When I was selecting where I would be studying abroad, I knew Spain was the country for me. The location, weather, language and culture has always intrigued me. However, the universities I could apply to weren’t plentiful, due to my Spanish level. My only option was to attend Universidad de Murcia. When I shared my interest of studying abroad in Spain, most people thought I’d be spending the year in either Barcelona or Madrid; as if there weren’t other cities to choose from. Although Murcia is not the biggest or most well-known city, it has a lot to offer its visitors and I love it here! These are some of the reasons why studying abroad in a smaller city is an excellent choice.
1. Directions are simple
Considering the city is smaller, there is less ground to cover. This makes it not as overwhelming when you first arrive, and quicker to learn the ins and outs of the city. There are so many new things that are changing in your life during this time, and getting lost shouldn’t be another underlying fear to add to the list. If you’re truly lousy with directions, I suggest using google maps or getting an actual map because the streets are smaller here and can be confusing at times. The last bit of advice I will give is to remember that the street signs tend to be on the corners of buildings and not out in the open, on the corners of the streets. Look up for those street names!
2. Not as touristy
Bigger cities like Barcelona and Madrid are rich and full of culture; however, they are also full of tourists. There is nothing wrong with running into some fellow travelers seeking the diversity of these cities. However, with a huge touristic community comes more traffic, a raise in the cost of living and a rise in crime rates. These factors ultimately lead to less cultural authenticity and more money spent by you.
3. Offers cultural authenticity
In smaller cities there are more opportunities to engage with the authentic, cultural lifestyle of that country. For example, smaller cities give more spaces to practice the local language. With less tourism, there isn’t a strong demand for the citizens of that country to learn English, or other common languages for that matter. This can be a struggle and a blessing at the same time. At first, this was somewhat of a struggle for me because my Spanish level wasn’t up to par, but now I view this as a blessing because every time I leave my flat I am able to practice my Spanish. Considering this is the reason I decided to study abroad in the first place, Murcia is the perfect city in my eyes.
Although I enjoy studying in a smaller city, visiting bigger cities is well worth it! I can attest to that. I visited Barcelona and enjoyed every second of it. It is beautiful, full of life, and a charming blend of the historical world and the modern world. However, when it comes to living and studying in a location for months, consider all of your options. Research the cities to see what the daily life is like and think about how you would feel living in this place. Do not choose the most well known city simply because of its fame. There is more to a country than its most popular destinations.
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