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Why I Love Zaragoza
Why I Love Zaragoza

Arielle L. is currently a senior at SYA Spain and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. View more of her work throughout the year here.

It has been a little over a month since my arrival here in Spain, and I couldn't imagine a better place to spend my senior year. How do I begin to describe Zaragoza and my life here? Well, for starters there are the obvious cultural differences. We eat dinner at ten and wear slippers inside. We always dress up when leaving the house, even if it is just to get groceries. We greet people with two besos. We eat fruit after meals and always say hello and goodbye. Of course, these Spanish habits are not unique to this city—there are many other things that make Zaragoza the special lovely city that it is.

I love Zaragoza because it is so active—socially and physically. It is really common to use a bike to get to work, especially because the city has built-in, well-respected bike lanes. My host father bikes to work. Every Saturday morning, I watch groups of cyclists go throughout the city. There are also a lot of runners in the afternoon and mornings. I live near a popular running and cycling spot, which is where the canal meets Parque Grande. You can find me running there around seven in the afternoon. It is such a beautiful place that at times I forget I'm in the middle of a city.

But if I were to take the tram into the city center around the same time, that would be another story. Around that time the cafes are packed. All the Spaniards are out socializing, even if it is a Tuesday. It is a really great time to get gelato or coffee with friends. The people are so kind here. Unlike Madrid or Barcelona where everyone speaks English, when you and your American friends walk into a cafe, the waitresses will actually speak Spanish with you.

This city is also very environmentally conscious. We take short showers to save water. We only use lights when the sun has gone down and turn off those lights when they are not in use. We rarely use anything but public transportation. We never put more on our plate than what we are going to eat. Life just makes sense here. Everyone is respectful of their surroundings and of each other. There is little excess and waste. I love it.

Another great thing about Zaragoza is its climate. I attended a snowy New England boarding school for three years and was relieved to hear that I wouldn't have to pack a pair of snow boots. However, if I want to I can still go skiing in the winter at the Pyrenees, which are just an hour away. I've already gone up there because my host family has a home in the mountains, and it is also a great place for hiking. Zaragoza is also not too far from the coasts, and I know kids from SYA who have gone to beaches with their host families.

I'm excited to spend the next eight months here and to bring you all along for the ride! I doubt I'll ever run out of new things to see and new food to try. Right now I'm off to a Pilar festival to watch some traditional dancing and buy artisanal crafts. Hasta luego!