New International Friends in Spain!

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Jen Yeh in SpainHey there! My name is Jen Yeh and I’m a junior studying accounting and international business. I’m currently in Pamplona, Spain at the University of Navarra for fall semester, and it has been unlike any experience I’ve ever had. Despite the nearly 22 hours of traveling, Alexa and I (the other exchange student from UW) arrived in Spain relatively hassle free. The weather here though at the end of August was humid and unbearably hot for us. So during the first few days of exploring, we nearly melted in the heat. We didn’t realize that the “siestas” between 2pm-4pm everyday, where most the stores are closed, was when everyone hid from the hottest part of the day.

 As for my living situation, I had originally contacted two Spanish girls to live with, but after two weeks of trying to survive in a smoke-filled apartment, I had to move! Thankfully, I was able to find another apartment with two other Spanish girls who are much nicer, and somewhat more hygienic. The meal times… lunch is generally around 2pm and dinner around 9pm. At first that was somewhat difficult to adjust to, being use to eating lunch at 1130am and dinner at 530pm or 6pm! Pamplona itself is a fairly small city, but considered medium-sized in Spain. It’s a bit on the yellow side, but is also surrounded by mountains, and the Pyrenees Mountains are only a two-hour bus ride away. After running nearly all of Pamplona, I was able to find decent running by going towards the nearby towns, Cizur Menor and Cizur Mayor.Spanish SweetsExciting Travels

 It really is incredible the amount of people I’ve met and gotten to know from all over the world. During the first day of orientation, there were people from Australia, Ireland, Iceland, Germany, China, Taiwan, Portugal, Ecuador, Mexico, Italy, Poland, Belgium, Korea, England, France, Brazil, Czech Republic, Canada, Thailand… the list goes on. It was crazy. Some of them had perfect English that I automatically thought they were American. We met at 10am and sat through information sessions for a few hours, had a gigantic pan of paella for lunch (which I couldn’t really eat since it consisted of chicken and a type of seafood that literally looked like snails..let’s just say Spain is not at all vegetarian friendly). Registering for classes was a bit more stressful. We spend the first few days going to classes we think we might be interested in and then we don’t actually solidify a schedule until a couple weeks later. But it works out in the end, even if it is a month later haha

Being in Europe has made me realize how multi-lingual everyone is. Nearly everyone is able to fluently speak two languages, at minimum. When Alexa and I traveled to Bordeaux, France, our waiter spoke English to us, Spanish to the table next to us, and French to another table.  On a side note, the pace of life in Spain is definitely much slower, in contrast to the constant go go go attitude at UW and in the states. Anyhow, until then!  Beach Time!Study Abroad Friends

Spice of Spanish Life!

Thursday, October 21st, 2010
Mexican Dinner Night with Jen and our International Friends

Mexican Dinner Night with Jen and our International Friends

Hey guys! My name is Alexa Parker and I am a junior studying Business and Spanish at the University of Washington. I am currently in Pamplona, Spain for fall semester studying at the Universidad of Navarra along with Jen Yeh, another student at the Foster School. Having this opportunity to explore Spain and Europe has been amazing and I am sad that my time here is halfway over.

The University of Navarra has an extensive international program that makes meeting people and getting integrated into the University so easy. At first this University seems unorganized with figuring out class schedules and registration but I promise that everything does work out, it just happens a little slower than in the United States. I am living with a Spanish girl and I seriously recommend rooming with native Spanish speakers if you have the chance. With meeting all of the international students, it is very easy to speak English most of the time, but my roommate forces me to practice my Spanish.

Pamplona is in the northeast of Spain right on the French border, which means it is relatively close to the rest of Western Europe. The town itself is pretty and quaint but small, at least compared to Seattle. If you are interested in traveling I would advise you to take some weekend trips, which are easy and not terribly expensive if you can go through the budget airlines. So far I have made it to San Sebastian and Valencia in Spain, as well as London and Bordeaux and have booked trips to Barcelona, Geneva, Berlin, Lisbon and Rome. It’s so crazy to think that two months ago I was sitting in Seattle never having been out of the United States in my life. Hasta luego!

Being Back

Monday, January 4th, 2010

faustinoI am back home and already missing Pamplona. Spanish tortillas, two hour lunches in the cafeteria, and weekend adventures in the countryside are the moments that remain in my mind. The experience was fun. But more than fun, it was valuable.

