España is for Students: An Inside Look into Study Abroad in Valencia

Corey Thompson is a student at the University of Kentucky and an ISA Global Ambassador. He studied abroad with ISA in Valencia, Spain.

1. Describe the place where you studied abroad in 150 words or less.

Honestly, I stumbled upon the city of Valencia with no real intention of that being my study abroad destination. Nonetheless, its primetime location right on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea immediately caught my eye. Valencia, though a much smaller city than the well-known cities of Barcelona and Madrid, is the third largest city in Spain and the perfect size if you ask me! I never felt overwhelmed, but there were always multiple activities to do on any given day. One awesome quality about Valencia is that a HUGE park runs throughout the city all the way to the coastline. The park is filled with everything from soccer (futbol) fields, basketball courts, and skate parks to fountains, concert halls, and museums.

Making paella

2. What was your day-to-day life like as a student?

Most every day began with breakfast or lunch cooked by my amazing host mom, Maria. You have not lived until you have tried real Valencian paella… trust me. I was one of many students who chose to live with a Spanish host family, and so I rode the public bicycle (yes, bicycle) system through the park to get to class each day. It was about a 20 minute ride, but was always entertaining and made for a great morning workout routine.

Contrary to many study abroad programs in Spain, I actually attended an American school while in Valencia… so, yes, the majority of my classmates were from the States. However, the diversity among the teachers at the school was awesome! Obviously, the Spanish teachers were from Spain, but other teachers came from all around Europe. I got lucky and landed a teacher from England who had a super cool accent.

3. What was the “vibe” of your city?

valencia-closeteachersIf I had to pick just one word to describe the vibe of Valencia, I would have to go with “chill.” It was a very laid back environment, with the exception of the slight hustle and bustle of the working class to and from their jobs. People, especially young adults, were always outside exercising, practicing some type of craft, or just hanging out at the beach. Since Valencia lies on the Mediterranean coastline of Spain, it is a very international city filled with people from Spain, Northern Africa, and Italy. To me, it was really amazing to see the mixing of cultures and everyone having a good time together. Also, like most European cities, there is a huge Roman influence in Valencia as far as the architecture (i.e no tall buildings, cobblestone paths, lots of plazas, etc.) which makes it look historic. But, this look is offset by a lot of new and modern looking buildings, especially the Ciudad de Artes y Ciencias, a collection of museums designed by Gaudi that sits in the park towards the center of the city. It seriously looks like some futuristic, Star Wars, spaceship thingy… check out the pictures (seen above) and you will see what I mean!

4. What types of activities did you do with your friends in your city?

There are tons and tons of activities to do in Valencia. A lot of the things that my friends and I did were very spontaneous events that we just kind of stumbled into while walking around the city. Different plazas will have fire spinners, magic shows, or some type of musical performance that are always cool to see. Valencia is also known for its amazing Flamenco dancers:  a type of Spanish dance… kind of hard to explain but it’s awesome to see! Like I said before, there is a huge park that spans the entire city with lots of space to do pretty much whatever you want to do. We spent a lot of time playing soccer with the locals or just relaxing under the sun.

Speaking of sun, the beach is another great hangout spot at all hours of the day and night. As with most Spanish cities, the fun does not stop when the sun goes down in Valencia. In fact, it usually continues until the sun comes back up, so be prepared for long nights! Some bars do this really cool thing 2 times a week called “intercambio nights.” One night is dedicated towards English speakers who want to learn Spanish, and the other is for Spanish speakers who want to learn English. I found this to be one of the most helpful ways to pick up on Spanish as well as meet a lot of new people from all over Europe. Valencia also has a zoo towards one end of the park that we checked out. And soccer games… lots and lots of soccer games. Valencia CF is actually a really good team, plus we got to see them play great La Liga teams like Barca, Real Madrid, and Atletico. Soccer is crazy hype over there so I would 100% recommend going to some games. Some other really cool events were the bullfights, but be advised they can get kind of brutal. We were a pretty outgoing group of friends to say the least, and never were at a loss as far as what we were going to do that day or that night. We are honestly planning a reunion trip in Valencia already!

10675654_10152426284331044_8169005639278937657_n5. How much Spanish was spoken your city (as opposed to Catalan, English, Arabic, Basque, Klingon, etc)?

Valencia is not a very touristy city at all, so Spanish was almost exclusively spoken. For me, that aspect of Valencia was awesome because I came to Spain hoping to get a firm grasp of the language. Some of the older folk speak a dialect called Valencian, which is pretty similar to Spanish but they only use it when they are talking to one another. And also a lot of the younger crowd speak a bit of English and were really eager to learn more.

1504528_10204022370773118_4745642592734296700_n6. How many hipsters did you see in your city?

There were soooo many hipsters in Valencia, I loved it lol. The younger generation of people is filled with really chill people who all seem to have some sort of craft or something that they do almost daily. So you will run into a lot of skater dudes and chicks, people will tattoos, crazy hair, and very trendy clothes.

10468438_10203656068055779_2686964191628942832_n7. Did you visit other cities in Spain? If so, what would say made your city unique? Why should someone study there?

I tried to visit as many places as I could while I was in Spain, and I recommend that you all do the same. It’s so cheap to travel! The other cities that I visited while in Spain were Barcelona, Madrid, Sevilla, Toledo, Montenejos, and Logrono. All of these cities which were cool in their own right, but Valencia was definitely my favorite, followed somewhat closely by Barcelona. Valencia was just such a great mix of everything I wanted when going abroad. It wasn’t an overly populated city with tons of traffic like you will see in Madrid and Barcelona, but there was still ALWAYS something to do. There is a very strong presence of Valencian/Spanish culture wherever you go, meaning that it is not a very commercial or typical city. It is very much its own thing that you cannot find elsewhere in Spain. I personally feel like I got so much more out of studying abroad because I chose to go to Valencia instead of a more popular city in Spain. I really hope that you all make it to Valencia at one time or another, even if it is just to visit–though studying abroad there would be a much better option. If you do decide to study there, or have any questions at all, feel free to email me (below) and we can talk some more!


The world awaits… discover it.

Author: International Studies Abroad (ISA)

Since 1987, International Studies Abroad (ISA) has provided college students in the United States and Canada the opportunity to explore the world. ISA offers a wide variety of study abroad programs at accredited schools and universities in 73 program locations throughout the world.

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