Spain

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!

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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.

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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…

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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.

Ciao!

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.

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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.

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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!

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