Spain

The Host Family Experience

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

Written by: Patricia Mayer, studied abroad in Leon, Spain, Fall 2012

PatriciaMayer2Patri, mirrraaaaa”
Mira=look, or in Jorge and Miguel’s language “hey look at meee!”

I should have learned the first time. Never, ever, look. A few days ago my host family got home after picking Jorge up from karate practice. As I was studying in my room Jorge ran in dressed in his Karate robe and practiced one of his moves on my arm. A few minutes later I hear “Patri, mirraaaa!!” I glance over to my doorway where Jorge, who escaped from Chety’s grasp midway through changing into pajamas, stands butt-naked dancing and sticking his tongue out at me. I almost fell out of my chair laughing, and the best part was, after a long day at work Chety didn’t have the energy to wrangle an unruly Jorge and let the incident go without punishment.
This might have been the reason why yesterday, as I walked out of my room I was met by Jorge mooning me. Wanting to be just like his big brother, Miguel quickly joined in. And soon I was trying to figure out how to yell the boys are mooning me in Spanish. Something I don’t think I will ever have to say again in Spanish.

And another prime example of the adventures of Miguel and Jorge:
Today, a distressed Eli burst through the door as both boys screamed and talked a mile a minute. I learned they had been at the super market earlier and had been refusing to behave. (Note: they are normally very well behaved, eat all they are given, tell their parents they love them and give them a kiss) But today, they wouldn’t listen to Eli at all in the supermarket. Somehow, while Eli grabbed something off the shelf, Jorge became in charge of pushing the cart which held Miguel as a captive passenger. Because he is 5 and can’t see over the cart, Jorge plowed straight into a coca cola display, knocking a ton of stuff over, and catapulting poor little Miguel out of the cart. Miguel showed me his leg which at the present moment has a giant purple bruise.

I don’t know how I’m going to say goodbye to these guys. After spending 3 months eating my meals in the center of chaos (and the best free entertainment you could ask for), I don’t want to leave!

 

Stateside from Pamplona: How We Change

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

By: Michael Cross, Foster Undergraduate

I’m home. I’m here. It’s time to see everyone I’ve missed the last 4 months. But wait, it’s weird. Something just feels different. There’s some invisible difference placed between us that’s just not jiving like it did before, but we’re still great friends or family. What is going on? What is this?

Here’s my thought(s):

A study abroad or other world experiences might not be what change us. We go abroad seeking this conversion into a “whole new person”, whatever that means, but that’s not the whole story. Yes, our ideas are challenged, and we’re presented with all sorts of new things that could mold us into the imaginative “whole new person” we’re looking for. But there’s something else going on.

People are what change, so people are what change us.

Pretty buildings, breathtaking views, and famous museums don’t change us. We get from those exactly what we want from them. What changes us are the people we have experiences with. So going abroad, in and of itself, doesn’t change us. Instead, it just provides us with a barometer to gauge the change that has occurred. Here’s what I mean—

At home, we tend to change at the pace of those around us- friends, colleagues, and family. And as a result, we don’t necessarily see the change because it’s so incremental. But when we go abroad for an extended period of time, we’re no longer around those people changing with us. Instead, we have new people and less close relationships. We don’t stop changing, and we still may not be able to see it while abroad but once we return home, we see it. We see when it feels hard to relate with our close friends. The people that were once so easy to communicate with and relate to now seem distant. The relationships haven’t changed, but some undercurrent has. And I think that undercurrent is YOU. You start to see how you changed independent of your friends. You still might not be able to put your finger on what changed, but you sure feel it. Relationships that were easy and close before now feel slightly forced and different.

But give it a little time and you’ll be back in the groove, assimilated just as before.

Use this as an opportunity to enlighten your friends, teach them what you’ve learned and how you’ve changed. Chances are they feel it and see it to, making them quite curious of what caused the distant feeling. Bring it close again through the sharing of the new you!

