Friday, January 22nd, 2016

Written by Evan Daus, Foster School undergraduate student, studying at the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain.


This past semester, I attended the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain. At UNAV, I studied in their Economics and Business department.

I loved my experience at UNAV, but there were some differences that I found very strange in the way that UNAV operated relative to UW.

The University of Navarra is a catholic school, and the presence of the church is plain to see. Nuns and priests are common on campus and have significant influence in the administration of the university. In the front of every classroom, there is a crucifix hanging on the wall, and religious art is frequently on display in the libraries of the university. The strict catholic nature of the university was most prevalent among students who lived on campus; the nuns and priests are in charge of the on-campus living and strictly enforce a curfew at 10 pm. Students in these residence halls are required to have a signed note from their parents if the wish to spend a night outside of the dorms.

The dress code at the University of Navarra was very surprising as well. Athletic gear was strictly forbidden inside any school building, excluding the gym. This rule was enforced and students wearing any type of shorts, tank tops, or similar attire were forced to leave.

Another notable difference was the emphasis that the University of Navarra puts of recreational sports and activities. At the University of Navarra, sports are extremely popular and virtually all of the students practice one or more sports. The nice weather during my semester also contributed to the frequency at which we practiced soccer, tennis and other sports.

My study abroad experience opened my eyes to a different campus lifestyle. I cannot say with certainty which style I prefer, but each has some aspects which I love.

Exploring Europe

Thursday, January 21st, 2016



Written by Evan Daus, Foster School undergraduate student, studying at the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain.




After the completion of my semester abroad, I decided to see more of Europe before returning to the United States, but my difficulty was deciding where to go! In Europe there are 51 different countries, each of which is unique and contains a variety of different cultures, and each of which I would love to visit.

In the end, I decided to book a series of the cheapest flights around Europe and just see what I find in each destination! That is how I ended up in Lithuania.

Lithuania is not a common tourist destination, but it should be. I arrived in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania and stayed in a lovely hostel within walking distance to almost everything within the small city. Vilnius was lit up for Christmas and the streets were full of Christmas markets, selling wooden handicrafts, amber jewelry and mulled wine.

The Lithuanian people were extremely warm and friendly. They always seemed to smile and were quick to start conversations with me.

I also traveled outside of Vilnius to the region of Trakai, where I visited the misty lakes, parks and forests of the region. The most beautiful part of Trakai is its island castle, which is only accessible by walking over a pleasant series of bridges connecting the various islands on the lake.

Lithuania was an unexpected delight and I cannot recommend it highly enough. On my next trip to Europe, I wish to visit all of the Baltic countries, including Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, which are all inexpensive and well-connected with buses and trains.

Your Plan Sucks and You Deserve to Know It

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

Written by Foster Undergraduate, Crowin Franklin


“Why did you choose X city in X country?” If you’re about to embark on your study abroad adventure, you are surely going to be getting this question a lot from friends/family/etc. I believe that if you’re anywhere near normal, you will most likely have an exhaustive answer at the ready to shoot out proudly in response to this question. After studying abroad in Pamplona, Spain, I’m here to tell you that the “perfect plan” you’ve developed could possibly be the worst decision you’ll ever make.


My plan before I left included my language goals, the types of friends I would make, the places I would visit, and even the sorts of pictures I would take. I was so bad that I spent much of the anxious few days before my departure imagining full length conversations between myself and the people I would be meeting, acting out word-for-word how our exchanges would play out.

About a month into my semester abroad, I realized I wasn’t on track. I started worrying that my study abroad experience wouldn’t be a “success.” I tried to sideline the thought as best as I could, but it was always hanging over me to some extent throughout the rest of my semester. Don’t get me wrong; I still had amazing experiences and formed lasting friendships, but something wasn’t quite clicking. It wasn’t until my last two weeks abroad after my semester ended that everything came together. I decided to travel alone through five countries, starting in Morocco, seeing as much as I could as quickly as I could. However, on my first stop in Marrakech, I met a young traveler who taught me this simple truth:

Enthusiasm is a skill, not a feeling. If you impart all of your excitement unto the world, you will only ever see your own stock increase.


This lesson hit me like a train. I realized that my lack of fulfillment came because of my damn plan. If I wasn’t hitting my checklist on the nose, I was feeling like I failed in some way. I began making every aspect of my adventure the greatest thing ever in my head. From meals to sights, people, and more, everything began to take the shape of the energy I brought to it.