Leaving my friends in Seattle and meeting students from around the world allowed me to gain a better understanding of human relationships. I met people who gave me an enormous amount of trust, which I reciprocated, despite us having interacted for only moments. These acquaintances hosted me in their homes, more than once giving me a key to the front door.  Being able to contrast those interactions with relationships in my daily life in Seattle has led me to look at those relationships in a new way. Not only has traveling given me new perspectives, it has also inspired me to host travelers in Seattle, which I hope to do soon. Perhaps I can help others explore this city while I do so myself.


Saturday, November 28th, 2009

stockholm night 1Five days in Stockholm has taught me to appreciate the sun. It was fun (and cold and dark and depressing). Vance, a fellow Foster student in Milan, and his German classmate Michael were in Stockholm as well. We saw museums and several typical tourists sites. When we weren’t penny pinching, we powered up on hot dogs and a Thai buffet  (unfortunately, the Swedish Krona is valued even higher than the Euro). It’s amazing to be able to hop on a three-hour flight, and be in a place with a different language, different climate, and different way of living. Perhaps simply being close to the rest of Europe is the best reason to study in any European city.

On the other hand, traveling has its drawbacks. I only have two weeks left in Pamplona. I realized I have hardly been here. I have yet to see a game of Osasuna, the local soccer team, and I have not even been to the town’s market. Pamplona quickly became familiar to me, so I stopped exploring. And I realized, I live the same way in Seattle, never having to gone SIFF, the zoo, or anything else that makes our city unique. So, if living abroad has changed me in anyway, I hope this experience has inspired me to keep exploring.

stockholm group

No Pasa Nada

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

La playa en AlicanteHi everyone! My name is Andrew Swanson, and I am here in Pamplona, Spain for the quarter studying at the University of Navarra along with Sohroosh, Yvonne, and Daraun from the UW. So far my time here in Spain has been a blast. Last weekend I went to Alicante with my roommate because he was from there, and I got to see the Mediterranean for the first time and visit the local hotspots of the city.

School here is going very well. Tomorrow I have to prepare a presentation for my Marketing class, which is a normal Spanish class with normal students, so I am a little bit nervous to talk in front of them… but as we say here “no pasa nada” if I embarrass myself a little bit…I guess that is part of the experience. (haha) I am living with two Spanish guys so I get to practice my Spanish skills both in school and at home, and I am learning a lot. It is amazing to see how your skills improve in such little time being over here. Well, until next time!

Walking to Pamplona

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

caminoTired and sore, but also preparing for midterm exams, I just returned from a two day stretch of the Camino de Santiago. The Camino de Santiago, or Way of St. James, is a pilgrimage that tens of thousands of people from all over the world make throughout the year. There are many paths, but one of the most common starts at Saint Jean Pied de Port, in southern France, and winds it’s way across northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela. This route normally takes more than 30 days to complete on foot. A student from Honduras and another exchange student from Taiwan accompanied me from the small town of Roncesvalles, on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees, back to Pamplona. The bus ride to Roncesvalles took one and half hours, but the walk through small villages, highways, and hilly farmland took us about sixteen hours spread over two days. We shared sleeping quarters and the path with a diverse group of pilgrims: Aussies who were out for an adventure, a man from Barcelona who had a “compromiso” or a moral obligation to make the pilgrimage, as well as a trio from Valencia who were also taking the Camino a few days at a time.

A deeper look at Madrid

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

ben2.jpgMadrid is one of the most happening cities on Earth when it comes to nightlife. It has more bars per capita than any European city, with plenty of clubs, late-night munchies spots, and a vibe that satisfies all ages. Take for example the seven story Kapital club, which plays a different genre on each floor, accompanying a gigantic rocket engine that intermittently blasts sweaty dancers with mist on the main dance floor. Madrid’s Joy Eslava, and many others, make it easy for students to get in free. All in all, Madrid clubs are unlike any clubs I’ve experienced in Seattle or San Francisco, and prices are reasonable if you do not plan on buying a drink. Also noteworthy to mention was the very efficient, economical Madrid Metro, which I used all the time.

ben1.jpgThe food opportunities in Madrid are mouth watering. Madrid, although land-locked, has the second highest consumption of seafood in the world, after Japan. It is famous for its Bacalao (cod) tapas, croquettes, and so much more. The La Rioja region in Spain offers exceptional, economical wine and Extremadura to the southwest provides jamoñ ibérico, the finest ham in the world. A typical late night or early morning treat is chocolate con churros (chocolate with churros), which surprisingly hasn’t caught on in the U.S. The truth is that one has to spend a little extra to be able to seek out and experience the truly inventive cuisine Spain has to offer. Within close proximity to San Sabastian and Barcelona, arguably the two most progressive culinary epicenters, Madrid holds its own and delights foodies if they are willing to pay. I only make this point because many of my friends felt that the Madrileño cuisine was not good (fried, nothing too interesting, not lots of options). This is completely false as I witnessed in disbelief many of my friends consistently opting for the cheap food that was boring and unoriginal.

