Janae-Rose F. is currently a sophomore at SYA Spain and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from Charlotte Country Day School in North Carolina.
After returning to Zaragoza from a trip to Madrid, I feel new gratitude for the city we are in. Although it’s small, not well-known outside of Spain, and if the wind hits wrong it can smell bad, I have grown fond of Zaragoza. Below, I’ll give my top two reasons why Zaragoza is the best city to host this life-changing SYA experience.
1. Complete Language Immersion
When I was in Madrid, I heard English almost more than I heard Spanish. Being in a touristy city would impede learning. Most Spaniards I interacted with switched to English when talking to me regardless of my responding in Spanish. I could imagine myself and many others using this as a crutch instead of working through the nervousness that surrounds speaking in Spanish to strangers. In Zaragoza, it’s impossible to have a “rest day” from speaking in Spanish and we get a more authentic experience. Spain is a country with many distinct languages. So, some speakers of those other languages prefer to call what Americans refer to as Spanish Castellano because the other languages are also from Spain. Aragon is one of the few regions in Spain where only Castellano is spoken. Otherwise, we could get confused with another language thrown into the mix and host families might prefer speaking their other language.
2. Small but interesting
Zaragoza is a city, but it isn’t overwhelmingly large. I liked the size of Madrid because it attracts a lot of diverse people and events. Every time I visit Madrid, I feel like I am in a new city because of the unique museums and restaurants I go to with their own distinct flavor. Zaragoza still has interesting events and cultural activities. We even have an activities coordinator, Angeles, who sends us a weekly bulletin filled with local events. That said, Zaragoza is small. It's possible to get to know within nine months and whenever I go out, I run into teachers or friends. I personally like being in a city this size because I get the benefits of being in a close community without being stranded in a village. I can also get to know Zaragoza more profoundly than I would in a bigger city. I feel like in a big city, I would be obsessed with seeing as many things as possible. In Zaragoza, I can just relax and get into the habit of going to my favorite coffee shop every day.
There’s a third quality to the city that I struggle to describe with words. Zaragoza will never feel like 100% home to me, but I can see myself reflecting on my time here and missing it. Zaragoza is a city of contradictions, it’s small with a big heart, it has the bustle of a city but the relaxed vibes of a town. Almost like the soup to Goldilocks, Zaragoza is just right. So next time you tell people you’re studying abroad in Zaragoza and they say “Zara-what??”, know that by the end you’ll be proud of your city.
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