On paper, the last two weeks of my study abroad trip looked horrendous. From badly spraining my ankle in my first destination, to losing hundreds of euros on having to switch and cancel flights, to being stranded in the Airport, unsure if I would make it back for Christmas, the trip looked like a failure. However, the past two weeks have been the greatest of my life. I’ve never spent so much time smiling.

My friend, if you’re reading this, please believe me when I say your plan likely sucks. Only your own positive energy will bring you the satisfaction you’re looking for.

The City of Pamplona

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

Written by Evan Daus, Foster School undergraduate student, studying at the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain.


The city of Pamplona, Spain, where I lived during my semester abroad, was incredible.

I did little research about Pamplona before I left for my exchange, because I wanted it to be a surprise. Everyone I met who had been there had told me that it was nice, but that it was a small town. My home town has about 20,000 people, so when I heard that Pamplona was small, I imagined that it would have about 10 or 15 thousand people.

Upon arriving in Pamplona, I was shocked to find that it was much larger than I had ever pictured. The city has a population of 200,000 people, and I felt that it had much to offer in terms of recreation, history and culture.

I fell in love with some of the city’s traditions, for example Juevinxto. Juevinxto (pronounced hue-veen-cho) takes place every Thursday night in the old town. The streets fill with thousands of local people who move from bar to bar drinking small glasses of beer and eating tapas at each location. The most interesting part of this tradition is that it is for all ages. Spaniards well into their 60s, 70s and early 80s meet their friends and family members each week for Juevinxto.

Pamplona is also the city that holds the Running of the Bulls each summer. Although I did not attend this festival, it gives Pamplona international notoriety.

When I left my apartment in Pamplona for the last time and headed to the train station, I realized how much I would truly miss my life there. It is nice to be home, but Pamplona will always have a special place in my heart.

5 Spanish Culture Shocks

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Written by Danny Hsiao, Foster undergraduate

  1. Meal time

The first thing that surprised me when I was in Spain is the meal time. The Spanish people usually eat their lunch at around two to three and dinner at around nine to ten, without an official breakfast. So how does this work and how do they stay away from hunger if they are separating their meals so far away? Here is how. Although they don’t have an official breakfast where people really sit down and eat, they have TWO small snack times for the morning, one after waking up and the other around eleven. The snack can be a simple hot chocolate with some cookies or a really sugery latte. They need to eat very sweet so they don’t get hungry easily. Now there is a seven-hour gap between lunch and dinner, so the same trick applies again—snack! Most of their companies will allow employs to go out and have some coffee which, again, is usually very sweet, at around six so they don’t get hungry before leaving for home at around eight. For me there are just way too many meal times, but this is also telling us how much Spanish people like to slow down their pace, hang out, and stay connected to each other.

  1. Nap time! Siesta!

This is another thing that surprised me when I saw all the students from elementary to high school were all out on the street or on the way home at around two thirty, which I consider to be the most productive time of the day. My host family told me that their schools, and often companies, will have a break time for the about one to two hours so people can go home, eat, and rest. This is called the siesta, when all the stores and services are closed and the streets soon become very quiet as everyone is pretty much resting at home. But if they are spending so much time resting, how long do they work in one day? The answer is that they work ends at about six or seven, which still adds up to a good amount of work in a day, except it is separated into smaller chunks.

  1. Tobacco in Spain is like Starbucks in Seattle

You will be pretty sure that you are in Spain when you see there are more people smoking outside of a bar than those actually inside and drink. Same rule also applies to coffee shops, books store, and even schools. Yes, during the break time in the University of Navarra, there are almost as many students smoking outside as those inside the building. However, the cigarette is much more expensive in Spain than in the US, so the younger smokers in Spain usually hand-roll their tabacco and you can see them rolling in every outdoor occasion.

  1. Wine consumption

Spanish people drink wine, lots of wine. My host family actually buys wine in a huge box instead of bottles anymore, because that would have created way too many empty bottles in one week! There is a story behind it though. When I was in Madrid, my tour guide told me that in the ancient time the water was not clean, and drinking unclean water can be deadly. On the other hand, however, wine was much safer because it was made from fresh juice, so people drink wine instead of water for safety reasons. But if everyone is drinking wine like water, how does a country work? A smart king of Spain figured out a way to deal with it. He order all the bars and restaurants that if someone is ordering wine from them, they would have to provide some food for the customers so they can stay sober to work. As time evolved, the bars and restaurants ended up using a slice of break with some food on it to cover the cup, which is why there is the famous Spanish snack tapas, which literally mean tops. By the way, Spanish wine is really good!


