As for an introduction, welcome to my column! My name is Hayley Wilcox and I am a junior here at Bryant University. I am pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in International Business with a concentration in Finance and a double minor in Spanish and Applied Statistics. Part of my role as an International Business student is to be in constant connection with the world. Considering the circumstances of the United States currently, I am beginning to become a person who finds it even more important than normal to focus on the outside world. It is my strong opinion that much of our generation does not focus enough on what is going on outside of the US, and often, other country’s news gets swept under the rug. Part of business in general must encompass other parts of the world, so that is what I am here to write about.
This column is designed to highlight a different country around the world every week, and with that discuss the country’s economic and political standings, as well as some interesting current news events within that country. To get a further perspective, I will chat with a student who studied abroad in each country to ask them a few questions, as I myself have had the opportunity to study abroad and find interest in hearing about students’ first-hand experiences living abroad.
For my first country pick, I chose to focus on one very close to my heart, and that is Spain. With my IB major and Spanish minor, I was a proud Bryant student who had the chance to study abroad in Salamanca, Spain this past semester. The country has an overpowering dynamic culture that cannot be missed. With traditions from bullfighting, siesta’s in the middle of the work day, Flamenco, and tapas, Spain provides a richness that everyone should experience at least once in their lives.
So what does the Spanish economy look like currently? For one, Spain has had an annual economic growth of more than three percent for more than fifteen months, and they are the fourth largest economy in the Eurozone. In the last quarter alone, the Spanish economy grew by around 0.7 percent. Spain has heightened manufacturing and industrial sectors and a great level of consumption. The country does suffer with unemployment as it hit a near 16 percent in 2016, yet Spain managed to gain 499,000 new jobs in the same year.
Recently, there has been much going on in the political sector of Spain. After 10 months of no government in Spain, in October of last year, Mariano Rajoy of the People’s Party was placed into office. He won the simple majority in Spain’s 350-seat congress after nearly 300 days of a non-existing government in Spain. Rajoy’s biggest task for right now is managing the country’s €5bn (£4.5bn) deficit either by increasing or cutting taxes. Despite the result, thousands protested Rajoy’s return to prime minister, but votes suggested that Spain would rather have him in office than a third election, and many point to his corrupt policies within the PP.
After doing some research, two current news events in Spain caught my eye. The first has to deal with a man named Rodrigo Rato. The former chief of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will be serving four years in prison for using corporate credit cards for the wrong reasons during his takeover of the lead bank in Spain, Bankia. Rato took over during the financial crisis in Spain and allegedly used €12m (£10.5m) worth of these credit cards for luxury items, hotels, and parties. Despite his innocent plea, Rato along with his predecessor will serve jail time, with Miguel Blesa serving six years in prison. Rato was an important figure in the People’s Party in Spain, and this act only led to more corruption rumors among the party who already suffers with such a reputation.
The second event I found interest in had to do with tourism. The Spanish city of Barcelona enacted a law in late January to control the level of tourists coming into the city. Though the city has approximately 1.6 million civilians, in 2016, the city had about 32 million tourists, about half of them just there for the day. A campaign to end high number of tourists is led by the slogan “Barcelona isn’t for sale” as this high level of tourists has caused property speculation and residents of Barcelona are losing homes while tourist jobs are still being offered at low-wage rates. This new law will place a cap on the number of beds available for tourists in hotel rooms and tourist apartments, the idea is being criticized as many believe that this is not going to help in limiting tourism but only where tourists sleep. Despite the idea, the law seems to be delayed until 2019 and also faces numerous critics. Critics argue that Barcelona is a hurting economy, and the cap on tourists will only hurt tourism which is responsible for 12 percent of the city’s income (2014). Despite everything, tourism is the second largest problem in the city up against unemployment first.
To further understand the culture and events in Spain, I talked my friend and cousin who I studied abroad with and lived abroad with, Claire Newman, to ask her some questions about her experience.
HW: “Describe a normal day in Spain. What is the culture like? Cultural norms/routines?”
CN: “Spain was very relaxed and most of my days were stress free. Even with school and my internship I still had time to meet new people and make time to bond with my host family. Each day I made my own breakfast but came home to a delicious lunch made by my family and sat at the table and talked about my day for at least an hour. My lunch was followed by a siesta, and my nights were fun but late. My weekends were always exciting. Not only do the Spaniards enjoy their nightlife, but many of my weekends were spent traveling. I got to explore all over Spain and Europe too!”
HW: “What was your level of culture shock in Spain? What took time to adjust to?”
CN: “After taking many years of Spanish language and culture classes I did not find myself in culture shock. Knowing the language and customs helped me feel like a native and fit in. The lifestyle and food customs were something I did have to adjust to however.”
HW: “Tell me about your favorite part about studying abroad in Spain.”
CN: “I loved how important relationships and family are valued in Spain. It really taught me to value my own relationships, family and time. I learned to appreciate and live in the moment and enjoy the little things like getting coffee with a friend. I took back to the US a more relaxed and appreciative lifestyle. I definitely miss my time in Spain and look forward to going back in a few years!”