After being in Spain for over 4 months now, I feel like I completely understand the University culture here in Spain, especially in Mallorca. Public Universities are usually better than private, and kids commute to the nearest University, while living at home. The typical “college life” that every American thinks of, with residence halls, off campus apartments, dining halls, and student centers does not exist here. College is not a time to find new friends, join clubs, or become independent in this country, it is solely for learning and earning your degree.
Part of the reason the University life differs is because of the difference in culture. In America, to find a job, you must sell yourself. How can a company can profit from adding you to their staff, through your grades, experience, and achievements. Finding a job in Spain however, is different; it depends only on the equivalent of a GPA you have received from the University. Along with selling yourself in the United States, you can also chose to change career paths if you are unsatisfied. In Spain, this is unheard of. Here, once you chose a path, there is no option of turning back. For example, before entering high school, I would have to decide whether I wanted to follow the science and math route or the humanities route. If I chose humanities, I would have to chose a subject from this area to study at the University. Say I chose Psychology, I would only be taking Psychology classes at the University. You may not take classes outside of your major at the University. After, you specialize further through your master or doctorate. With these degrees under your belt, you only have a handful of options for a job. If these positions are already filled, you’re out of work and out of luck. This is part of the Spanish economic crisis.
Another difference in the culture that makes life more difficult for these young Spaniards is the transportation to the University, especially here in Mallorca. There is one University on the island, situated 15 minutes outside of Palma, by car. Coming and going from Palma to the University is not a problem, but from other areas of the island, it is. From North to South as well as East to West on the island, it is about an hour drive. But the students don’t have cars, and must take public transportation to the University. Most have to take transportation into Palma, then the the University, which could take up to an hour and a half just one way.
Yesterday I talked to a girl who is forced to make the three hour transportation everyday to and from the University work. She is a Psychology major, like me, hoping to eventually be a psychologist for children with Down’s syndrome. Everyday she wakes up at 5 am to make it to class on time, and usually doesn’t go to bed until after midnight because of all her studies. Her grades aren’t as great as they could be, I believe because she is so run down. And these grades determine whether or not she will be able to continue with her goal of becoming a psychologist. To continue on this career path, she will need money to pay for graduate school, so this weekend she will start work at a bar. Friday and Saturday nights she will work from 11pm to 5am or 6am, taking even more away from her sleep.
After she told me all of this, I couldn’t help but say, “less than 5 hours of sleep a night?! I couldn’t do it!” Her response was, if you were in my position and that was the only option, you would be able to. There is no other option. Which lead me to realize, how lucky I am with my Holy Cross education.
Coming from Holy Cross, I have found a large difference in the education here versus that of my liberal arts college. I have come to appreciate that I can choose my classes, that I sleep a 10 minute walk away from my classrooms, and that when I graduate I have a thousand options or more options as a career. Now, I appreciate and understand the American culture better.