A Wild Last Night

My final Friday night in San Sebastian was the wildest night I’ve had on this trip – up late packing my behemoth of a suitcase. I had a severe case of procrastination, as well as heaps of clothing from Zara which was having such magnificent sales that I and many of my fellow travelers couldn’t stay away. On top of that I had presents for my family and friends back home. That’s all well and good if you weren’t already pushing the boundaries of your suitcase’s physical limitations as well as the weight limit at the airport; I had to start from scratch.

While I was folding my clothing into the smallest shapes I could muster, trying out the traditional technique, the weird way I saw on Facebook, and throwing in a couple origami cotton cranes for good measure, I couldn’t help but reflect on the entirety of the trip. Each article of clothing brought back the memory of how my day was spent and who it was with. After my classmates and I braved it through the battlefields of full immersion Spanish class, we either had an excursion planned with Sean and Julian or a day to ourselves. Now my fellow classmates have already given fantastic summaries of the days we’ve had here, so I’m not going to give everyone a summary of a summary of our trip. Even more interesting than the things I did on this trip every day was who I did these things with.

At some point during the last week, Julian commented on just how close our group of students was, and asked how long we had known each other before the trip. He and Sean were amazed to find out that many of us had gone in blind, knowing two or three people but the rest of the group was a mystery. I personally knew only one person before this trip, a very good friend of mine, but I left with 20 friends. I have a very diverse friend group now, both North AND South Campus majors.

My first day was spent with the five people I had spoken to the most in the airport. We had known each other for a grand total of about 12 hours give or take, but after a night on the beach, something was different. It didn’t matter that we had only known each other for such a short period of time; we gelled as a cohesive unit and from that moment on spent most of our free time (that wasn’t being used for a much needed camera battery recharge and a siesta) together.

The beach where 50% our time was spent

The beach where 50% our time was spent

It didn’t matter to any of us that we hadn’t known the other before crossing the pond, everyone was treated like family. Euros flowed easily from one hand to the other if someone needed an extra 20 cents for a melocotόn (the peaches in Spain dance big, juicy circles around the ones here in the U.S.), or a gelato before we had to race with the clock to meet our professors across town. I actually can’t put into words when it happened, how it happened, or why it happened, but the fact that our entire group stayed just that, a group, astonished me and made the trip all the more memorable. Ordinarily when groups get large, sections break off into cliques that, once formed, can never be penetrated. But that didn’t happen on this trip. Instead, nightly trips to the beach were open to everyone we were with. Some people even brought other international students they’d met at Lacunza, so there would be a group of more than 10, maybe even 15 at a time all enjoying the beauty of the city at nighttime, a thousand little lights transforming the beautiful city we had all seen in the middle of the day to a breathtaking one.

I have a memory with each and every person on this trip that makes me exceptionally happy. And for that I am incredibly grateful. Each and every moment on IMG_1989this trip was the most exciting moment of my incredibly geographically sheltered life. Coming from a small high school and having never traveled anywhere more exciting than Ohio, a trip to one of the most beautiful cities in the world with my favorite professor (now favorite professors, as I had only been taught by one before), and new favorite people was all I could have hoped for and so much more.


So, without further ado, an electronic attempt at a round of applause for the Honors College for allowing us all this opportunity, Sean and Julian for filling our days with mandatory excursions that I was actually excited to go on (usually the word mandatory makes me head for the hills), and to every student on this trip who made me laugh, made me smile, and helped me enjoy this magical city so much more. And thank you to the city of San Sebastian who welcomed this group of rowdy Americans in and showed us all it had to offer.

The view from my back porch overlooking the city

The view from my back porch overlooking the city

Thursday Take Dos

After almost three weeks of day drinking pitchers of sangria, soaking in the sun on Zurriola beach, and trying so desperately to look like locals, our time here is dwindling. These next two days is our time to rally, our last chance to do the things we have been pushing off.

Today we had some free time before we ventured off to the cider house. As goes everyday, we all went to school until 1pm and then were free to venture off and do our own things until mas o menos 6:15pm. As goes for me, I spent a lot of time deciding what I really wanted to do these last few days. I think what we have each chosen to do these last few days really reflects what we value most about this beautiful area of the world.

As for me, after school I went to my favorite little Michelin recommended restaurant in Gros. I got bacalao tortilla and a few pinchos. Whenever I travel, my main focus is on the food. For me, its how I am able to fully embrace the culture of an area. Everyday here in San Sebastian, I have gotten a cup of hot chocolate and a tortilla patata. Each place I have gone to has had their own spin on each. The hot chocolate of Europe is quite possibly a little window into what heaven resembles. I’m pretty confident that all they do is melt a bar of chocolate and serve it in a cup. After weeks of biking around the city, climbing mountains, and visiting museums I just sat down into a cafe a took a breath and reflected for a bit.


