Hi, my name is Jon Geyer, and I am a senior in the University of Washington Business School focusing in Marketing and International Business. I am currently on exchange in Pamplona, Spain. Yes, it is where they do the running of the bulls. However, besides this festival the city is fairly small and is dominated by many students in one part of the city and other inhabitants in the old part of the city. The University resides on one part of the city, the new part, and many students live in the surrounding area. The Casco Viejo, the old part town has a very typical European look to it and is where the encierro (running of the bulls) occurs. This part of town has many different small bars and pubs and there is a higher concentration of Basque natives as well. Instead of tapas, in other parts of Spain, here they serve Pintxos, which are more or less small portions of the local cuisine. They are typically considered expensive as Pamplona is one of the most expensive cities in Spain.
The city is a very good size but after a while it can feel a bit too small. The international community of students is very large and very well organized, as far as parties :) We have special discounts on certain days in bars and discotecas, for example, on Wednesday we have Crazy Wednesday and we get into the best club in the world, Marengo, for free. The club actually isn’t that great, but its fun because we have a great group of friends. There are these three Portuguese guys who enjoy to party, and you can count on them always to be at the nearest bar or discoteca. Ricardo thinks he can dance… but he can’t. In all seriousness the international community is a lot of fun here. So despite the fact that there are only 2 of us from UW, I have many friends already.
The University is fairly new (only around 50 years old) but is considered one of the better business schools in Spain. It is a private university and run by Opus Dei, a very religious sect of the Catholic Church. This is one thing that I had to get used to. You cannot wear basketball shorts or any other type of sporting attire. Flip flops are prohibited and you need a security card to get into every single building on campus. Once accustomed, it is not a big deal, but a few times I was trying to print stuff and I forgot I was wearing athletic shorts, and I was not let in.
As far as living situation, I am very happy. I live with three Spaniards, two from Galicia (the northwest part of Spain) and one from Catalonia (near Barcelona). We eat our meals together, cook together, clean together and have a good time. I seriously recommend staying with students in Spain because you get a very good mix of learning the language, the slang, the food, and the culture. Here in Pamplona, almost every international student lives with other students in apartments, and it is very affordable, only 245€ and the location is perfect. We have really interesting discussions at meal times about everything from religion, the economy, and the election.
In general economically the Spaniards put a lot of the blame for the crisis on the United States. There is a saying, when Wall Street sneezes, Spain becomes sick. My roommate said that our lifestyle and desire to have everything we desire in partly the problem and that it is now evident that we cannot keep living as superfluously as before. The other problem, that is internationally the same, is that there is a lack of confidence in each market. This is where everyone usually agrees. As I am writing this, Wall Street went up almost 11 percent yesterday, and because of this there was an affect in Spain and there market, IBEX, went up almost 8 percent. It really shows how interconnected the international markets have become in today’s global marketplace.
As far as the election is concerned, the all seem to heavily support Barrack Obama. The international news shows usually some update everyday during the morning and afternoon. Once everyone finds out that you are an American, the immediately ask Obama or McCain.
I have been able to travel quite a bit and I have really loved this. I have not had to study as much as in UW until recently (I am pretty busy now), but this allowed me to travel. Taylor Hoing, another UW student, and I went to Oktoberfest, I traveled to Madrid, Bilbao, Burgos, and this weekend I am going to Bologna in Italy. It is a very important part of the entire experience, and I really encourage any who studies abroad to make sure that they take advantage of their time.
I am having a great time so far and am sad that I have to go back so soon, but so far it has definitely been an incredible experience.