Today, I couldn’t fool the Spaniards. I couldn’t blend in with my skinny jeans, makeup, and long, dark hair. The metro, empty. The hallways, empty. The classrooms, empty. At the UPO, the few familiar faces I encountered belonged to other American students, those unaffected by the strike. Yesterday, our program director sent a mass email warning of the upcoming protests. She ensured us, however, that the rallies were expected to proceed peacefully. That evening, many students suddenly felt “too intimidated” to attend class. It’s midterms week, go figure.
With the economy in ruins, people are angry. Very angry. Almost sixty-percent of Spaniards under the age of twenty-five are unemployed. Hard to imagine, right? Picture your graduation ceremony. Visualize the stadium, the caps, the gowns, the pride, and the stride to the podium. Now, divide the room in half. In half! For the person to your left, or to your right, or even you, the future doesn’t look so bright. Today, tens of thousands of students, parents, and teachers gathered to protest the issues at hand: education reforms, budget cuts, and the troubling unemployment rate.
I’m spammed daily with e-mails from the SCU Career Center. I skim the updates but delete them quickly. I can’t stand clutter. Heads up, Apple’s coming today! Google deadline approaching. Target looking for interns! But really, how fortunate are we? I can hop in the car, head toward San Fran-stinking-cisco, and casually pass through Silicon Valley, the business and technology capital of the world. With hard work and determination, American students have the world at their fingertips.
For me, living in Spain shines a big, fat light on the truth behind the “American Dream.” The United States has a whole lot to offer, a lot more than just fast food, hamburgers and apple pie, the California coast, or major league baseball.
We have opportunity, and a lot of it.