You’re Abroad. You NEED to Travel

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

By: Michael Cross, Foster Undergraduate

I left for Spain without a single weekend trip planned which made me a little nervous for how I would get it all together. But upon getting settled and meeting people I was soon able to put together trips for 12 of the first 13 weekends! I’m so glad I hadn’t put any together prior to my arrival in Spain because I would have done it all wrong. I had assumed the only way to get around were trains and plain. However, in Spain, the ease of travel is incredibly simple through their bus system. In the States, I never would have thought about taking the Greyhound to get around but it’s a very easy, useful, and a cheap system in Spain. Take advantage of this! It makes it easy to purchase cheap flights out of small airports because there’s a bus connecting them, and what’s even better is they let you get around to cool towns and cities that wouldn’t be easily accessible without your own car. For instance, a favorite trip of my friend and I was a day trip up to San Sebastian, an absolutely gorgeous, French-inspired beach town in the tip top northeast of Spain. There we could swim, surf, tan, and just take a break from what was already a break from real life. But this is only the beginning of my travel experiences.

One thing to have in mind is that you’ve already purchased the expensive plane ticket across the Atlantic, so you might as well tack on a ton of cheap trips too.  Throughout my 4 months, I was able to get to 16 cities in 7 countries and 2 continents—all for a little more than the cost of getting to Spain from the US. All of this was made possible through the ease of travel and the economical viability of transportation throughout Europe. If you use Ryanair or other low-cost providers, and avoid trains like the plague, it’ll amaze you how cheaply you can get around. So do it! Don’t waste any weekends. The time abroad speeds by, and perhaps extra travel doesn’t help, but it’s so worth it. This leads me to one of my biggest pieces of advice:

Sometimes you’ll get sick of traveling. Honestly, it’s exhausting traveling weekend after weekend because it’s stressful learning new cities, getting your bearings, and filling your head with memories and your camera with gigabytes of photos. So at times I found myself thinking, “I just want to stay put this weekend and take a breather.” But I’m so glad I didn’t! Here’s my advice— If there’s something awesome going on in the city of your abroad trip, then by all means stay put, go to it, and have an experience. But if there’s nothing, go travel! It’ll be so worth it! You’ll get to make something great out of an otherwise ordinary weekend. And each city has so much to offer you. When you’re back in the States, you won’t be able to sit in class and surf Skyscanner or HostelWorld to plan out your weekend. Take so much advantage of this.

Now, this might be different in other, larger cities, but Pamplona is pretty small so you don’t miss much by taking off for the weekend. You’ll be so happy you did in the end.

“Patri, mirrraaaaa”

Friday, January 11th, 2013

By: Patricia Mayer, Foster Undergraduate

Mira=look, or in Jorge and Miguel’s language “hey look at meee!”

I should have learned the first time. Never, ever, look. A few days ago my host family got home after picking Jorge up from karate practice. As I was studying in my room, Jorge ran in dressed in his Karate robe and practiced one of his moves on my arm. A few minutes later I hear “Patri, mirraaaa!!” I glance over to my doorway where Jorge, who escaped from Chety’s grasp midway through changing into pajamas, stands butt-naked dancing and sticking his tongue out at me. I almost fell out of my chair laughing, and the best part was, after a long day at work Chety didn’t have the energy to wrangle an unruly Jorge and let the incident go without punishment.

This might have been the reason why yesterday, as I walked out of my room I was met by Jorge mooning me. Wanting to be just like his big brother, Miguel quickly joined in. And soon I was trying to figure out how to yell the boys are mooning me in spanish. Something I don’t think I will ever have to say again in Spanish.

And another prime example of the adventures of Miguel and Jorge:

Today, a distressed Eli burst through the door as both boys screamed and talked a mile a minute. I learned they had been at the super market earlier and had been refusing to behave. (Note: they are normally very well behaved, eat all they are given, tell their parents they love them and give them a kiss) But today, they wouldn’t listen to Eli at all in the supermarket. Somehow, while Eli grabbed something off the shelf, Jorge became in charge of pushing the cart which held Miguel as a captive passenger. Because he is 5 and can’t see over the cart, Jorge plowed straight into a coca cola display, knocking a ton of stuff over, and catapulting poor little Miguel out of the cart. Miguel showed me his leg which at the present moment has a giant purple bruise.

