This past weekend marked the hundredth day since my arrival in Spain. One hundred days is a lot of time, and hitting triple digits made stop to reflect on the time I have spent in Europe. I really hate how cliché it sounds, but studying abroad really has been the best and hardest thing I have ever done. The ups (such as realizing how much my language skills are improving, traveling to places I’ve never been, and the amazing weather) are better than I ever could have imagine. However, the downs (for example, homesickness) have been equally extreme. Though I have more than two months before I have to return to my real life back in New Jersey, realizing how much time has past forced me to think about aspects of life in Spain, as well as throughout Europe in general, that I’m going to miss the most.
Not only are the meals at different times in Spain, but they are enjoyed in a very different way. In the United States, we strive for quick, convenient meals due to overly busy schedules and a go-go-go attitude. Enjoying a meal in Spain, and many other parts of Europe, could not be any different. Meals are seen not only as a way to suppress hunger, but also as a social event. Lunch, the biggest meal of the day, can often take up to two hours from start to finish. The time may be filled with catching up with family members, or simply enjoying a post-meal espresso with a friend. As someone who doesn’t really eat lunch at Rutgers (I usually grab an apple on the way to class), I hope to bring the habit of more relaxed, enjoyable meals back home.
- Bike-friendly Cities
Though I cannot speak for all of Europe, or even every major Spanish city, Valencia is an incredibly bike-friendly city. I use the Valencia equivalent of Citi Bike (called Valenbici) almost every singly day. In Valencia, the extensive system of bike paths are a painted part of the sidewalk instead of a lane in the middle of the road, making them some of the safest paths I’ve ever ridden a bike on. I shudder to think about the dangers of trying to navigate New Brunswick and other parts of the United States on a bike.
- Outdoor Dining
Every single restaurant in Spain has almost as much outdoor seating as they do indoors. At first, I thought this was mostly in part to the mild temperature and sunny skies; however, when I froze for a week in Paris while on spring break, I realized that there were just as many outdoor seating options. In the months that I’ve spent in Spain, I’ve really grown to love eating outdoors, even if I’m just enjoying a simple café cortado and a croissant. When I thought about it, I could only name two or three restaurants in New Brunswick that have the option of sitting outside. Though we couldn’t eat outdoors all year round in New Jersey, I’m going to really miss doing so in the summer when I return home.
From the beach and the palm trees to the ham sandwiches, the list of things I know I will miss about living in Spain already goes on and on. I’m sure the list will just continue to grow after I return to the states as well. Fortunately, I still have more than two months left to take every opportunity to sit outside and enjoy café con leche while I absorb as much of the Spanish culture and lifestyle as possible.