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.
One of the differences I noticed when I arrived in Zaragoza was the public transportation system. Coming from a smaller city where most people drive cars, the buses and tranvía (tram) interested me a lot. The novelty of transportation here fascinated me, even little snags like how it seems like some bus drivers take the schedule as a suggestion and drive like it’s supposed to be a roller coaster ride (a great way to wake yourself up in the morning). Even for people who are used to it in the United States, public transport adds to your SYA experience. Here’s a list of some of the ways:
1. Language practice
Have you ever overheard a really juicy story and gotten completely involved in the drama of it all for a few minutes? Well, imagine that in Spanish. You’ll probably feel pride for even understanding with a little bit of nosiness mixed in. We eavesdrop naturally in English and it’s a good way to engage the Spanish part of your brain and pass time. Extra points if you hear someone talking about you. People here are generally a lot more open about how they feel. On one of my first days, I made the blunder of blocking someone from the exit because I didn’t register that they wanted me to move. I most certainly registered them mumbling to their friend about me afterward.
2. Make friends
Just the other day, I met a college exchange student on the tranvía when I was asking for directions. We used a blend of Spanish and English to communicate because she spoke more English than Spanish but none of them were her first languages. Within the SYA community, you get to know the kids on the same bus as you a little better. Other SYA students live on the same block as me, so it’s nice to have someone to talk to. There are also some strangers that you see every day and have a “silent bond” with. You might nod if you see each other, or maybe even talk sometimes if you’re feeling really bold. Extra points if both of you are running late and give each other a look that says “oh no, we’ve both been rushing this morning.”
I live on the other side of the river, so I cross the bridge and get a beautiful view of the Basilica of Pilar every morning. There’s a festival in Zaragoza every year, Asalto, for graffiti and murals that beautify the city. It’s entertaining to point out artwork and landmarks like these. By taking the bus we can explore and see all that the city has to offer. We are constantly surrounded by beautiful things, and the transportation gives us an express tour of our surroundings. Above is a photo of the view of Pilar from the bus.
Last weekend, I took my first independent travel trip to go hiking in Riglos. We found the best way to get there, bought our own tickets, figured out how to get to the station, and traveled alone. SYA prepares us for the responsibility of independent travel with group activities that involve going to different sites by bus. Even mini-freedoms like this aren’t possible without a public transportation system. Instead of waiting for someone to drive us or a group trip chosen by someone else, all we have to do is look at a map and use public transportation to get there. Below is a photo of one of my hiking buddies on the train to Riglos.
5. Improved Orientation
I am definitely “directionally challenged”. Using the bus system has activated the part of my brain that visualizes a big map of the city. I can almost physically feel the gears turning when I make a new connection about the geography of the city. One alumna from last year said that she feels like she still knows Zaragoza like the back of her hand. It seems hard for that not to happen with all the traveling we do. This benefit isn’t for everyone, but if you struggle like me you’ll definitely appreciate it.
Public transportation is ever-present and another way to connect with the city. For a host of destinations and activities, there’s one thing in common, the transportation system; going to school, going out, going to sports practice, when you feel lazy and take the bus instead of walking. In English class, a motif in the book we read was trains and other modes of transportation as liminal spaces where transformations occur. This concept is what inspired me to write this blog. Through things like the bus and tranvía, we can see a snapshot of our transformation and integration into the community.
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