If life in Spain were to be described in one word, it would be easy-going. I guess that’s two words, but you get the point.
It’s 8 a.m., and I’m up. Breakfast is light, so after a quick coffee and a piece of fruit, I’m off for my 9 a.m. class. I start with History of Spain, where we’re learning about Los Reyes Católicos, Isabella I and Ferdinand II—turns out their rule involved a lot more than Christopher Columbus’ voyages. Our class began all the way back in prehistoric times, which gave us a lot of history to cover. It’s fascinating to learn of all the people groups and dynamics that shaped the Iberian Peninsula into what we know it as today.
After my history class, I head down the hall to my remaining morning classes: Present Day Spain and General Translation. Present Day is a round-table discussion of Spanish culture and current events. Our textbook is helpful, but picking our professor’s brain about culture, norms, and values has been one of the most informative experiences here. Translation, my last morning class, is my favorite. We’ve spent time translating all sorts of texts — news articles, literature, even recipes — into Spanish and English. It’s challenging to figure out how to capture in Spanish the sentiment of Jimmy Carter’s presidential nominee acceptance speech, but I think I did a pretty good job. After class, I head back for lunch time and siesta.
Everything you’ve heard about Spanish lunches is true. They are late in the afternoon. They are very big. And they are wonderfully tasty. My host mom prepares delicious meals that always tire me out before my siesta. And siesta — wow, I’ll definitely miss it. I usually use mine to get ahead on some homework. (Actually, I’m usually speeding through my night classes’ assignments at the last minute, don’t tell anyone!) After a bit of homework, I like to relax either by taking a nap or hanging out with my host family. My family likes to relax with TV, and I get a kick out of watching American cartoons in Spanish. Sometimes I’ll venture out to find a new park or walk a different part of the Rio, Valencia’s 8-mile greenspace running through the city.
At 5 p.m., it’s time to go back to school for my last two classes. Going to class in the evenings four times a week is something I’ve had to get used to — it requires more endurance throughout the day than going to school at Cedarville does. But having our classes at night also lets us have three-day weekends every week, which is totally worth it! My night classes are “Advanced Grammar” and Spanish Phonetics. Two very educational and memorization-heavy classes. They’re difficult, but I feel really rewarded after making it through all the day’s material. I say goodbye to my professors and the school’s administrators and head back home.
After my classes, I have some time to head out in the evening. I love getting gelato at the shop in the historic center, and I’ve made it a point to try as many kebabs as possible — I think I’ve been to 12 different places so far. As I write this it’s getting close to Christmas time, so messages of Bon Nadal, Valencian for Merry Christmas, light up above the streets. Most nights, I go out to see a different part of the city, enjoy a new park, or find another kebab shop. Even on weekdays, the city is lively until early in the morning, but I like to make my way back home by midnight so I’m ready for tomorrow’s classes and adventures. My Spanish family is still up and moving, so I’ll talk to them about our days and retire to my room. I’m tired, but I love taking as much time as I can to see the city and make the most of my time here in Valencia.