Now that a year has passed since my return from Spain, I have taken time to reflect upon my journey. This past summer, I lived, studied and worked for three months in Madrid. This experience helped me to not only enrich my knowledge of the Spanish workplace but also to hone my Spanish language skills and familiarity with Spanish culture. Ultimately, this stay progressed from an internship/study abroad opportunity into a full-scale eye-opener as to the reality of the economic struggle currently plaguing Spain and how immensely fortunate all of us are here in the United States.
Upon my arrival to Spain, I was already aware of the financial situation, largely a result of the work of the Partido Socialista (Socialist Party) on public expenditure. Spain has recently become one of the four poorest countries in Western Europe, sporting an overall unemployment rate of 22% with 45% of college-educated youth unable to find work. In light of both the recent Occupy movements and my memories of los indignados que acamparon todo el verano en la Plaza del Sol, I have come to realize the differences and also the similarities between such youth-led movements, even though one is in Spain and the other is in the U.S. While the depth of struggle of most "Occupy" protestors cannot quite compare to the chaos now facing young Spaniards, the mass movement for change is equally inspirational in both cases. The youth of today represent the next generation and we mobilize to improve the future of our countries.
I was touched not only by the campers in Madrid's main plaza, but also by the weekly routine of my supervisor, an environmental attorney. Whereas in the U.S., a legal career is often associated with a comfortable life, my supervisor had to put in 10-hour days, usually five days a week, leaving little time to spend with her young daughter. Given her situation, the cry of the indignados, and the beggars on virtually every corner, it is no secret that Spain is in desperate need of a change. While keeping in mind that no government is flawless, Spain could certainly use a shift in the balance. Perhaps a return to the Partido Popular will make for a fresh start. It's a spectacular country; not every culture teaches people to greet perfect strangers on the street, nor could you find a restaurant open for tapas until 10 pm in many countries.
So here's to hoping for a brighter future for Spain, another European country which was once a magnificent empire, and which has the potential to shine once again.
Nos quedamos contigo.