By Kari Condel
Breathtaking sights, incredible food and a vibrant culture are all ways to describe Spain. Studying about the nature and culture of this country is one thing, but having the opportunity to visit the country itself is truly life-changing. As a Spanish major, it was a dream come true to assess where I am with the language, where I want to be and what I need to do to get there.
For 10 days, I traveled throughout the country, starting in Madrid, the largest city, and ending in the ever-famous Barcelona. Throughout the duration of this trip, I visited the following cities, each more beautiful than the last: Madrid, Toledo, Córdoba, Seville, Granada, Valencia and Barcelona. Immersing in the culture and interacting with individuals who speak Spanish as their first language was fascinating and the best possible learning situation. Traipsing through the streets, it was important to use my knowledge of the language to ask for directions, order food or drinks and even understand the simplest of things such as street signs. I can attribute being able to communicate to the education I received throughout high school and furthered as a Bulldog at DeSales.
Although I do have a great understanding of the language and the culture itself, there remained a slight barrier to effective and efficient communication. Some phrases got lost in translation as well as the speed at which the locals talk was surprising and caught me off guard in some circumstances. One of the most difficult parts about learning a new language is not how much you study or how many vocabulary words you know but practicing it with individuals who also speak that language.
One of the many interesting things I found throughout my travels was the amount of people in Spain that knew English, whether they were fluent or knew a few phrases to string together. The importance of knowing more than one language is what I believe differs our country from others. Both English and Spanish are among the top languages spoken throughout the world. Talking to locals, I gathered that Spain, as a whole, realized the opportunity to unite themselves with more people by implementing mandatory English classes for those in school. While the United States offers this too, it becomes optional throughout one’s education, while it remains a required class in Spain.
Aside from the difference in education, the selection of food is of a unique quality. Spaniards take pride in the way their food tastes, how it is presented and how fresh it is. In order to show its freshness, the entire animal is presented. For example, the seafood had the head and tail remaining on the creatures, the pig was presented with the hoof still attached and everything was served on the bone. Nothing completely unhealthy or processed ever touched my mouth while dining in this country, showing the pride they take in the small accomplishment of pleasing people with their platters; and who doesn’t love a good meal?
I am truly grateful for the education and knowledge I have gained thus far into my Spanish-speaking adventure. The memories gathered, friends made and experiences had will last a lifetime, and this country will forever hold a special place in my heart. It was my first time in Spain, but definitely not my last!