In late November of 2011, I made the decision to study abroad in Spain during my sophomore year of high school. I was placed in Galicia in April that next year and on September 4, 2012, I boarded a flight to Madrid at JFK. Having since returned to Chicago in July 2013, I have been comparing Torrente Ballester to New Trier. However the difference that has struck me the most is the differences between the social scene at Torrente Ballester and New Trier; with New Trier students seeming much more unhappy and socially immature then their Spanish peers.
Keeping in mind the idea that ‘people are a product of their environment,’ I started to explore the differences of the two environments more closely. The first thing I noticed was that Spaniards did not seem to have a ‘fear of missing out’ when it came to parties. Due to a lower drinking age and nonexistent curfew, anybody that looked 14 or older and whose parents allowed them would go out late. Everybody knew where the parties were – there were two or three clubs / hang out places that everyone liked to go to – and anybody that decided they didn’t want to go out did so knowing that that was purely by their decision.Order now
This was in complete contrast to New Trier, where parties must be kept exclusive due to the large number of laws that exist in the United States in relation to curfew and underage drinking. Consequently, parties are much less frequent, and because they are such a liability, they are smaller and much more exclusive. American teenagers don’t feel they can go out whenever they would like, and there is seldom a party big enough that allows everyone to in that wants to come.
This is a key factor behind many people’s social anxiety, and it simultaneously creates a much more prevalent social hierarchy in high schools also encouraging the development of social groups. The other key difference between Americans and Spaniards was how much more comfortable Spaniards seemed when meeting new people, and especially when meeting people from other schools. This mostly comes down to the fact that American high schools are all encompassing, extending outside of just academic lives and into athletics school sports teams and simultaneously their social lives with school dances.
Spain’s high schools stuck just to academics; and for sports clubs (which in Spain were mainly soccer teams or dance classes for girls) people would play on various ones around the city with kids from other schools, and pretty much everybody has at least one friend whom they regularly hung out with that went to another school. At New Trier this is much rarer, I’ll seldom see a Loyola or ETHS kid a weekend, and as most extracurricular activities are done with other New Trier kids and over the four years, the kids that do that activity end up often creating a social group of their own.
Most of the basketball team hang out together, most of the theatre kids hang out together, the soccer team are all friends, etcetera. Cliques and social groups are an ever present part of at least New Trier’s social scene. Social awkwardness and anxiety are not good for a teenager’s mental wellbeing, and while adolescence can be a difficult time for many, the formerly mentioned two are completely unavoidable.