Kelly McClelland is a senior studying Marketing at the University of Utah. She participated in the 2011 Advanced Spanish Language in Gijón, Spain, study abroad program.
Gijón is like one of those great friends that you instantly connect with. One of those friends where you say “Wow, I feel like I have know you forever.” It doesn’t take you long to get to know it and it is one of those places that you will never forget.
Daily Life: Gijón Spain is located on the Northern coast of Spain. My host mom’s house was a five minute walk to the beach. It was amazing. After class all of my classmates and I would walk to the beach with our bocadillos in hand and enjoy a nice long afternoon of people watching, surfing, tanning, and lots of stories
Spainards were always out and about at all hours of the day, with their children, smiling, laughing, and just enjoying their beautiful city. They were so incredibly friendly. The second we would pull out a map we would have locals coming up to us from all directions asking if we needed help. Then they would graciously walk us safely to our destination. It felt like home.
There were small cafes on every corner that served the most delicious churros and chocolate. Not to mention coffee and flaky buttery pastries that literally melted in your mouth. Yes, if you must know I did come back a few pounds heavier then I left…but I will not disclose by how much ;).
My Friends that became My Family.
We had the most diverse group but everyone was so different, that that is what made it work. We got along effortlessly and it was so funny to see everyone slowly coming out of their shells. We all experienced countless adventures together and now we share some of the most unforgettable memories.
The elaborate details in all of the architecture of the most ancient buildings were breath taking. The pictures can’t even capture the depth and the design of these cathedrals and castles. They were all built with so much history and all had a different story.
All in all, my Spanish adventure was something I will never forget. I learned so much from it and grew a lot as a person. But there was one crucial lesson that I realized that I think is important enough to share with you. It is about balance.
The Spanish culture is very much different from our American culture. Being in Spain made me realize how much we (as Americans) base our happiness and self worth on our successes, our accomplishments, the numbers in our bank accounts, and the model of car in our driveway. We work tedious hours and spend time away from the people we care about most, for what? At the end of the day you might have a nice fat paycheck but how much is that money worth if you have no one special to share it with?
Family, friends, lovers, partners, those interpersonal connections is what the Spanish culture thrives upon. Spainards know the true value of having strong personal relationships. They would rather spend their time at a café catching up with friends and swapping weekend stories and jokes then staying late at their offices, and rightfully so.
Now, I am not saying that one culture is right and the other is wrong. Both have their pros and cons and both have their consequences. What I am saying is that I have learned the importance of balance. If you are constantly on your iPhone emailing or texting while you are supposed to be enjoying a nice family dinner or outing with friends…you are not balanced. If you are constantly late to work or not showing up to classes because you would rather go skiing or go to the pool with a group of friends….you are not balanced. Find a happy medium between your accomplishments and your personal relationships. When you are at work, work hard and for a company and a cause you believe in. Work to achieve something extraordinary, not mediocre. Work to make the world a better place for your children and your children’s children. And when you are not at work, live, laugh and love. Enjoy every moment you spend with your friends and family. Cherish their jokes, their quirks, and their stories. Leave your iPhone 5 (is that out yet?) at home and actually be present, physically and mentally. It is an art to learn to relax and enjoy life moment by moment, but it is something crucial that needs to be mastered in order to live your life to its fullest.