Just as food is critical in getting to know about another culture, so is the opportunity to live with a native speaker. In my case, I lived with a single Argentinean man in his early thirties. This was unlike the housing situations of my friends, who lived with Spaniards. The difference was that Madrileños are concerned with confianza, or trust, and if they wanted to have a friend stay the night, they would have to get permission beforehand. In my case, my Argentinean host was indifferent to who I had over to the house. I found it interesting that most all of the socializing between Spaniards occurs outside on the street, in the cafes, in bars, and the home was mainly used for family and get-togethers with close friends. I lived in a spacious studio apartment, and most all of my fellow CIEE program mates were satisfied with their living situations.

Exploring Spain

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Hola!   My name is Benjamin and I recently studied abroad in Madrid, Spain at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid.  I am a third year junior, and I study Entrepreneurship at the Foster School.

My upbringing in the San Francisco Bay Area, which included an exposure to different cultures, a love for learning Spanish, and above all, wonderful food, is partly responsible for why I decided to spend a semester abroad in Madrid for Fall 2008.  My reasons to study abroad were (and still are!) many, which included a desire to meet interesting new people from all over the world, improve my Spanish proficiency, travel, and a yearning for the opportunity to plain and simply “live it up”.  Moreover, the change of scenery that comes with studying abroad for me was a true breath of fresh air and a chance to really discover myself.

My stay in Spain lasted from September 1 to December 22.  Intermittently, I did some traveling to places such as Lisbon, Paris, Mallorca, and Cairo.  Recognizing the importance of not traveling every weekend as some of my classmates did, I made a strong effort during the first half of my trip to limit my travels and stay in Madrid as much as possible.  This way, I was able to truly take in the Spanish culture of my host city, really better my Spanish, and more importantly, I invested more time and energy in friendships with fellow Spaniards (and other foreigners), whom I plan to stay in touch with regularly.

At the university my classes were taught in Spanish by Spanish professors, however I took classes with fellow Americans from all over—all of the UC’s, Harvard, Washington University in St. Louis, etc.  They were challenging, yet very interesting.  The professors were down to earth and made every effort to ensure that we learned and felt welcome in their country.  Out of the four classes I took—Medio Ambiente (environment), Español para el uso profesional (Professional Spanish), literatura Espanola (Spanish literature), and lengua Espanola-nivel superior (superior level Spanish language)—Medio Ambiente was my favorite.  Taught by two male professors, class was very entertaining as the teachers always poked fun at each other.  Also, we went on three field trips (Segovia, and two in Madrid), and learned all about the environment in Spain.

In my next posts, I will touch on such topics as the incredible nightlife in Madrid, the cutting-edge food, and my living situation.

Benjamin Zuercher
Foster School- Entrepreneurship
Program on the Environment
Spanish Minor

Lunchtime Chats in Madrid

Monday, November 24th, 2008

horse-statue.jpgToday, my coworker Elena asked what kind of image Americans have of Spain. “Do they consider it a lesser developed country and lump it with other Spanish-speaking countries?” she said. Personally, I have always lumped Spain with countries like France and Germany. It is hard to imagine that this democratic country was ruled under the Franco dictatorship only 30+ years ago! Spain has emerged from restricting women from opening their own bank account without a husband’s cosign just 30 years ago to becoming the world’s third nation to legalize gay marriage. Developing at a fast rate, Spain takes much pride in the things it does well. The metro system, for example, is extremely efficient, extensive, and well maintained. I saw a poster showing the Statue of Liberty stooping down, peering curiously into a metro entrance. The catchy phrase said, “The Metro the world wishes they had– is right here in Madrid.”

