Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Kingdom of Spain

Once, my dad asked me how many contemporary world leaders I could name, excluding the president of the United States.  I was a sophomore or a junior in high school at the time, and while I could tell you all about the founding fathers of this country or about world leaders during WWI & II, on this question I came up blank.  I was disturbed by my own ignorance and quickly looked up the presidents and prime ministers of a few countries, but it was the first time I realized how little I was learning about the rest of the world from school or from the small amount of news I watched.

I’m an International Studies major, so I would obviously do a lot better answering that question now than a few years ago, but until planning to study in Spain, I still knew very little about the country beyond that it is a constitutional monarchy and a member of the EU.  Luckily, the CIA World Factbook and, of course, Wikipedia were able to inform me.  So here are a few basic facts about Spain.

-The official name of the country is the Kingdom of Spain.

-King Juan Carlos I has been the monarch since 1975.  He is married to Sophia of Greece and Denmark.  She is the namesake of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, the museum in Madrid that houses Picasso’s Guernica.  This is definitely on our must-see list.

-This past November, Mariano Rajoy of the Popular Party was elected “president of the government”, essentially prime minister.

-Spain is six hours ahead of the United States’ Eastern Time.  Combined with the fact that it is customary to stay up much later in Spain than in the U.S, we’re going to need a little time to adjust.

-Spain covers just over 500,000 square kilometers, or about the size of the states of Arizona and Utah combined.

-Castillian Spanish is the official language, but 17% of the population speaks Catalán and smaller percentages speak Galician and Basque.

As part of the orientation that Amanda and I need to do for the study abroad program, we’re going to be learning a lot more about Spain before we actually go there.  I’m glad UCF helps prepare us in this way, and of course I’m glad to have the internet making it so easy to learn this basic information.

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