What a last 7th months it has been. From taking 6 classes abroad to traveling all around Europe, I have had the experience of a lifetime. Having the opportunity to experience a vastly different culture and meeting friends from all over the globe has truly changed my perception of the world. I now know people from all corners of the globe and will have valuable business and personal contacts if I ever end up doing something abroad.
In this final post I would like to highlight some of the main differences I experienced while abroad and how I feel about them.
First, I would like to begin with the differences in consumerism I noticed between the US and Spain. In the US, I noticed that convenience is stressed heavily in the commercial world. We have a 24/7 Walmart within a 10 minute drive of pretty much anywhere, fast food open all hours of the night, and stores, like Costco and Sam’s Club, where you can buy everything from medicine to furniture at a wholesale/bulk rate. It can be said that we consume at a higher rate than any other country and with the most convenience. In Spain it is not like this, especially in Barcelona. There are no stores that are open 24/7 like Walmart or McDonalds so if you need something late at night you have to wait until the morning unless you want to pay the extremely overpriced late night supermercats a 200% premium. Being a night owl, this was very detrimental to my bank account as I often found myself paying the premium at the late night supermercats after forgetting to buy groceries before 9PM and coming home late from class or working out. I never fully adjusted to not having the convenience of Walmart at my fingertips so I am extremely happy to be back in that aspect.
Second, there is a huge problem with unemployment in Spain. The unemployment level for people 20-25 is over 20% which is so hard to comprehend. 1/5th of people looking for a job my age cannot find one. Many people in Spain, including a lot of my friends, live at home with their parents during school, sometimes even commuting 30-60 minutes by train everyday. This is drastically different than in the states where many people go away for school and live alone and have no problem with finding a part time or full time job in their college town. The life people life there is one that is a lot more conscience of spending and consumption which was super fascinating to experience.
Third, the free movement of labor and people in the EU is astonishing. The amount of people working or studying in Barcelona who are not Catalans is really high. This is a huge contrast to the US where you don’t meet many people from other countries working here. It is fun to see the many different cultures interacting and blending right before your eyes and I’m sure it is even cooler from a business aspect.
Lastly, the economics of the travel industry, especially the Airline Industry, is super interesting as it is extremely competitive. It is ridiculously cheap to fly pretty much everywhere in Europe. I never paid more than $120 round trip for any of my travels. One time I even paid just $40 round trip for my flight from Barcelona to Milan. The most well known and cheapest of the budget airlines is Ryanair. This airline sometimes profits as low as $100 on each of their flights because of how competitive the market is. This is a huge contrast to the US where it is almost impossible to fly round trip, even just inside Texas, for these prices.
Overall, my time in Barcelona was one of the most exciting and beneficial times of my life. I grew as a person being away from what was known to me and living in a completely different culture. The amount of cultural differences was a lot higher than what I expected but in a great way. I would strongly recommend this exchange to anyone and would do it again in a heartbeat! (If my bank account would let me) The experiences and people I met while in Barcelona are some of the best I have ever had, and I can’t wait to go back and visit soon!