I don’t know how I’m going to say goodbye to these guys. After spending 3 months eating my meals in the center of chaos (and the best free entertainment you could ask for), I don’t want to leave!

Calling Pamplona Home

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

By: Brett Kennedy, Foster Undergraduate

Wow! The first month and a half in Pamplona has been amazing.  It feels more like home with each day that passes.  I have well-acquainted myself with the city and the warm personalities of the people that live here.  It has been a transition, yes, but not as abrupt as I expected it to be.  It has been surprisingly easy to get into the rhythm of the schedule that you find in Spain, including the late dinners and afternoon siestas.  The city has a sort of “buzz” to it that I attribute to the friendliness of the locals; most people you see on the street are engaged in conversation with others, and many times a day I see strangers recognizing each other and stopping for a quick chat.  When I visit the local shops I am always greeted with a big smile and a “How are you?” which is a nice touch to my daily activities.  It’s even considered rude if you don’t greet a stranger in an elevator!

It has been a pleasant transition going from the fast-paced and somewhat impersonal rhythm of home to the more interactive “seize the day” mentality.  With this culture as the driving force, meeting people has never been easier.  Most people are very open to talking to strangers which gives way to opportunities to make new friends.  Overall, Pamplona is a very safe city with many beautiful landmarks scattered throughout it.  Lately I like to relax by running laps around the Ciudadela, or Citadel which was built over 400 years ago to protect the city.  It is the deep-rooted history like this, which is all around the city that adds to the experience of living here and understanding the Spanish culture.  I can already see myself missing Spain the minute I leave, but for now I plan to seize every minute that I can.

My Days in Pamplona

Monday, October 15th, 2012

By: Michael Cross, Foster Undergraduate

Moving to another country is an adjustment, and it’s a bit overwhelming at first. After arriving in Pamplona after good 14 or so hours of traveling, and then taking the wrong buses to the exact opposite side of Pamplona from where I needed to go, I had finally made it to my hostel. I was told that finding an apartment wouldn’t be too hard once I got here, and that it was often the better approach. So, that’s what I did. But it didn’t make my first days here any easier!

 

I knew culture shock would set in at one point, and for me it was the first three days. Living in a hostel, trying to learn the culture of a new city in a new country, navigating my way through the city to find apartments, attempting to get a mobile phone so I could call landlords, and then talking to landlords in my broken Spanish over a phone with poor reception, all made for a recipe of deep concern. I couldn’t even figure out where to go to get dinner! And who’d have thought that would be hard? Needless to say, I quickly went from thinking my Spanish was “good enough to get by” to realizing it needed a lot of work. Fast forward four days and I was moving into my apartment with two Spaniards. Suddenly, this place felt like home. It’s amazing how much a dwelling can do. With an apartment as my anchor, I was ready to start living in Spain, and all forms of culture shock disappeared completely.

A week later, classes began at UNAV. Well, kind of. For the first couple of weeks, the university is a little disorganized so it turned out that neither of my Monday classes were held that first day. Simultaneously, most of the school is trying to register for classes in person at different offices and I learned the hard way not to ask other students where to go because it led to a wild goose chase all around campus until the matriculation office closed at 1pm (another thing to get used to in Spain, everything closes a little inconveniently early). Eventually I came to my senses and decided not to be perturbed. While it may not be as efficient as America, I came here to immerse myself in their culture and this is how they live. I must embrace it! As a result, the DOL-like waiting times were bearable.

