The University of Iowa

Intro and culture

January 24th, 2020

Beautiful tiles from the world’s longest bench situated in Park Güell, Barcelona, Spain


This fall I spent 4 months living, studying, and traveling in Valencia, Spain. I had an unbelievable experience filled with food, culture, language, oranges, and fun! Valencia is situated on the Mediterranean coast of Spain and is the most perfect city anyone could live in. With its 300+ days of sunshine, beautiful weather, palm trees, historic city center, castles, beach, and modern city of arts and sciences, it is a magical city and a place I fell in love with very quickly. 

The Spanish culture is very different from American culture (unless you live in Key West or Hawaii). The timetable of Spain was one of the biggest adjustments for me. In general, the country wakes up a little later, works until mid-afternoon, takes a couple hour siesta (nap break), then picks up business until later that night. There are 5 meals: 

-  desayuno (breakfast 9 am)

-  almuerzo (mid-morning snack/lunch 11 am)

-  comida (lunch 2:30 pm)

-  merienda (afternoon snack/tapas 6 pm)

-  cena (dinner 9-10 pm)

It’s a lot to keep track of when I am used to eating at 9, 12, and 5, but I quickly adapted to eating five times a day :)

When I first signed up for study abroad, I had no idea what an experience I was getting myself into. I thought I would be doing the same things (studying, eating, sleeping) that I was in Iowa City, but just across the Atlantic Ocean in another country. Once I started my life in Spain, I quickly realized what an amazing opportunity I had found and couldn’t recommend studying abroad more to anyone thinking about it in the slightest.

Trolley car in Lisbon, Portugal, one of the hidden gems of Europe - a gorgeous city with beautiful architecture, views of the Atlantic, and yummy world-famous pastries

Alpine cows in Sauverny, France who wear cowbells around their neck and twice a year migrate up and down the alps - the cows wear flowers and towns host festivals to celebrate this cow journey

If I have piqued your interest in Valencia, Spain, travel, or food, check out my other blog posts and as always, PLEASE feel free to reach out to me if you are thinking about studying abroad, are going to Valencia, want to plan a weekend trip to Valencia, have questions about where to travel to in Europe, how to fly super cheap, how to see everything in London in just one day, the best places to eat fresh fruit or churros, how much study abroad might cost (real numbers from when I wrote down everything I spent), how much you can expect/budget to spend on a weekend trip, Airbnb/hostel recommendations and do’s/don’ts, where you can find genuine alpine cows and anything else you can think of. Whether you have one question or one million questions, I will literally drop what I'm doing to talk about it. I always check my email and am not scary.

Emily Carroll, a third-year chemistry student from West Des Moines, Iowa, studied abroad in Spain on the USAC Valencia program.