My solo time entry this week is not quite solo time but this peer encounter has been such an important part of my time here in Barcelona that I wanted to share. This peer encounter that I am talking about is an assignment from one of my other classes. At the beginning of the term we were paired up with a native Catalan student from the Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona. Throughout the term we have written papers discussing the cultural differences we notice between our peer contact and ourselves. We have covered a variety of topics including, language, social identity, extra-curricular activities, pop culture, university life, religion, and politics. Each meeting I have a set of questions to use as guidelines for interviewing my peer contact. The great thing is that most times we start of with the questions for the general topics and then carry on into discussions of our own. We both love learning about the other’s culture. I am paired up with a girl my age so it is very interesting to see how much we have in common even though we are from two different cultures.
Two major topics we continually talked about were our identities as well as the university system here compared to that of the states. When talking about identity I learned a lot from my peer contact. Her and I are similar in some ways such as we are both very open-minded and aren’t strongly associated with one particular side of politics. However, I noticed some very prominent differences in the way in which we define our identities and how they were constructed. The ways we identify with social groups, how our identities were constructed by religion and how are nationalities affect our daily lives were all differences I noticed throughout our discussion. In terms of the university systems the three major differences I found were the issue of cost, student-professor relationships, and extra-curricular activities. The cost for university in Spain was extremely less than that in the United States. I also discovered that professors here do not seem to have as much available time or focus on their relationship with students whereas in the U.S. spending time with your professor is highly encouraged. What I was most shocked about is that extra-curricular activities are basically non-existent in Spanish universities and in the states you can’t walk more than ten feet on a college campus without seeing a sign or poster for some extra-curricular activity.
These experiences with my peer contact have been an amazing opportunity for me to get to know what life is like for students in Spain in a very direct way. It has become so much more than a class assignment, as I have been exposed to Spanish culture and formed a relationship with a great friend.