The campus feels about the size of the main parts of UW’s, minus 80% of the buildings. It takes 5-10 minutes to walk between the most popular buildings, and about 15-20 for most people to commute to campus on foot each morning. So each day is kind of like having a class in Condon but with a much prettier walk because UNAV’s campus is meticulously maintained. Half of my tuition must go towards watering the place ;)   The new Business building is much adored by faculty and students alike because I hear it’s a major, major upgrade from before. I’d describe it as a dabble in modernism gone awry and eerily reminiscent of a psych-ward. It’s just lacking the details to make it homey and welcoming. But the best part? There’s a garden planted in the middle of the bottom floor. I joke about picking strawberries on my way to class.

 

Let’s talk about the great things, the reasons anyone would want to live here. First off, it’s full of so much history. And that by itself makes this city absolutely stunning. Right behind my apartment is what’s called the Ciudadela which is a large pentagon shaped system of walls that used to defend the city when Phillip II constructed it in 1571. Now, the whole structure is a grassy park so you can walk along the tops of the walls, wander through the maze-like moats, or go for a run around it (it’s a perfect 1.5 miles around making it easy to plan out how far you want to run). From here, you can wander up to Casco Viejo (or the Old Town) full of winding cobblestone streets, delicious pintxo bars (pintxos are like tapas in the rest of Spain, which are a typical appetizer you eat at a bar before going home for dinner), quaint mercados y tiendas of all sorts, and of course, the route through which the bulls go thundering each July. You’ll encounter buildings of old all around, including cathedrals, hospitals which are now museums, and Pamplona’s City Hall (which is where they fire the rockets daily during San Fermin). There’s a large plaza called Plaza del Castillo with many restaurants, including Café Iruña, the favorite of Ernest Hemingway. One thing Pamplona will never let you forget is that Hemingway loved this place. He has a street named after him, a statue outside of the Plaza de Toros, and Café Iruña has more or less changed its named to Hemingway’s Café. Branching off from Casco Viejo is the street Carlos the Third. This street and a couple other that surround it comprise the shopping center of Pamplona. Here you’ll find banks, government buildings, clothing stores, restaurants and cafes, and more. Another thing you quickly realize upon arrival, is that Spaniards, and especially Pamplonians, love their parks. Pamplona is home to at least 5 parks big enough to run in, and countless other little guys. One of them even has deer, peacocks, hens, and swans living in it. Spaniards also love their plazas. Nearly every apartment complex has a large plaza included in its design where people lounge on benches, kids play on playgrounds, and others just pass through.

 

One of the best things about Spain is how laid back everyone is. Now, this can also be frustrating when you really just want to get something done, but it’s always a great reminder to slow down, breathe, and enjoy the life you’ve been given. Don’t stress, it adds nothing to your life. Spaniards have a keen awareness of this idea, and it’s apparent in the way they conduct themselves. For most things we Americans tend to be nervous/stress about, I’m pleasantly surprised when Spaniards say “No pase nada tijo”, it doesn’t mean anything, bro. It carries with it an ethos of “don’t worry about it, you needn’t worry, nothing will happen, it’s all okay”. I find it to be one of those beautiful expressions in Spanish that captures so much more than its literal translation and sounds better than our English expressions. This phrase, among others, will no doubt be part of my vernacular and slip out when speaking English for years to come.

In a nutshell, this is Pamplona. Of course there are hundreds of other things to write about, so my next post will include more about the experiences Pamplona has provided.

But in closing, this is really important: peanut butter can be found here! And peanut butter is the gold of international students all across Europe.

 

Navarra Summer Program!

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

The University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain is the perfect place to study Spanish in the summer. Located in Northern Spain, you can easily travel to Bilbao to see the Guggenheim, San Sebastian to spend the afternoon on the beach, or Hendaye and Biarritz to see the beaches of Southern France. There are castles, monasteries, and Roman ruins all within an hour of Pamplona. For a longer weekend trip you can easily take a bus or train to Barcelona to visit La Rambla, the Joan Miro Museum, and the works of Gaudí. Our Spanish language classes are in the central building on campus and there are students from France, Hong Kong, England, and Germany in the program.

