Wandering the Streets in Spain vs the US

Bailey Davidson is a student at the University of Tennessee – Chattanooga and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is studying abroad with ISA in Salamanca, Spain.

Roughly a week into my program in Salamanca, Spain I decided to go off and essentially get lost in the streets while taking pictures. I had initially turned to the group of other international students with me in hopes that someone would go with me, but being the very patient person that I am, I waited a entire five minutes before leaving. Here are the three main differences I noticed from walking around solo in Spain vs the US ( by US I mean my home university in Tennessee).

  1. Pickpocketing (and lack thereof)

So bare with me I hadn’t even been in Spain for a full week, and the first thing going through my mind about walking around was the fear of being pickpocketed. However, when I was walking around there was never one moment when I felt worried about having my camera stolen or my bag ripped open, people were just living their lives. I feel like pickpocketing is stressed so much to people planning to vacation, travel, study, etc. in Europe and especially in Spain, but unless you’re just constantly waving your iPhone around with a bunch of euro bills about to fall out of your pocket, for the most part you should be fine. That is not to say you shouldn’t constantly be exercising awareness of your surroundings. But if you’re mindful of where you put your money and electronics while out and about, for the most part you’ll be fine. The Spanish population is not out to steal everything you own, but use the same caution you would walking around in a US city.

2. History

One of the main differences I’ve noticed since arriving in Spain, and one I’m sure other travelers would agree with, is how it feels like every street corner is a part of history. Walking around Salamanca I would pass cathedrals made in the 14th and 15th century, universities that have been there for hundreds of years, and even brick and foundation (that most the city’s structures were built with) that has been here for hundreds of years. Walking around in my home university, where most if not all the buildings were established in the last 100 years, is just a completely different experience in term of historical significance. It feels like your a part of history when you’re wandering the streets in Salamanca, and an entirely different level of appreciation for the fact that the city has maintained original architecture and buildings which showcase the history of the people who live there.

3. Feeling Independent

Wandering the streets of Salamanca alone has probably been one of if not the most freeing experience I have had while traveling. It’s one thing to walk the streets and get lost in your college town where you most likely have the ability to call your friends or family if you were truly lost and needed help; but when you’re in a foreign country, where you’re not fluent in their language, and you find yourself lost it’s an entirely different story. I came into my study abroad year not knowing anyone, and while I have made friends in my program it’s a different type of friendship because it’s just beginning and we haven’t had the opportunity to really get to know each other yet. So wandering in a foreign city, in a country you’re unfamiliar with, can be intimidating but honestly very empowering. There’s a real feeling of independence and that starts to build up hand and hand with confidence in yourself the more you keep exploring. That confidence of believing in yourself and that even if you decide to move, whether it be to another country, state, or city, being able to explore and travel on your own is one of the most valuable skills you can have in life.

Your Discovery. Our People… The World Awaits.

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