My roommate Martha and I live in Amara, which is far from the central part of the city; away from the hustle and bustle. At first this seemed like it was going to be terrible. We were far from our friends and all of the “cool” parts of the city. However, we had an absolutely wonderful host family and we had the chance to explore a different part of the city that we would have never gone to. We rented bikes so that we could easily maneuver the city. Since we did this, I feel like I was really able to gain a deeper understanding of the city. Three weeks somewhere seems to be just enough time for you to feel like you have almost mastered a city, but yet still have so much to explore. I’ve now been to every neighborhood, burned on three different beaches, and been mistaken for a local.

The moment I realized that my three weeks here in San Sebastian would never be enough time was when I was in an underground mall. I was buying some fruit and a man next to me was trying to communicate to the woman who worked behind the counter. He only spoke english and she only Spanish. He was looking for the fish market. I jumped in and acted as a translator. They were both so grateful and I was actually successful in communicating! It was a shining moment. However, I realized not only my Spanish, but my understanding of the layout of the city was much more minimal that I thought it was. On this trip, we have each gotten such a sweet taste of San Sebastian and Basque culture. We cannot forget that there is still more to learn and more to explore.

That very night we all had another new experience at a Siderria! I had tried the cider in a few bars, but I wasn’t the biggest fan. To me, the taste had resembled a watered down apple cider vinegar with a hint of beer. So when I heard we had unlimited cider to drink I wasn’t as excited as I should have been. Once we arrived, we went on a lovely tour of the grounds and learned how the cider was produced. For lack of a better way to say it, after the tour we each took two, maybe three “shots” of the cider, as it is traditionally drunk in such a way. We were taught how to open up the tap to the giant barrels of cider. Once the tap was opened we formed a line, one person after another filled up their glass, drank, and got back in line. Parents and guardians, its not quite as crazy as it sounds, but it sure was fun!


After those first drinks we went inside to enjoy dinner. First course was tortilla de bacalao with bread, which is essentially a world class salted cod omelette. This is a traditional Basque dish. Second course was salt cod with peppers and onions. By the time the third course of steak rolled in, most of us were already stuffed. However, if you were brave enough to indulge in the rare deliciousness of the steak it was worth it. I personally eat my steak, well done when I am home.My perspective has now changed. I think I have literally been cooking the flavor out. We topped the night off with some queso, cookies, and walnuts. The taxi’s picked us up at the door and then we each went our separate ways home. Although it was only 11:30pm, as far as I know everyone went straight home. Were all exhausted and stuffed to the brim from a delicious meal and glasses of cider.

I couldn’t have imagined a better way for us each to spend our night. We were together as a group for the last time. We sat at big long tables, laughing, eating, and drinking together. Now we are heading off on other adventures. As for me, I am stuck here exploring the south of Spain for three more weeks. To all of the new friends I would have never met, thank you for making each night adventure filled. To Sean and Julian, thank you for creating this program and guiding us through the city. The people and this city have left a lasting impression on me and it has made it into my top 5 favorite places.


Petritegi Sagardoa Cider House

How’s it going?

Yesterday we spent the majority of the evening at Petritegi Sagardoa. We began by touring the orchard and observing the steps of the cider-making process. I got to try impaling an apple with a kizkia, a tool that resembles a stick with a nail through the side of the bottom. The tool has no English translation. It is used to quickly pick apples up off the ground and deposit them into baskets. The apples are not picked directly off of the trees.

After seeing the field, we moved inside to see the machinery. Some of the process is automated, but the first machine is labor-intensive, because it needs to be filled with apples manually.


The coolest part, however, was the cellar. They have three different areas all with different temperatures. They are specific temperatures in the range of 8-14 degrees Celsius (approximately 46-57 degrees Fahrenheit). After touring the orchard, the cold air was refreshing.


Now, for the cider. After watching a short film about the history of Basque cider houses, we got to try two different types. The first tasted sweeter and went down easier. The second was initially similar, although more bitter, but ultimately felt sharper going down.


I, for one, appreciated the free water offered to us. Free is a relative term, as we paid sixty euros per person, I believe. The first course was extremely old-fashioned. Loaves of baguettes sitting on top of the long tables. I almost ate an entire one myself, but of course ended up sharing some of it. The rest of the meal consisted of three courses: cod, steak, and dessert. Of all the courses we had, my favorite was the steak. It could have been cooked a little longer, but that is the way it was intended to be served. The flavor, consistency, and even how it was cut, were all unusual. Compared to the steak, the rest of the food was just alright. I also enjoyed cracking open the walnuts for dessert.