Another reason why wine is popular is the price!

  1. Flamenco started as a hobo dances instead of high end performance.

It’s rare to see a country’s most internationally popular dance started as a traditional dance from a group of foreign people in almost the lowest social status that the rest of the people basically hated; it happened in Spain though. Before I arrive in Spain, I thought that Flamenco is a popular traditional Spanish dance that, just like most of the other traditional dances world-wide, is used in occasions like celebrations; however, Flamenco is not only a foreign dances brought in by the Gypsies, but also is a dance that people dislike a lot about a few decades ago. Here is the story behind it. A few centuries ago, some refugees from India or Middle East traveled all the way to the southern Spain and claimed that they were the nobles from Egypt—that’s why they are called the Gypsies. However, a lie never lasts long; their real identity was soon discovered by the Spanish people and they were, since then, disliked by the rest of the people. They lost all their social and economic power and fall to the lowest social status. My guide even told me that they became so poor that if you saw someone dancing Flamenco at that time, he or she usually didn’t even have shoes on. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your perspective, the Spanish inquisition started and forced many Jews and Muslims to claim to be Gypsies to avoid being exiled or executed, which made the Flamenco dance multicultural with even more sophisticated moves and costumes. As it has become a very meaningful dance that is rich in cultures and history, the people start seeing the beauty in it and finally consider that as a piece of Spanish culture.


Flamenco performance in Cordoba, Spain.

Living with a Host Family

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Written by Danny Hsiao, Foster undergraduate

Living with a host family is what I consider the best way to really learn the culture of a country. This semester, I chose to live with a Spanish family that consists of two parents, a son, a daughter, and a dog. It is a very authentic Spanish family who drinks lots of wine and has a Jamón stand in the kitchen for everyday use—yes, Jamón every day. The reason why I wanted to live in a host family is that I only had four months to explore and learn from the whole Spanish culture, and the Spanish culture is such a huge and rich collection of traditions and social values; I figured that living in an authentic host family would be the fastest way to really put myself into the culture and really experience it, and it’s true. Seeing them carefully cutting the Jamón down to a slice of bread with a few drops of olive oil, helping them move about three tons of woods to prepare for winter, sitting at a table with ten more super talkative Spanish family members, and seeing the amazed faces when I wrote down their names in Chinese characters are my best moments throughout the program. Everything they do is so interesting for me. I saw things that I had never seen before almost every day with a host family!

Another good thing about living in a host family is that it’s an all-Spanish environment; there is no other language that you will hear in the house. My host parents don’t speak English at all, but their children know a little. When I first arrived in Pamplona, the daughter was the one who helped me settle down because she is the only one who speaks some English. After she moved out with her fiancé, I was left with two host parents who don’t speak English and a lot of challenges in front of me. However, also because of that, I got to improve my Spanish skills very fast. Starting from the basic daily greeting to sharing my political view of my country, I could see my improvement in Spanish almost daily. My host parents played a huge role in that too. Whenever I had questions or didn’t understand what they were trying to tell me, they would slow down and try to explain that to me in another way. If I still couldn’t get it, they would write the whole sentence down, sometimes even paragraphs, and teach me word by word, until I can repeat what they wanted to tell me. I was literary living with two Spanish professors who are native speakers and very willing to share their knowledge. I am very grateful that I met this family that taught me so much about their country.

I really enjoyed my time living with a Spanish family because I got to learn so much about them and so much about Spain. I got to know the locals’ tips on where to eat and what to see, and I also got to improve my language faster than any of my friends. I would recommend anyone who is doing an exchange to live with a host family.


My host parents cooking



The Christmas Dinner

Weekend Backpacking in Europe

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Written by Danny Hsiao, Foster undergraduate

I wasn’t thinking about traveling too much when I first arrived in Pamplona until I met a few friends who are really big on travelling. After I got to know them and talked to them more, I realized that it might be a good opportunity for me to travel at least some part of Europe. I am originally from Taiwan and study in Seattle, which are both really far from Europe. So I figured that this would be the best time for me to travel in Europe with a lowest cost because I don’t have any work obligation except some school work and I can design my own schedule to meet my travel needs. That’s how I came up with the idea of weekend backpacker.