The class is small compared to UW, only seven students in our Spanish class. The tennis courts on campus are fabulous as is the cafe. The casco viejo, or old part of Pamplona, has cobblestone streets lined by colorful buildings with balconies. In the main plaza, you can order a cafe con leche and croissant at the same restaurant Ernest Hemingway describes in his novel, The Sun Also Rises. Pamplona is known for its elaborate pinchos, Spanish appetizers. If you arrive in Pamplona in early July, you can experience San Fermines, the yearly celebration in Pamplona with a bull runs every morning, music in the plazas, bull fights in the afternoon, and fireworks at night.

Written by Zea Collentine, UW Foster School Student

Park Guell in Barcelona

Guggenheim in Bilbao

San Sebastian

Arriving in Pamplona

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

By: Nicholas Jaeger, Foster Undergraduate

Almost 23 hours after leaving SeaTac, I arrived in Pamplona, Spain. I wouldn’t say that I had a difficult time when I first got to Pamplona, but it was definitely a little challenging for me. It was recommended that I spend some time looking online for a place to live before leaving for Spain, but that I should wait until I get there to choose my place and roommates. I got to Pamplona about 5 days before the International Student Orientation, so I lived in a hostel for that time, which was a little expensive. By day 3, I was getting bored because I didn’t know anyone at the time, so I just walked the city each day and discovered new places. The first thing that I noticed in Pamplona was that people there really don’t speak any English. I had studied some Spanish, but it had been 2 years since I had any classes, so it was very hard for me to communicate at first.

After that first weekend it was time for orientation, which I really enjoyed. I had a chance to meet lots of people from all over the world. Also, on the second day of orientation, there was an organized trip to the northern beach city of San Sebastian. Looking back on all my travels in Spain, I think that San Sebastian was one of the nicest places I visited. Anyway, on this day trip I got to go in the ocean on a very hot day. There is also a large statue of Jesus overlooking the city, similar to the one in Rio de Janiero. You can hike up to the top of the hill that the statue is on, and this is something that I would definitely recommend doing. After returning from San Sebastian, I finally moved into my apartment, which was very nice because I was tired of living out of my suitcase in the hostel.

Anyway, the first week was somewhat of an adjustment period, but it wasn’t that bad. I had a great time meeting people and seeing new places. From that point on, studying abroad in Pamplona was the best time of my life. The Universidad de Navarra is a great school, although class scheduling is strange/difficult, and I really liked the city of Pamplona. In fact, I am very happy that the Foster exchange program takes place in a smaller city like Pamplona. It is not very touristy, so you are forced to use a lot more Spanish then you would in a bigger city like Barcelona or Madrid.

Fostering the International Connection

Monday, November 21st, 2011

By: Sam Bradley-Kelly, Foster Undergraduate

Robert M. Hutchins once said, “A world community can exist only with world communication, which means something more than extensive short-wave facilities scattered about the globe. It means common understanding, a common tradition, common ideas, and common ideals”.  While I am more than halfway done with my study abroad in Cádiz, Spain, I reflect back on the transformation that has happened to me.  As a student apart of the Certificate of International Studies in Business program, through my experiences in the classroom, weekly CISB lectures, and participation in other GBC experiences such as the IKEA Case Competition and Global Business Case Competition, these tools have helped me evolve my appreciation for the global community.  This being my second international study experience (first in Guadalajara, Mexico), I have really taken the opportunity to do things I would never have dreamed of doing.

Prior to my study abroad, I traveled throughout Italy with the seven days I had given myself.  Through good fortune, I met two sisters from Canada in Rome that were more than kind of enough to let me travel with them.  We stopped in Tavernelle for a night which is a beautiful village nested by locally-owned vineyards and full of lively young children and grandparents enjoying a roast BBQ out in the middle of the streets.  Before departing from my fellow Canadians, we dragged our bodies through the streets of Florence as the sun roasted our fragile bodies.  Water and gelato had never sounded so refreshing.

