Having had a little while to reflect on my experiences in Europe has allowed me to appreciate the time that I had.  Living in Valencia, Spain and traveling to other parts of Europe (including France and England) opened my eyes once again to the ways of the world, if you will.  That is to say, it allowed me to gain a better understanding first-hand of how cultures mix, how nations interact and the basic identities and similarities that all people share, regardless of background.  What struck me was how similar we all are, yet the same as well.  For example, nearly everyone I met and observed has an appreciation and recognition of the importance of family; of taking time to enjoy the little things; of understanding culture, art and history, while simultaneously being wary of others.  Even though the cultures of Europe and America seem worlds apart, we are more similar than we know.

The other thing that struck me was looking at the US from a totally different perspective.  Being a Political Science Major, I have always been taught to look at situations from the persepctives of others and other nations before finally reaching an ultiamtum or decision to take.  Nonetheless, residing in Spain, even if only for 4 months, allowed me to truly live from a diferent persepctive.  As such, some of the things I reflected on were quite interesting.  For example, simply the size of the US is daunting – Alaska alone is comparable to the entire continent of Europe.  The speed at which we move is different.  The emphasis on work over play is different.  Our cars, of course, are much different. All of these changes and comparisons allowed me to view the US in a different light; a light that I am still deciphering today.

Pat Pederson is studying abroad in Valencia, Spain, with the University of Virginia.