by Patrick Collins
Studying Spanish in Spain serves the double purpose of teaching you a new and useful language while placing you in a culture distinct from your own. Learning an additional language is good to sharpen and exercise your mind, while living in a new environment is conducive to a broadening of perspectives as you adjust to an alternate society and learn to navigate a foreign world.
Spain's culture is a particularly enjoyable one; in the 30 years following the repressive dictatorship of General Franco (which in itself was precluded by a brutal civil war), the Spanish people have developed a unique affinity for the balance between enjoyment and the demands of work and family. Social life in Spain is exciting and dynamic, as evidenced by the appreciation of people of all ages for la marcha (nightlife).
Spanish as a language is a valuable commodity in today's marketplace, where close to half a billion people speak Spanish as a native language and over 20 countries throughout the world are officially Spanish-speaking. Added to that is the increasing importance of the language in countries like the U.S., where the Hispanic population is expected to make up a quarter of the total population by 2050.
The European Union holds Spanish as one of its six official languages due in part to the important role Spain plays as a business and cultural bridge to Latin America. In areas such as these, knowledge of Spanish can lead to better access to employment and higher salaries.
Perhaps one of the most important benefits of learning Spanish within the context of Spain's culture - besides helping the student learn faster and better retain the language - are the personal benefits one derives from a study abroad experience. This is especially true for young students with limited experience away from home.
Studying and living in a new culture takes you from your familiar surroundings to unexplored and unknown horizons. In exploring a new world and learning its lessons, you're also exploring and coming to know yourself. New experiences provide valuable opportunities for growth, and although challenging at times, they have the potential to teach us lessons that can be applied throughout our lives.
Spain offers an ideal combination of a unique and intriguing cultural-historical heritage, a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere and excellent quality of life. Its sunny weather, sparkling coastlines and adventurous nightlife draw millions of visitors to the country each year, making it the world's top tourist destination. Life in Spain is also appreciated by thousands of foreigners who decide to move permanently to the country every year.
The opportunity to study abroad in Spain and learn Spanish is one of the greatest advantages you have as a student, and is most easily realized during this time in your life when traveling is perhaps at its easiest. You'll come back home with a new language under your belt and a deeper understanding of yourself and life that can only come from traveling and seeing a larger part of the world.
Patrick Collins works for www.spanish-university.es, a website that offers Spanish courses in Spanish universities.