Friendly faces, laughing, glasses clanking and lively chatting. This is how more than a few nights were spent on the cobblestone streets in Salamanca during my six-week stay in Spain this past summer. These festivities did not last for one or two hours as they would have in the United States, but in fact took up a hefty four hours of our night. If Spain had a motto, it would be “take things slow, and enjoy all the pleasures of life.” Granted, there are a few exceptions to this lifestyle, but for the most part it is a notorious norm of Spanish culture. The people of Spain know how to truly enjoy life’s greatest pleasures: talking with friends, drinking cheap wine and eating good food. Whether it’s time for tapas or lunch, the Spanish custom is to dine with close friends and family, while catching up on recent events and stories.

Coming from the States, it was a huge shock when I first arrived in Salamanca, Spain and witnessed this laid-back, slow-moving lifestyle. Growing up on the East Coast, I was especially used to the hustle and bustle, fast-paced life of your average American student. In high school, it seemed I barely had enough time to sleep, nevertheless eat, get my work done on time, study for exams and go to sports practice every day. This way of life has not changed since coming to college. The fast-paced American lifestyle that so many of us take for granted is in actuality an extremely demanding way of life that the U.S. has learned to run on.

When was the last time you felt completely comfortable taking a two-hour nap in the middle of the day or spending a solid four hours catching up with friends and ordering appetizers at local bars? The Spanish understand the importance of having a four-hour break in the middle of the day to eat lunch with your family and take a short nap. During this time, which is known as the siesta, shops and restaurants close as storekeepers run home to see their family and take some time off to relax.

But here in the U.S., we’ve learned that in order to live a productive life, napping and relaxation is exclusively reserved for vacations and breaks. In reality, taking a few hours each afternoon to unwind and catch up with family would be exactly what we need to power through the rest of the day. It is this concept of a perfect balance between work and leisure that makes the Spanish lifestyle an ideal way of living for all of us.

Contrary to popular belief here on campus, double shot espressos and energy drinks will never be an acceptable substitution for sleep. We have learned to run on caffeine and daily coffee trips to help us stay awake through grueling late night homework sessions and studying at the UGLi. We’ve trained our bodies to sleep less in order to pound out countless hours of work and prepare for dreaded exams. Yet in the end, no matter how much caffeine we pour down our throats, we will never be able to make up for the many hours of lost rest.

It is up to us, as students here at the University, to realize that taking a few hours out of our busy day will not kill us. Taking time to catch up with friends, share stories, take a nap and relax our minds is exactly what we need to live a healthy, balanced life. We have to start taking a little bit of time away from our hectic lives here on campus to reflect on what’s really important to us. We’ve all heard countless times that “college is going to be the best experience of your life,” so isn’t it time we actually adopt this idea and start enjoying all of life’s pleasures?

Yes, we don’t live in Europe, and can’t actually spend four hours in the middle of the afternoon each day eating and napping when we have classes to attend, exams to study for and work to do. But we can definitely put aside a bit of time to catch up with friends, let our minds rest and relax our over-worked bodies. A mini-siesta is exactly what students here need to escape the hectic, demanding lifestyle that we have been all too quick to adopt.

Sarah Skaluba is an LSA sophomore.

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