Although not important to me, I am sure many of my classmates appreciated our professors moving this farewell dinner to yesterday. With unlimited cider comes responsibility. All in all, everyone was fine. We even got shuttles right from the restaurant back to McDonald’s. It was definitely a good time.


Though the cider house was fun, it was not the only good time we had in San Sebastian. Above you can see the combs in the wind, a landscape beautified by Eduardo Chillida. It holds much symbolism. For me, it was interesting to hear that most of the air coming in from the coast enters through the combs. This is merely a fraction of the awe-inspiring scenic wonderland that is the coastal city of San Sebastian. The beaches here are magnificent, but I do wish the water was a bit warmer.


Aside from all the late nights and fast paced life we underwent here, there was a calmer time. Our mornings were spent studying Spanish at Lacunza. We took two classes each day. The early class focused primarily on grammar, while the latter was dedicated to vocabulary and speaking. This is Fede, my second Lacunza professor. He always managed to bring high energy and stories to class. I learned a lot from him, to say the least.

It takes some time to adapt to the culture here, but it is worth doing. The cuisine and culture here are very different from the melting pot of culture we have in the United States. I certainly missed a lot of Italian, Japanese, Mexican, and other countries dishes, but I learned to love a few foods here.

This trip definitely expanded my cultural horizons. I still feel enlightened to know that Basque people do not typically drink Sangria, and that Spain has several distinct regions with very different cultures and traditions. Now I understand how different Basque and Spanish cultures are and why the Basques could not peacefully coexist in Spain while their cultural heritage was threatened by Franco.

I’ve Caught the Travel Bug

There’s nowhere else I’d rather not be than Lacunza on a weekday morning at 9:30. Instead of taking full advantage of the unique educational experience afforded to me, I’ve spent many-a-morning cursing myself for staying out too late the night before, spending too much time on the beach, and wishing I’d gotten a “superdoble” espresso rather than a “superuno”. I cannot illustrate to you enough the incredible lengths I would take to sleep in just a mere hour more during the week; how my warm bed calls to me from the moment I leave it’s comforting embrace, how I figure I would be so much more alert during the day if I could indulge in slightly more of the summer luxury I’ve grown to take advantage of.

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Lacunza, besides being the destination of my sleep-walking commute, is also probably the most culturally diverse part of the city, a micro-melting-pot filled with people of different nationality, race, and religion. My class of twelve students changes every week, and is filled with people from different European countries. Speaking to them has proven to be one of the most interesting parts of this trip. These classmates come from all around the world, including the United States, South America, Belgium, France, or Switzerland, and many of them speak multiple languages, including French, Italian, German, Spanish, English, Dutch, and oftentimes multiple. They each have completely unique motives for studying Spanish in Donostia, and asking about their past travel experiences always yields motivating and fascinating stories. One particular Swiss student recounted a ten-day backpacking trip to Italy she took with her friends, for which they did not plan farther than a day in advance, and during which they slept under the stars. Another Swiss student I met had studied in France, Germany, and Spain, and had visited Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago, and was still in College. The majority of European students I spoke to here had had similar and varied travel experiences.

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The students at Lacunza embraced a culture of travel and exploration, and came from different walks of life; while most of the people studying were students, there were a number of families and couples as well. They valued human experience, and they challenged themselves by putting themselves in foreign situations that would force them to adapt. Knowledge that they took for granted was tested, and they were immersed in a culture very different to their own. This sort of world-traveler that seeks to develop oneself through world travel was foreign to me, and it was incredible to be able to speak to individuals who welcomed change as a catalyst for self-improvement and reflection; habitual daily routine may be easier to navigate, but the unknown offers opportunity for contemplation.

These Lacunzan nomads’ lack of fear amazes me. They wander from country to city to hostel to social interaction with an unabashed love for the culture/people that they’re experiencing, and a trust that the winds of fate will guide them safely through unacquainted territory. They have a great respect for other societies, and they take it upon themselves, almost as an obligation, to explore the world and familiarize themselves with different facets of the human experience. It’s so incredibly thrilling to be exposed to people like this every day, people intent on “[living] deep and [sucking] all the marrow of life” and living a complete existence. The tedium of routine and the comfort of a familiar urbanity are often glorified, yet it is the unfamiliar and estranged that facilitates introspection and the development of a unique personae teeming with tenacious spirit. I’ve caught the travel bug, and I hope you will, too.

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Sand on the beach, not in the house

Hello everyone. Steve here. Due to unfortunate technical difficulties, I am writing to you from the account of the magnificent Leighton Moylan, who so graciously allowed me to use his capabilities. So here we go.

