I was surprisingly quick to make my decision on a program and then was left with the question, well now what? The program information does not come out until September of 2011 and I am too excited to sit on my hands until then so, into my study abroad advisor I went, looking for more material to read. I was given a list of materials, some good, some bad, and some no longer in print. I have begun to work my way through many titles on Spain, Spanish culture and culture shock among others. For anyone looking to study abroad here is my quick review of the titles I have finished.
On Spanish History
The Story of Spain by Mark r. Williams
This book was a great introduction to the very, very long history of the Iberian Peninsula. Spanning from the first humans to contemporary Spain culture, the short chapters keep you interested but make it easy to set down. I knew very little of the long history of Spain and found was overwhelmed easily and forced to set the book down often just so I could take all the information in but, I always wanted to come back to the book. I especially like that at the end of each chapter there was a list of all of the relevant historical sites discussed in the chapter and where to find them, it is helping me make a list of all of the places I want to visit. I strongly recommend this book.
The New Spaniards by John Hooper (second edition)
Spain has experienced drastic changes since the death of Franco in 1975. Hooper examines the relevent changes in government and culture. I found the first half of the book became very confusing due to the heavy use of acronyms and abbreviations. There are so many details given and it was easy to get lost, even when taking notes. I hope to come back and re-read this section when I know more or have developed the understanding necessary to understand the rapid political changes which occurred. The cultural section however was fascinating and detailed. I learned so much about the cultural changes which I will be walking into and how they vary from the very traditional views in Franco’s time. This is a book worth buying, especially for the second half.
On Traveling in Spain
Let’s Go: Spain and Portugal with Morocco: a Student’s Travel Guide. (2008-2009)
This guide to traveling is written for students and reviewed by students. All of the places listed are ranked by price and quality and are reviewed by the student who visited. I enjoyed the accessibility of this book and it makes me want to travel as much as possible when I am in Spain. A definite good buy for any lower budget traveler moving through Spain, my only complaint is that there is no information on Mallorca, but that might be personalJ.
Fodor’s Spain 2011
This book was a very thoughtful gift from my stepmom for Christmas this year. The color pictures are wonderful and the reviews of each region at the beginning of each chapter a short and concise introduction. However, if you are not raking in the money the accommodations which are reviewed are far beyond your price range and therefore a moot point. A fine gift but not a book I would recommend for students.
On Culture Shock
Culture Shock: a Guide to Customs and Etiquette (Spain) by Marie Louise Graff
This is a quick read and a great introduction to Spanish culture. It was one of the first books or articles I read on Spanish culture. I found the information generally accurate but there is so much cultural variation from region to region, or so I read, that this book simply does not cover. This is a great place to start
The Art of Crossing Cultures by Craig Storti (second Edition)
I strongly recommend this book for anyone who has or ever plans to live in a foreign country. I found myself laughing out loud and re-evaluating international experiences which I have had. It was a fast and easy read filled with insightful stories and helpful tips. A must have or at least go out and get it from the library.
Beloved Majorcans: An Outsiders guide to the social and personal Relation on the isle of Majorca
This was the only book I could find online about Mallorca (Majorca) that was not going to put me out 100 dollars. I really enjoyed the stories but a lot of the information was outdated and did not address the increased importance tourism on the island over last decade. A good introduction to the past and a delightful read, I would recommend this book for that alone but, it provided little modern insight.
Daily Mallorcan photo blog: http://mallorcaphotoblog.wordpress.com/
For a daily dosage of Mallorca this is your place. The information is largely factual and all about the island. I am a daily reader and have enjoyed nearly every posting. My only complaint is that the articles focus largely around Felantix because of where the author appears to live. This is the best Mallorca information I have been able to find on the internet that is accessible to those who speak English.
Random other titles of interest
Globejotting: How to Write Extraordinary Travel Journals (and still have time to enjoy your trip!)by Dave Fox
This book is a great introduction to travel journaling. The exercises are brief and easy to do at home. As an avid journal writer at home it offered helpful tips on how to change your journaling style when you travel so that you have enough time to both write and sight see. Over all this was a well written and engaging book. I strongly recommend it for anyone who has any interest in writing and has, will, or wants to travel.
Photo thanks to: http://www.amazon.com: photos of books pictured above