Life Lessons: Featuring my Café con Leche

Hailey Kilbarger is a student at Grand Valley State University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She studied abroad with ISA in Valencia, Spain.

A typical cappuccino has cocoa sprinkled on top like this one.

I came into my study abroad experience knowing that living in Europe would be more on the expensive side. Much to my surprise though, the prices of everything were a lot lower than I was expecting!

At first, it was great. A café con leche, toast, and juice for three euros? I can fit that into my budget! No tipping at the restaurants and a three course meal for 11 euros? Must be my lucky day! A mini hiking backpack that I can use on every trip I take for only four euros? Perfecto! I suddenly felt as though I had overspent on every purchase I made back in the US. Me and my frugal self were ready to move to Spain for good!

Café con leche, blood orange juice, and toast with jelly at Bluebell Coffee Co.

Then I started to realize that cheaper goods come with a much heavier cost. The unemployment rate in Spain is through the roof. I thought it was rough in the US, but when you compare 5% at home to around 20% here, Spain definitely has it harder . Imagine being a college student here knowing that when you graduate, you probably won’t be able to get a job, regardless of your degree. Almost every young adult Spaniard I have met during my time here still lives at home with their parents.

You may be thinking, “I thought college was practically free for Europeans?” Although college education is publicly funded here, that doesn’t mean they are rolling in wads of extra cash. A huge percentage of American college students have to take out loans just to make it through one year. We don’t have that money, nor do most European college students.

You may also be thinking, why don’t they move and work elsewhere? Great idea! In theory. How does one move to a new city or country when they don’t have any savings because they haven’t been working. And even if they do have something, the unemployment rate is not much lower in many of the surrounding European countries.

Although I still enjoy those breakfast deals from time to time, living in Spain has made me more educated about the economic state of the country. I sometimes walk by empty restaurants around dinner time and think, “How is that business surviving?” It’s very sad to see, but Spaniards are still some of the happiest people on this Earth. It must be their lifestyle.

Orange juice, café con leche, and toast with jelly at Bastard Coffee Co.

The world awaits…discover it.

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