Time flies, especially when you’re having fun, and I’ve been having an incredible time in Valencia, Spain, for the past three months. It’s always been a dream of mine to study abroad in Spain, and I feel so grateful that I could come here and fall in love with this beautiful country. Because there’s only a month left in my program, I wanted to reflect on five things I’ve come to love most about Valencia and Spain.

First of all, there is always a ton going on. Unique events happen daily, even though Valencia isn’t a massive city like Barcelona or Madrid. There are clothes and artisan markets during the day, running events and cultural fairs on the weekends, and exercise classes in the park on weekday afternoons. Many Instagram accounts post about these activities, so it’s easy to know what’s happening and get involved. I’ve particularly enjoyed attending language exchanges on weekday nights, which are opportunities to meet new people and practice Spanish. Beyond just these social events, Spain has many deeply rooted cultural celebrations. While some are observed nationally, like Semana Santa (Holy Week), others are highly regional, like Las Fallas, a festival celebrating the coming of spring that only happens in Valencia (and would require another post to explain!). Some are religious, others are historical, but they all have a crucial cultural value. I’ve loved getting to experience Spanish culture by learning about and attending these festivals and events.

Second, Spain is an amazingly diverse country. Spain has a wide variety of unique and beautiful landscapes. It’s hard to believe that green, rainy San Sebastian in the north of Spain is in the same country as mountainous, arid Granada in the South, but the fact that they are is what makes Spain incredible. This diversity in the landscape also comes with diversity in food. Every region has traditional foods that inspire local pride. Anywhere you go, you’ll be able to find a pastry or dish that originated in that place or can’t be found anywhere else (even in the smallest towns). In Valencia, some of these foods include paella (the traditional Valencian paella includes chicken, rabbit, and snails), horchata (made with tiger nuts instead of rice), and esgarraet (grilled peppers with olive oil—so delicious!). Additionally, Spaniards don’t just speak Spanish. Many regions have nationally protected languages due to their cultural value. While I’ve been here, I’ve learned about Galician, Basque, and Catalan/Valencian, which they speak in Valencia. These are just a few examples of the diversity within this small country, but I’ve fallen in love with this cultural richness.

Third, the weather in Valencia is amazing. Even when I arrived in January, it was cold to the point where I didn’t want to go outside. It rarely rains here—I don’t think there have been more than two rainy days in my entire stay! There are many sunny days here, and people are always outside enjoying the sun. As someone from a city where it rains non-stop from January to May, I’m not used to this privilege. This wintertime outdoor access has been critical to my mental health. Although the weather didn’t factor into my program choice, I’m so grateful now that I chose Valencia.

Fourth, one of my favorite things about Valencia is the ease of (car-less) transportation. Within the city, the options for how to get from place to place are bountiful and easy to use. For residents under 31, the public transportation system is free, which means I have free access to Valencia’s buses, trams, and metro. Additionally, there is a well-developed network of bike lanes across the whole city. They’re protected from traffic and feel very safe. I frequently use Valencia’s bike-share program, Valenbisi, to move around the city while enjoying the nice weather. Since Valencia is very flat, it’s easy to walk anywhere you want to go. I love going for walks to the historic city center or running to the beach. If you want to leave the city, Spain’s national train system, Renfe, connects many parts of Spain. These trains are great options for day or weekend trips! I truly love that I haven’t needed a car once since I’ve been here. I’ll miss this variety of mobility options when I return to the US.

Fifth and last, one of the things I love most about Spain is the tradition of the “menú del día,” or menu of the day. In Spain, lunch is the most important meal of the day, and these menus provide lunch options at an affordable price, usually between 10 and 20 euros on weekdays (with prices rising on the weekends). At this price, you will receive a first and second course (that you choose from a set of options), dessert or coffee, bread, and a drink. These menus are a great way to try new foods at an affordable price. It’s not just limited to Spanish food, either—restaurants of all cuisines offer these menus. I’ve enjoyed discovering new restaurants and trying new foods with these menus.

These are just a few of the things I love about Spain. Looking back, I never would have expected to enjoy some of these things so much. However, one of the best parts about studying abroad is being surprised by your host country. Spain has shocked me in the best possible ways, and if you’re considering coming, I would highly recommend it!