We always have many interesting discussions at my workplace. I get to enjoy a long lunch with my coworkers in the middle of the day, where I have become familiar with everything from Spanish slang to politics to family life. Through many entertaining conversations, I have learned endless Spanish colloquial phrases and words. Harmless words like “monkey” “horse” and “chocolate” can translate to refer to drugs! As far as politics go, Obama is welcomed with great enthusiasm. Spaniards are hopeful that his presidency will help secure a more solid friendship between our nations. My coworkers enjoy talking about American politics; it sometimes surprises me how well informed they are about the US.

spanish-flag.jpgAlso during our lunch, my coworkers love when I recount the tales of my home-stay experience with my “señora”. I am currently living with an older woman, single and retired. She is very kind, and happily cooks my meals and does my laundry. In exchange, I live by the interesting rules of the house. No bare feet on the floor, showers no longer than exactly 10 minutes (complimentary reminders given), and I must never share her hand towel. It seems notions of hygiene are different here. It is also bad form to relax with one’s feet on the furniture, as living rooms tend to be much more formal here. I must also make my bed every day and keep my room tidy, since here it is customary to leave doors to rooms open. My coworkers have explained to me that these tendencies are more specific to her Spanish generation, and that the younger generation lives with a more relaxed style.

Though my señora is from an older generation, she (like every other Madrileño) loves to go out at night! Regular bedtime for her is around 2 or 3 am. I am long asleep by then, as I have to wake up early most mornings. In Madrid, going out is a highlight of the culture. The Spanish do not often invite their friends over to their home, because the home serves more for family and relaxation. To meet up with friends or a date, my señora always goes out for tapas (appetizers with drinks) or for a coffee and a pastry, or to the movies, or even to a dance club (for people her own age, she informs me).

I love soaking up the culture around me, and comparing it to the US. I enjoy many things here, like the tendency of staying up so late and sleeping in, and the abundance of small neighborhood shops serving everything you could need. However, I dislike how so many stores inconveniently close from 2-5pm for the siesta, or how service is continuously slow in restaurants. I think if we could somehow fuse the customs of our nations together, I would have the perfect place to live.

Universidad de Navarra, Spain

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

Hi, my name is Taylor Hoing and I´m from Wenatchee, WA, I will be graduating from the UW Business School with a focus in Finance and Accounting after studying abroad for a semester here in Pamplona, Spain.  Studying at the Universidad de Navarra is much different than being at UW.  Most classes are taught in Spanish, but some business classes and few others are offered in English.  Being a native English speaker like myself and barely studying Spanish in high school, I knew basically no Spanish before I arrived in Spain.  I found it very difficult to get around without knowing Spanish.  Spain is different than most other countries in Europe where a large majority of the population speaks English and doesn’t mind doing so.  Here in Spain, other than students, most people don´t speak English and if they do they speak English most people won´t because they want you to speak Spanish while in Spain.

This made trying to get to the school, finding an apartment to live in, and finding other necessities quite difficult.  Luckily for me, when I arrived here the other student from UW, Jon Geyer, had already been here for a week and was quite fluent in Spanish.  He was able to help me get settled and find the necessities.  I strongly recommend knowing at least a little bit of Spanish if you want to study abroad in Spain or have a strong desire for adventure.

Another large difference here at Universidad de Navarra is trying to get your class schedule figured out.  This can be a very frustrating process.  Here in Spain no information is organized nicely and timely, and there is no MYUW where you can get a class time-schedule.  During orientation you are given a handout that has last year´s schedule for Business classes that are offered in English and Spanish.  Then you are told that the class list this year is only similar to last years, but not all the classes will be the same.  This is only for the business school, if you want to take classes in other departments you have to go to that department and talk to a bunch of different people to try and find someone who knows what classes are being offered.  Most international students are freaked out trying to get their schedules in order before classes begin, but the teachers know how the process works.

So basically it’s not a big deal if you attend classes the first week and sometimes even the second week, this is the time to figure when classes are offered and if you want to take the class.  Much different than at UW.  Business classes seem to be taught similarly to UW, except that there are less group projects here and the final exam is a higher percentage of your grade.

It may seem that Spain is a difficult place for Americans, but it´s also a great chance to enjoy a vastly different lifestyle.  It can be annoying and even frustrating at times, but between all the great friends that you meet and all the new experiences that you have it makes it all worthwhile.  I highly recommend living with other Spanish students while you are in Spain.  I live with three other Spanish guys and the friendships and camaraderie that we’ve already had has been great.  Also it can be easy to miss out on the Spanish culture sometimes because you are hanging out with many international students all the time and not so many Spanish students.  When you live with Spanish guys they make sure you don´t forget.  Spain is great, and I didn’t even tell you about all the great traveling I’ve done throughout Europe and Spain itself.  Ciao.

P.S. Make sure you have an opinion on the most recent political issue in America when you come to Spain.  All I hear over here is ¨Obama vs. McCain¨ and ¨what do you think about the Economic crisis.¨