I ended up having a three and a half day weekend for every week, which is perfect for my weekend travel plan. So about the second week of school, a few friends and I started traveling during the weekend. We first went to Switzerland, because the air ticket was really cheap at that time, then southern Spain, the UK, central Spain, Portugal, some other parts of Spain, and even North Africa—a territory of Spain that we figure would be cool to tell other people about having been there in Africa. The way we travel wasn’t very luxurious as we had to control the cost in order to be able to afford the next trip. To do so, we rode the cheapest transportation, slept in the creepiest hostels, and walked, with a backpack of all the travel essentials, for miles and miles, to save cost and see more, which were very interesting travel memories! We have slept in the cold, hard airport floor with a sleeping bag; we have been lost in the valley of the Alps in Switzerland to try to find the hotel we book; we had encounter numerous pickpockets, thieves, and even burglars on the way; we had seen a pregnant mother with two babies crying for help with translation. Each of the incidents provided opportunity for us to learn from the real world and strengthen our minds to deal with futures difficulties.

Besides those, we have also seen beautiful things. We have seen the last sunset of Europe in Portugal with some hot fresh Portuguese egg tarts; we have seen the snowy Matterhorn and heard the sound a glacier makes; we have seen the majestic Arabic palace called the La Alhambra where the Spanish queen started the plan to reunite the Catholic Spain; we have also seen the mind-purifying trumpet salute in London tower to the soldiers who died when fighting for the British Queen. These are some unforgettable memories!


On Matterhorn, Zermat, Switzerland.



The Arabic palace, La Alhambra.

Parting Words

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

Written by Bonnie Beam, Foster undergraduate

Who knew that small, quirky Pamplona would forever hold a special place in my heart? I had the incredible opportunity to study abroad at the University of Navarra in the Fall of 2014. During my time in Spain, I was amazed at how much I don’t know and the capacity I have to learn if I humbly allow others to teach me what they know. A huge part of this realization came about in my living situation in Pamplona. Early on I decided I wanted to live with locals of the city, knowing that my Spanish was bound to improve much more than if I were to live with people who spoke my native language. This was by far the best decision I made! It was awesome to learn about UNAV, Pamplona and Spain at large through their eyes. They were very eager to help me improve my Spanish, correct my embarrassing mistakes (like referring to God as sexy instead of good – it’s “Dios ES bueno” not “está” in case you were wondering) and teach me all those idiomatic expressions.

Another “must” is going on all the trips with the international students, arranged by the international student office at UNAV! It is the best way to get connected with your fellow exchange students and experience Northern Spain. Our trip to Asturias was by far my favorite- a weekend full of repelling down waterfalls, kayaking, cave-exploring, mountain-climbing. What more could you want?! As a side note, the international student office and the student ambassadors were extremely helpful during my time at UNAV and were always more than willing to answer questions about the school, registering for classes, and give their suggestions for things to do/see in Pamplona and the surrounding cities!

Some other cool experiences I had were tutoring two Spanish kids in English (there is a large demand for English-speaking tutors so look into it if you’re interested in hanging out with kids a few hours a week and earning a little extra money), getting involved with an evangelical church in the area and getting to know more college-aged Spainards that way and playing badminton every week at the polideportivo (UNAV has a variety of sports for which they offer free group lessons every week) and learning how to play pádel with my roommates.

I had a wonderful experience at UNAV! Was it challenging? Very. Awkward? You bet. Eye-opening? Most definitely. Fun? Of course! Worth it? Totally. Whenever you place yourself into a new environment with a completely different culture, language and set of norms, you can expect to grow. But only to the degree that you allow. So if I could give you one piece of advice, it would be to allow yourself to grow A LOT! Attend the conferences, go on awesome adventures with the International Office, serve in some capacity at Navarra, talk with the locals, go to your professors’ office hours, live with Spainards, do things you wouldn’t normally do when your back in the comfort of your home country!



Hanging out on the beach of Southern France with my roommates. France is only about 2 hours away- you must go!

A Matter of Perspective

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

Written by Bonnie Beam, Foster undergraduate

“How’s Spain?!” seems to be a common question these days. As I try to give an honest answer, it seems that quite contradictory phrases most accurately describe my experience thus far. It’s both exhausting and relaxing, challenging yet simple and by far one of the hardest and easiest times of my life.





