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A year ago I could no longer deny that the time of studying was coming to an end. Many of you will recognize the helpless feeling of having all the possibilities in the world but not a clue of what to do next. To decide I made a list of all possible plans: finding a job, doing another study, go traveling and more. I made a list of countries where I could go to for traveling or studies. I consulted a lot of friends and had some sleepless nights because of all the freedom I had. Suddenly my old dream of studying Spanish returned. Years before I did the beginners course of Spanish at the Language Center of the university. For the ones that don’t know: you can study languages for free at Tilburg University (with the vouchers all students receive). I cannot encourage you more to do so. Learning a language opens a new world, a new way of thinking and a lot of people to talk to. However, the best and most fun way to learn a language is of course to learn it in a country where they speak the language. Last September I flew to Valencia and went back to school.
Most of you probably know Spain from Paella, bullfights, tapas, flamenco, siesta, sangria and most Dutch people also from a certain football match in 2010, but let’s not mention this. While living in Valencia I got to know that every part of Spain has its own food speciality, culture and language. That makes Spain a very interesting country. To visit as a tourist or to live in. As I decided to stay in Valencia for 12 weeks I can tell you most about this specific city and how I experience the culture of this city in the Valencian Community, next to the Mediterranean Sea.
When learning a language at the same time you learn a culture. It is important to get to know more about the culture and history of a country to understand more of a language and the way the people talk. The eating culture is always interesting and very different from country to country. In Spain, there are five different names for eating, because there are five different meals every day. To start the day there is “desayuno” (at around 8 o’clock) which means breakfast. Normally consisting of Café “Solo” or “con leche” and some toast with tomatoes or something sweet. As this is only a small meal people are hungry again around 11. “Almorzar” with the “Almuerzo” is habitual. People eat a “bocadillo” (bread) and whoever wants can take a beer with it. The most important meal of the day is la comida, lunch, at 14:00 in the afternoon. This is preferably a three-course meal. A lot of restaurants offer very affordable menus (three courses including a drink for around 10 euros). So, if you go to Spain my advice is to blend in to this very nice culture of eating. Maybe a small snack is needed around the time of the “merienda” (17:00) because only at 22:00 it is time for a “cena”, a small meal before going to bed.
For me it was not hard to get used to the Spanish schedule of eating. What I like most about living in Valencia is that the people are living outside. On every corner of the street there is a café with a terrace. Every day from early in the morning until late in the evening there are people enjoying life outside. I think this is a general thing people do in Spain. Moreover, the people are very open. At least the people I have met are all very welcoming and want to show you the best parts of their country or city. They want you to taste the best wines and best paella ever. Getting to know people helps studying a language and is in my opinion one of the most fun activities in life. In the beginning, it is very hard to maintain a conversation because only few words are in your vocabulary but “poco a poco” you will get there.
The moment of writing I am still in Valencia. I can say that I got to know a new city the past 10 weeks. Valencia is not that big of a city but there is a lot to discover and to do. Valencia has everything you need: a very nice climate, the beach is near, there is a university, the airport is close, a lot of beautiful villages and beaches are surrounding the city and the best I did not even mention. Because of an enormous flood of the river Turia, the original river is shifted. The old riverbed remained and is turned into a park. The park that crosses the whole city and makes life very comfortable. People celebrate birthdays in the park, do sports, relax and play music in the park.
So, are you doubting what to do after finishing your masters? Please think about all your dreams. Maybe consider studying a language. And if you want to study a language my advice is: go and live the language!