What a beautiful city Madrid is! A vibrant and modern city bustling with businesses everywhere you stroll. During my stay in Madrid, I learned about Spain’s economic environment from Gayle Allard. She broke down the Catalonian Rebellion, where Catalonians from the northeastern part of Spain, particularly Barcelona, casted votes to secede from Spain, become its own country, and petition to become part of the EU. This is such a recent topic and coincidentally we had a Catalonian student from USD who shared his perspective as well. Gayle also touched on other current state affairs, including the prevalence of high unemployment and the housing bubble. It is common in Spain for students who graduate from local universities to be faced with difficulties once they begin vying for professional careers. These graduates either leave the country or choose not to work at all due to prideful culture; refusing to accept low paying jobs to keep them afloat.
Gayle revealed that most people spend their twenties and thirties living at home with their parents because they have an average salary of $25k Euros and can’t afford to live on their own. One benefit of living in Spain is the opportunity to flow freely between other European countries as part of the European Union. The European Union was founded on basic principles, such as the free movement of people, goods, and services. For young and prideful professionals unable to cement employment in Spain or Portugal, they are forced to leave their country to work in Britain or Germany. João César Naves, a guest speaker in Lisbon, shared more on this subject. This economic shift of professional careers has left Spain and Portugal at a disadvantage. Portugal, for instance, suffers from a lack of a stable birth rate and talent retention. When young professionals leave their home country for a better life the deficit in social security grows. In a functioning economy, young people unknowingly contribute to the previous generation’s social security fund. In this regard, the future does not look too bright for the Portuguese economy.
Brexit, Brexit, Brexit! Now on the flip side, Britain has accepted many of the “European immigrants”. Britain thought they would save money by leaving the EU, but failed to realize that it is a costly breakup. They in fact owe more than 100 billion Euros to the EU. Now they are in a state of “Regrexit”. Gayle mentioned multiple options for the EU. The deal I believe will benefit Britain most is to leave the EU but maintain a close relationship and have a deep comprehensive free-trade deal like Canada or Mexico have with the US. This could be described a ‘Soft Brexit’.
The biggest takeaway from Gayle Allard’s speech was “Economics saved Europe.” The 20th Century saw Europe as the most violent place in the world. European leaders banded together to move past the fighting and formed the European Union. Going on this study abroad trip opened my eyes to a whole new world of thinking. I feel like I have a bigger and deeper understanding of the EU, Spanish Economy, and Portuguese Economy. I truly believe I would not have grasped the current situation if I did not come along to experience it first hand. I have always wanted to think more globally and this trip in fact did that for me. I feel I can hold meaningful conversations about the global economy and develop arguments for why global leaders took a particular stance or position on a political or social issue. It also helped to interact with the locals in Spain and Portugal while I was there. Before traveling, I brushed up on my Spanish and Portuguese. Coupling the courses with living, breathing, and interacting with the locals opened my eyes to another way of life. To the Ahlers Center I say Obrigado! And Gracias! for this amazing opportunity.