Why are these simultaneously possible? Because everything is a matter of perspective.

Por ejemplo…

(1) The fast-track American lifestyle, with maxed out schedules, work-oriented mindsets and the rarity of sit-down meals with loved ones is no where to be found. For the Spanish, living life to its fullest is not about how much money they can accumulate in the bank rather how much time they can spend with loved ones; whether that be making a meal together, going for a walk or grabbing drinks.

One of the things I love most is the priority the Spanish culture places on eating together “en casa” (at home). Nearly everyone goes home for lunch and all the shops close down. Proof of this? My university cafeteria consists of 6, 4-person tables… That’s right, 6 tables for an enrollment size of 11,000! You can imagine how alone I felt when I had to pack a lunch and eat at school one day due to my class schedule.

As many of you know, I live with three girls from Spain. Every day, we all come home for both lunch and dinner to prepare and eat a meal together. Each meal, from start to finish, usually lasts about 2 hours. And not once have I thought that my time would be better spent elsewhere. I absolutely love having the ability to be completely present with those around me; not feeling guilty for missing another function or failing to check off a task on my to-do list because the reality is, here in Spain, the only place you should be is at home, eating with your friends and family.

It’s disheartening to realize that this routine is impossible for most back in the states, where most of our schedules only allow for a 45 minute coffee break, if that. This last week has been a refreshing reminder that our energy should be devoted primarily to people, not to electronics, money or everything that encompasses “achieving the American dream.” In America, the typical Spanish lifestyle might be labeled as unproductive or lazy but to the Spaniards, Americans have their priorities all wrong. Once again, it’s a matter of perspective.

(2) A little visual to help you understand what happened…




Yes, I was pooped on. While walking down the street with some of my friends from Peru, a bird decided to give me a surprise. Needless to say, I was shocked, mortified and a bit disgusted. But I was soon forced to look at the situation from a different perspective my Peruvian friends quickly explained that in their culture, getting pooped on is good luck. Who knew?! And thus, another realization that everything is a matter of perspective.

A few other things you might like to know…

  1. Dinner is eaten between 9:30-11:30pm. More often, the latter.
  2. I walk everywhere. All day, every day. Yesterday alone, I spent two hours walking to school and back.
  3. Yet, no one carries water bottles. The other day, an older couple in the elevator poked fun at me for carrying a water bottle around.


Among The Cattle and Caves

Friday, January 9th, 2015

Written by Bonnie Beam, Foster undergraduate

This past weekend I took a trip with 40 other international students at UNAV to Asturias, located in northern, central Spain. From mountains, to cathedrals, to rivers, to sleepy, cobblestone towns, the Asturias province has it all! Lush with vegetation and bursting with cattle, the area perfectly captures the un-rushed life here in Spain.

After a nearly 6 hour bus ride, our guides decided to take advantage of all the energy we had stored up on the bus and us through Los Picos de Europa, a range of mountains 12 miles off the coast of Spain (a very rare combination). Fun fact: Los Picos also contain some of the world’s deepest caves! I’ll talk about our cave exploring later on :)

It was hard not to feel like I was back home, exploring the mountainous beauty of Washington.  The one big difference? We wandered amongst hundreds and hundreds of cattle roaming free! They were so close, I could even take selfies with them.


But the coolest part of being up there was getting to meet Maria, a woman who has lived up there her entire life, in the hut pictured below. She makes excellent cheese from the cattle nearby in her humble abode. Despite what we would perceive as “lack” of basic commodities, she was one of the most joy-filled people I’ve ever met. It was one of the many reminders on this trip that joy and happiness are not the product of material wealth.


Aside from exploring Los Picos, we also spent our weekend kayaking, cave-exploring and repelling off of waterfalls. To make things extra exciting, while we secured in metal harnesses, swimming and jumping off the waterfalls, a huge thunder, lightning and rain storm moved in. Definitely freaky but so much fun (and something I would never do on my own initiative!).

Each night, we would head back up into the mountains where we stayed in a modest bunk-house, which brought me back to my summer camp days when I was younger. Since I don’t live with other international students, it was great to talk the night away with students from all over the world!

All in all, a great weekend of discovery, friendship, adventures and learning!