For spring break most teenagers want to go to Florida or California, but I have always wanted to go to some part of Europe. When I found out my school had an opening in the exchange program to Barcelona, Spain, I immediately applied, and fortunately, I was selected to participate. On the other hand, I was equally excited for Claudia, my exchange student, to come and stay with us. At the same time my brother also had an exchange student from Australia. Our house was full of different cultures and I recognize that I learned a lot about different cultures from the two students living in our home and from traveling to another country.
Claudia noted that Cincinnati, Ohio was very different from Barcelona, Spain. The first differences Claudia saw when we walked out of the airport were the housing and transportation. She thought the cars and houses were huge compared to those in Spain. She also thought a thirty minute drive from the airport to our home was a long distance. Spain has a fantastic public transportation system so many families have only one car or do not have one at all. In Spain it is easier to get places by subway or bus because many people live in the city of Barcelona. Residents walk to work, school, and the store. Another thing that Claudia found very different in the United States was the daily schedule. In the U.S. we are used to going to bed before midnight and getting up around 7 a.m., but she was not accustomed to this at all. In Spain, people go out at 10 p.m. and come home around 3 a.m. and still wake up the next morning around 9 a.m. We both found we had to adjust to this when we were not in our own countries. We both learned a lot about different daily lifestyles during the exchange.
While I was in Spain, the thing that impressed me the most was how much people value and appreciate their families. While I was in Barcelona I met most of Claudia’s aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. Lunch is their big meal of the day, so people arrange their schedules in order to be able to have lunch with their family. School was dismissed at 2 p.m., and there was not a lunch time built into the schedule because everyone went home to eat a huge meal that their family prepared. Claudia’s parents came home from work and we had a nice long lunch together where we talked about our day or the Barcelona futbol team. Her mother also showed me how people are so eager to learn new things. Her mom knew very little English, but whenever she had the opportunity to practice her English with me she did. She also asked me many questions about the United States. On the flip side, she also helped me with my Spanish and tried to teach me some words in their native language, Catalan. All in all, going to Spain taught me not only about the differences in culture, but also about similarities, such as how people all over the world value their family the most.
I am so appreciative of the opportunity to go to Spain, immerse myself in their culture, and make friends from different countries. A person can learn a lot by traveling to a foreign country, such as although there are many differences in cultures throughout the world, there are still similarities. This was a great experience and I hope to continue traveling during college and throughout my life.
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