Bordering the Balearic Sea, on the eastern side of Spain, is the city of Barcelona. Eva Arasa Toledano, known to her friends as Evi, lived just outside the city her whole life before deciding to spend a semester in the United States. Visiting for the first time at thirteen years old on a family trip, Toledano remembers the experience as very touristy, but visiting a second time made her consider actually living in a place as vibrant as Manhattan.
“I love the city [Barcelona],” Toledano said. “People are really chill and we have the ocean, it’s very open.”
With temperatures never dropping much lower than 45 degrees, and with an ocean bordering it, Barcelona is an ideal place to grow up as well as a famous travel destination. There are a lot of similarities Toledano has noticed between Barcelona and New York. Toledano appreciates New York City’s close proximity to water, because the open space around the island reminds her of the ocean that surrounds her city at home.
On her second visit to New York City she was accompanied by two of her high school friends who she met in Spain and she thoroughly enjoyed the time she spent here. Familiar with American customs and the uniqueness of the United States, Toledano decided to take a risk and participate in an exchange program after entering college in Spain. While choosing between California and New York was not an easy decision, she could not resist the allure of New York, a place she had always dreamed of returning to.
For Toledano, one of the hardest adjustments has been dealing with the change in temperature. Another major change for her was learning how to live on her own.
“I’ve grown up so much since I came to Manhattan,” Toledano said. At La Salle, her college in Barcelona, Toledano did not live in a dorm. Living away at college is not common in Spain, and while Toledano is happy to have grown up there, she is looking forward to officially transfering to Manhattan College.
“Before coming here, I wanted to grow old [in Spain], now I’ve changed my mind,” Toledano said.
For Toledano, a perfect day in Spain would include driving. If she could take one thing from her home back to school it would be her car, a stick shift, and the temperature.
“I miss my car… I’m used to driving a lot when I’m home,” she said.
When she is home, she enjoys meeting up with friends and parking at the top of Collserola, where you can look out on the city. Summer nights are spent with friends on the beach or at the clubs right in front of the beach.
“We never change the plan,” Toledano said.
Toledano’s favorite place in Spain is the southern region, including Granada and Cordoba. The region is filled with beaches and is geographically very close to Africa. Half of her family lives in the southern part, where temperatures can reach nearly 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
For Barcelona, the warmest temperature it will reach is about 90 degrees, rarely approaching anything over 100. When returning home, the first thing Toledano does is visit with friends and family. Almost all of her friends participated in an exchange program outside of Spain, so returning home this past winter was a reunion with all of her friends.
Toledano was familiar with the style of an American education because she went to an American school for high school. She knew what to expect, but has noticed the differences between a Spanish and American education. While attendance is not extremely important in Spain, the final exam is. A final exam can be worth more than 60 percent of a total grade and is considered the most important grade.
“Americans really value hardworking people, where in Spain they care much more about the results,” she said.
When considering exchange programs, MC was an obvious choice for Toledano. As the only school offered in New York, she chose it because of location, and could not be happier with her choice.
Graduating in 2015 with a management major and marketing minor, Toledano hopes to be working in the fashion industry when she graduates. Toledano is currently interning for Diesel Clothing in the Marketing Department, which is an internship she found without any outside help.
“I went online, sent an email to the HR department, and they called a month later… I was in Spain so they agreed to a Skype interview,” Toledano said. For the summer time, Toledano has interviews with both Marie Claire and Harper’s Bazaar.
The past two summers Toledano spent working for a family company that makes engines for boats. Toledano worked as an assistant to the marketing department director for Solé Diesel before moving to a position on the marketing team.
“I learned a lot in the summer of 2013… I redid the entire website and gained a lot of experience,” she said.
For anyone visiting Spain, Toledano insists they must travel to Barcelona, Madrid, Pamplona, where the bulls run, Granada, Sevilla or Cordoba in the southern part of Spain, and either Ibiza or Majorca, both considered party islands.
While her love for New York City is apparent, Toledano does love the city where she grew up.
“I love history and I think history is such an important part of a country,” she said. “If you visit Madrid or Barcelona there are so many old sites to visit.”
For Spain, its history is deeply rooted in monarchies and the Arabian invasion. Anyone traveling to the South of Spain “can still see remnants of the Arab invasion,” she said.
“In Granada there are very old monuments and there are so many things to visit you can never run out of things to do.”