Defining “success”

Finishing up! I can say without a doubt that I have learned and experienced more this summer than I have in any summer before. Finishing up this blog post a little late (sorry) but I really wanted to take advantage of my last full week in Madrid. In the past week, I finished up my internship, traveled to Barcelona, and had a bittersweet (see you in a month) goodbye with my friends. I am feeling content with what I have been able to experience — I really felt like I lived in Madrid. Barcelona, also, was amazing. I am an architecture nerd on the low key, and I was absolutely blown away by the Sagrada Familia, Gaudí’s Park Güell and Casa Batllo and just the general architecture of the city. It also made me appreciate the tourist culture in Madrid. I found that in Barcelona, tourists are everywhere. In Madrid, I find that the large groups are confined to the Plaza Mayor, Sol, and around the palace. They feel less imposing in other parts of the city which made me feel more local (this also could have been a result of me being in Barcelona for 2 days and Madrid for 2 months, but I digress). I am definitely going to hae to return to Spain, and Madrid in particular, because I feel a bit attached now and I am for sure going to miss it.  
Onto the prompt! Out of all the prompts we have had this summer, I feel like the definition of “success” is where I have found the biggest difference between Spain and the United States. I must preface that I am a very career-driven person, often more so than my American counterparts, which has impacted how I have perceived Spanish professional motivation. Also, my work placement was less traditional than others in the way that I wasn’t working in an office, and it wasn’t a usual 9-5, but I believe that culturally, Americans are much more career and success motivated. I have noticed this cultural difference starting when kids are beginning their higher education. In Spain, it is normal to go to a university near your home and live with your parents. I have discussed with a few Spanish friends and my coworkers that my name is on a lease, I only see my family over breaks, and that I study 8 hours away from where I grew up and it is always received with surprise. In Spain, most kids remain living with their parents into their 20s. I don’t think that living with one’s parents makes a person unmotivated in their career, but it must affect how individuals develop a sense of independence and self-sufficiency. In the states, self-sufficiency is a sign of success. If you can live comfortably on your salary and on your own, you would be considered successful, or at least on the road to success. In Spain, you can be working a job and living with your parents (which is honestly, a great financial decision) and be considered equally as successful. There is without a doubt a stigma attached to living with or moving back in with one’s parents in the USA; it usually is considered a failure or a handout. I think the more laid-back trajectory to independence in Spain is refreshing, but I know that I would not be able to ever fully assimilate to it. This is because I have been raised in the United States, valuing extreme independence, and it has been ingrained into me that I need to be fully self-sufficient and separate from my parents and other supports. I am very happy to work towards this goal and I am excited to reach it, but this enthusiasm is not shared by my friends here in Spain. Neither outlook is better, each has their own pros and cons, and I know that the reason I subscribe to the American style is due to what I was exposed to in childhood. Going back to my own extreme desire to be self-sufficient, I think that my outlook is likely more severe than other American students in Spain. When I was speaking to a Spanish friend about my plans for the fall, I went on and on about my multiple jobs, volunteer positions, and internships that I will be working on top of class. My friend was genuinely blown away with how much I have put on my plate (it is a lot) and he told me that it would be unheard of to do so much during undergrad. I know that I like to keep busy, and it is the best choice for me, but I have definitely enjoyed the more laid-back atmosphere of the last 2 months! 

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