 After saying my farewells, I took a train to Venice for a day.  After putting my bags in a locker and ready to explore this Atlantis-like city, I ran into a person from Monterrey, Mexico also embarking on their own adventure of Venice.  I politely went up to them, asked if they had any specific plans, they said no, and I invited them to be my buddy for the day. We mustered all throughout this unique city checking out churches and museums that did not cost us even a nickel.  The best part, I had the 2×1 opportunity of talking in Spanish with someone from a different country…in Italy!

Fast forwarding to now where I’m studying in Cádiz, Spain, I have really taken the approach of looking at the glass as half full, rather than half empty.  A few months ago, my director posted on the bulletin board that a team from my university needed a goalie.  Luckily, having packed my goalie gloves and having the desire to play a little fútbol, I gave them a ring.  Ever since, I play soccer every week and even had the chance to go over to some of the players houses to play video games and talk about their lives in Spain.

Also, our director was contacted by a professor teaching English at the university wanting to start up an intercambios or exchange where local students take part in activities with students from our program.  Recently, we had a Halloween celebration where we carved pumpkins, dressed up volunteers in wacky costumes, and shared much laughter and joy.

 

Following this, I decided to travel to Madrid by myself, but I had the fantastic opportunity to meet up with a high school friend who is studying there through another study abroad program.  She was so kind enough to point me in the right direction to see famous landmarks such as the Museo del Prado, the Plaza de Toros, the Rastro Market and the Royal Palace of Madrid.  It was also a pleasure to meet new friends with the same intentions to not only learn and understand a new language, but also has the same kind of motivation to immerse yourself to a new culture.

 

The highlight of all my connections would be with one of my past Spanish teachers who had moved back to Granada, Spain.  During one of our program excursions to Granada, I seized the chance to call him up and plan a get-together as many of those in our program had taken a class or two with this teacher.  We shared our stories of Spain and our future plans while we enjoyed mini-sandwiches with french fries (I have to say they were some of the best french fries I have had in a LONG time).  I enjoyed this the most as the idea of meeting up with friends I have known for a long time (even if it’s my teacher) makes me appreciate the little things in life.  I am especially grateful to have seen my teacher as he has been responsible for connecting me to many of the friends within and outside of this program.

In life you might encounter people that are from a different country, speak a different language, experience a different culture, but at the end of the day, you can always become friends.  I see that through  studying abroad you can really globalize your life by meeting those that are strangers around you.  It takes a long time to grow a friendship, but every friend is a door to a new world.  What I take away from this trip is having friends is one thing, but savoring the opportunities presented to spend time with strangers and friends you might not see in a long time, especially in a foreign country, is priceless.

Pamplona – Settling In

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

By: Patrick Dion, Foster Undergraduate

Hi, my name is Patrick, and I’m a third year studying at the University of Navarra this fall. So far my experience has been great but getting settled in here Pamplona Spain wasn’t the easiest thing in the world. The most difficult thing I experience when getting here was actually registering and selecting classes. Before leaving I had looked at a course guide that listed all of the classes offered in English. When I got to Pamplona though, that list had changed. The school doesn’t really have an official schedule until two weeks after classes have started. It’s quite frustrating trying to nail down a class list when they are constantly changing times, rooms, and even course that are being offered. Many of the business classes they offer in English are the pre-requisite requirements at Foster so if you are planning on coming here look to see if you have space for electives if you are planning to study in English and have done lower level course work.  Once I had an actual schedule though the life has been great.

Pamplona is a much smaller city that Seattle which suits me well. I can walk outside at any time of the night without fear, and it’s small enough to walk everywhere. It really is true that the Spanish like the night life. Kids and senior citizens can be seen at 1am and “going out” for a night means you didn’t come home before 7 am. I’ve been on a few trips so far to Valencia, San Sebastian.  I also visited a little town called Andosilla where I watched them have their own “Running of the Bulls”, although with cows, since bulls are far more dangerous and harder to keep inside the fences. All were great and the bus rides to get there are very reasonable. Taking a bus really is the best way to travel though Spain if you don’t live in one of the larger cities. They are very cheap and easy to get tickets either in advance or just last minute.