brown bread with butter.
On days I wouldn’t be able to go home for lunch. My host mom would make me a sandwich (Spanish: bocadillo) to eat at school for lunch. It usually had egg, cheese, and mayonnaise on the sandwich. My favorite was Spanish omelet bocadillo. It was a delicious and filing lunch.
If I was hungry before dinner, I would grab a yogurt. But lunch usually kept me full until dinner. It was in Valencia where I learned how to eat balanced meals and create a routine.
Everyday without delay, we would have dinner at the table. It was a good feeling to know I would have a home cooked meal for dinner. It was a part of life for dinner around the table. There are hardly any fast food restaurants in Valencia, Spain. There is a McDonalds, but it is mainly in the tourist areas.
The people rarely eat out at fast food restaurants. Most meals I ate at home around the dinner table provided by my host mom. I enjoyed the consistency in my life.
With every dinner time meal, I ate a salad. It was there I learned how to use olive oil and apple cider vinegar for a salad dressing, because that is all I had to use for salad dressing. There was always bread (Spanish: pan) served with dinner time meals.
My host mom was a widow who lived alone. She was a older lady. Most women live to be in their 80s in Spain, because of their Mediterranean diet which includes mainly fruits, vegetables, olive oil, and baked chicken. I ate a lot of potatoes in Valencia, Spain. A main concern is the aging gap. Currently, there is a generation gap, because the population is aging and not enough children are being born.
Soccer Games Are A Tradition
The national pastime is watching soccer. I went to a soccer game, and I kept thinking I was going to fall because the seats are very high up. The city shuts down when there is a soccer game at the stadium. I loved the soccer game, because we cheered, yelled, and got to let out any stress from school work. It was a part of the culture to drink and have a merry time during the soccer games.
From the constant walking, a daily meal routine, and the lack of pressure to work nonstop I was able to lose 30 lbs. living in Spain.
Sundays We Gather In The Park
The most wonderful feeling I had was seeing the city park fill up on Sundays with children skating, playing, and riding bikes. Adults running through the park trails and soccer tournaments going on. Parents would sit and converse about life while the children got to play. This happened every Sunday.
Think about the last time you saw a child playing basketball in their yard. Or your local park was filled with children playing on a Sunday. In America, we don’t emphasis family values and spending quality time with loved ones on Sundays. Most people sit watching television or on the internet.
I liked being able to attend the park on Sundays and watch the children playing. Listening to music from local musicians in the park. Or taking a run through the trail with bikers, other runners, and seeing all the games being played.
It was like a community norm to get out on Sundays and have social interactions. All the people congregated in the park or walked the malls. At night, local bars were packed with people talking and watching a sporting event.
Also, during the week, local bars hosted after hour work parties. Where you could go after work to relax and talk and have a good time. In my opinion, the people live a less stressful lifestyle.
Learn from the lifestyle in Valencia, Spain. Get out an exercise. Take the stairs rather than the elevator. Choose to walk instead of ride or drive if where you’re going is within walking distance. Eat three meals a day with fruits for a snack. Work doesn’t have to consume your life! Most importantly connect with your family and friends by eating meals at the dinner table, and using your weekends to enjoy your life. I have learned to focus on building deeper connections with people. It has helped improve my mood in the long term.
Please leave a comment. Would you want to have a siesta during your day? Are you inspired by the way people live in Valencia, Spain?
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