Before leaving for Spain, I heard all about the ups and downs of studying abroad and how I might really not want to go. At the time I thought people were crazy! How could I not want to go to Spain for 6 months?! As I boarded my flight in Omaha, I really didn’t want to go. When I arrived in Barcelona, I was feeling better, but then it seemed as if everything was going wrong. Not exactly how I want to remember this experience. I was incredibly jetlagged staying in, what I later found out to be, the most dangerous part of Barcelona. I just wanted to go to Pamplona already and be settled into my apartment and cry.
For the record, I don’t speak any Spanish. I know people find that incredibly difficult to understand, but it is true. As my taxi driver from the train station to my apartment told me, I was better off using my knowledge of French than speaking English to people. Those were not the words that I needed to hear as I was already super freaked out! The one amazing thing about Foster’s programs is that I am meeting TONS of international students from all over the world. This is really an opportunity that not all exchange programs have and I count myself lucky to be able to be able to make all of these new international friends.
Pamplona is a small city in northern Spain, but anyone can get that from looking at a map. It has a gorgeous Old Town full of life and character that is very unique compared to the rest of the city. In the middle of town is the old citadel that they are renovating. Spaniards seem to think that renovating means building something new to look like the old and that bums me out because I feel like things lose a lot of character when they do that. During our Welcoming Week at the university (I totally recommend this to anyone who is studying in Pamplona in the future), we walked through the Old Town, saw the original walls of the city, and walked the San Fermines’ Running of the Bulls route. I wish I was staying until July to see the whole festival, but unfortunately the Spanish government is going to kick me out before when my visa expires!
Hello everyone, I’m Jordan, a sophomore (senior standing) marketing/accounting major studying abroad in Rotterdam, which is 45 min. south of Amsterdam by train. At first glance, Rotterdam doesn’t seem that special. It doesn’t have the history, reputation, or glamour of London, Paris, Amsterdam, or Rome. But now that I’ve spent a month living in this city, I couldn’t have asked for anything more. Everyday life is great because I feel like I’ve had the true European experience, free from tourists. I buy my groceries at a huge outdoor market (ironically located in the Blaak neighborhood, making it the Blaak Market), I read at a park overlooking the Nieuwe Maas River and the famous Erasmus Bridge, and I take advantage of Rotterdam’s highly reputed nightlife.As much as we would all like studying abroad to be just about traveling, there is an academic component. The Rotterdam School of Management is much like UW. We have lectures a few times a week and tons and tons of group projects. To be honest, with classes usually only three days a week, I’ve had a lot of time to get to know the city and the school emphasizes the whole exchange experience—meaning they promote both curricular and extra-curricular activities. It seems like the school takes advantage of every opportunity to have social drinks or networking with drinks events. To sum it up, the school doesn’t mind having a little fun.
But really, I wanted to travel and being in the Netherlands has been wonderful. I arrived in Rotterdam a week before class started, so I spent my first weekend abroad in Belgium (Brussels and Antwerp) with one other exchange student, whom I met over facebook, and have since continued to travel with both international and Dutch students. When we’re not going out, we like to plan future trips. We’re going to Munich soon and northern Italy in a few weeks!
However, I’ve realized that I don’t need to leave the Netherlands to see some pretty amazing things. This Saturday is Queensday, and they’re expecting over two million people to flood the streets in Amsterdam for the country’s biggest street party. I’ll be heading up to Amsterdam with a group of friends and will be sure to let you know how it goes in my next blog post.
It’s Rachel again! Just a reminder, I’m the one studying in Pamplona, Spain at the University of Navarra. My time here is quickly coming to an end. I will be back in Seattle in less than one month! Sadly, I will miss the next trip with the Club de Montañas…thankfully the last trip will more than make up for it! Last weekend we hiked part of the Camino de Santiago along the Basque Coast. If you ignored the ridiculous amount of ETA tags along the trails, it was absolutely amazing. The weather was 20 degrees Celsius (I no longer speak Fahrenheit) and the sun was out. The bus left bright and early (as usual) and we started out trek around 9am. Other than the details of arrival and departure, I didn’t really pay attention to the e-mail explaining the trip. So it was a surprise when my phone company sent me a text saying “welcome to France…”. Evidently, we started just inside the French borders! The other important detail that I missed was that we were hiking 15 miles. Luckily I had on hiking gear; some of the other exchange students weren’t as lucky. They were in jeans, nice shirts and shoes that were NOT built for any type of strenuous activity. The views along the trails were gorgeous. We stopped in a small town for lunch before continuing to San Sebastian, where we ended. Before the bus headed back at around 6pm, we got to walk along the beach and soak our feet. Sadly it was still too cold to swim! It was an exhausting day but totally worth it. I’m going to miss San Sebastian so much!
It’s me again! I’ve been in Pamplona for about a month and I still love it. It is definitely a smaller city but I think it is absolutely charming. This last weekend I joined the mountain club at the university to go snowshoeing! I met the bus on Saturday morning at 7am. Bright and early. The trip there took a little under two hours (perfect cat nap). Once there, I realized that the level of difficulty was going to be much higher than I had anticipated. Rather than rolling hills, I was looking at a ski mountain. As in everyone else had come to go DOWN this monster, not the opposite. At least I wasn’t alone.
Everyone strapped on their snow shoes and headed out. I have to point out that it is quite frustrating when you are halfway up an extremely steep slope, out of breath, sweating, and scared for your life only to look to your right and see people happily riding the chairlift UP. I actually think it is grounds for cruel and unusual punishment. After 3 hours we finally reached the top. The next challenge: manage to get back down. A few minutes into the decline, I was thinking I would rather climb some more. I didn’t have poles which made things a little more difficult. There was a lot of sliding . We stopped for about an hour at a rest point called the “polar club”. It was really sunny out so we sat outside and ate our lunches before heading back to Pamplona.