EMILY FRITZSON- One of the many wonderful aspects of studying abroad in the center of Spain is that it is very easy to travel not only within Spain, but also throughout Europe. The program planned two amazing trips for us. In late January, we traveled to Toledo, Spain, which was only about an hour south of Madrid by bus. This past weekend, we went to Valencia, Spain, a coastal city to the east of Madrid. It took us about six hours to get there by bus. Despite the long bus ride, the trip to Valencia was amazing.
The planned trips within Spain have been high on my list of favorite aspects of the Tufts-Skidmore in Spain program. Although there is a set itinerary for us, there is a lot of free time for us to wander the city and find cool places to eat in smaller groups. It’s also great to not have to stress about transportation and accommodations, which I’ve come to learn takes time and energy having traveled to Amsterdam on my own here. The program trips also give us all a chance to get a flavor of a city that we may not otherwise have visited on our own.
The planned trips are also great because they give us a taste of the college lives we are used to at our respective universities. We choose a roommate with whom we stay in a hotel room neighboring all the other students in the program. So we all tend to naturally congregate in each other’s rooms like we would at school, which is something we can’t do in our homestays. Although I cannot speak highly enough about my homestay and my host family, I realized how much I missed that aspect of campus living while in Valencia, watching SpongeBob SquarePants (or Bob Esponja as it’s known here) while in my pajamas with three other girls and a bag of potato chips. It’s harder here in Spain to just hang out with friends without having to go somewhere that costs money (or that gives me an excuse to eat something that’s not good for me). I think it’s almost easier to get to know people when you can stretch out and talk, without being in a formal setting with other people around.
That’s yet another advantage of the planned trips: it allows us to still get to know one another better. I’m realizing now that I don’t see everyone every day or even every week with how busy our schedules have become between class, extracurriculars, and traveling, so the trips let me talk to people I don’t often get the chance to, especially the Spanish peer mentors.
Personally, I enjoyed Valencia more than Toledo although I was expecting the reverse. The first thing we did in Valencia was stop for paella, which was the best first impression a city could provide. We ate at a beautiful oceanside restaurant with a comida consisting of salad, fried seafood, bread, paella and orange slices with ice cream.
Needless to say, we were all happily full at the conclusion of the meal. We followed the comida with a walk along the picturesque beach. I had forgotten how much I love and miss the sea, and that’s perhaps why I enjoyed Valencia so much: it reminded me a lot of my Maine home. All in all, Valencia is my favorite city that I’ve been to in Spain because it’s very easy to navigate, near the ocean, has great gelato and it’s warm! Sun, sea and good food… what else can you ask for?