Sand on the beach. Not in the house.

Hello to all those people who have so eagerly arrived to this blogpost. Sit down and strap yourself in, this one’s gonna be good. Upon reading this, the group and I will have had three days left and that statement, to me, is like an ogre( because ogres have layers! and that they are ). Terrifying to believe my extravagant time in san seb is coming to a close, but it is also making me reflect other thoughts dwelling at the bottom of my subconscience. Now before I dig deeper into that ( very small) iceberg, I would like to address adoring fans and paparazzi about my wonderful Monday in Donostia. Granted waking up Monday morning I had a case of the Mondays that I was having a lot of trouble shaking. My grammar teacher, Laura, whom I adored  (can’t say the feeling was mutual ) had switched to a new class. Now my friend Leighton still howled his usual howl of a laugh and I still ate a delicious nectarine that my host abuela (maritxa, i.e new found love of my life) had hurled towards my head with a smile as she does every morning, but things just felt different without Laura. But alas good things come to an end and I must continue with my day. Now myself and the Basque Street Boys( myself, Arick Forsyth, and Lighton Moylan) along with our friend Catherine went into a bar to get pintxo de chorizo and a caña grifa con limón. It was a delight in both taste and company.

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A lot of the bars here have old wooden bar tops, wooden chairs, and a somewhat rustic theme, but in addition they all seem to have vh1 from America playing music videos from 2005. Not even kidding, I have my lunch to the tune of “Gold Digger” and “1,2 Step” on a few separate occasions. So after that I returned home, maritxa had been watching the Spanish equivalent of Survivor (fun fact: on their “Survivor” the people are in the wilderness for 80 days; talk about hardcore) and after she had explained the intricacies to why sand in the house is the equivalent to a stray dog sneaking into your house and sleeping on the floor. (Yup, that’s honestly how she explained it). So after that wonderful lesson I sat down for a nice long siesta before I would meet my friends at the beach. During my siesta I relaxed in my room and I honestly thought about the trip and what I’ve done and I thought a lot about home. Life is drastically different here. There are wonderful views, excellent weather, and a city that flows like a leaf in the wind. Never meeting resistance but finding a way around and through complications. San Sebastian quite frankly is paradise. Though that is why I cannot stay (I’ll explain at the end).

After my siesta I suited up and curtailed my way over to Ziriolla, the surfing beach. My friends and I took to the water and there must have been a swell because the waves were hitting at least 8 feet tall. This set the stage for the greatest beach trip of the 3 weeks. All of us in the water, body surfing ,waves crashing ,high fives clashing, and outrageous fun. Afterwards all of us went to our separate dinners.( I had torilla).

At around 10:00 we all left our houses and headed to La Concha for the second part of the beach. We had a large portion of the group with us and along with a midnight swim we all sat on the sand and talked and laughed (I laughed for a collective 45 minutes at least) and related and came together the way friends who’ve known each other for 25 years come together. That doesn’t just happen. This experience has giving me not only an immense amount of perspective on views on the other side of the globe, but also a new group of people who I have come rapidly attached to in a way I didn’t think possible.

The final part of the night was when we had “found” some champagne and shared it on the beach. Toasting to an amazing trip, I stepped back and thought once again that I can’t stay here. San Sebastian is not a place but an experience. An experience that will grab hold of you and change you forever. This trip has taught me about so much, but it has also taught me how amazing it is to travel. I had never traveled before this and I don’t want to live here. I feel that being here longer would only dilute the sensation of awe in my eyes . But I want to return. Over and over and over again each time trying more, seeing more, and doing more. Unfortunately, the next time I return I won’t have my trusty crew, which is unfortunate, yet once again allows me to create new bonds and friends like the ones I have made. (raise your hand if you want a corny ending…. too bad!) Donostia is famous for its boats and fishing. And in the Bay of Biscay there are hundreds of ships, but I think the greatest and most impressive ships were the friendships being made in the sand on the shore that night. So I say Salud to Donostia and to Massachusetts, be home soon.

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Untitled (It’s modern art)

It’s hard to believe that our trip here is coming to an end soon. This is our third and final week in San Sebastian and it’s definitely bittersweet. On one hand, I miss home and cannot wait to see my family and friends. While on the other, I am just starting to establish a routine and can finally navigate the city without getting lost. I have really enjoyed my time in Donostia, where I can get a daily dose of gelato at almost any hour of the day. And though at times it is difficult to get myself to wake up for Spanish class at Lacunza in the morning, I enjoy going because of both the learning and social aspect. Lacunza is a social hub of international students, which perfectly represent the city itself. There are the fluent Spanish teachers from Spain, who represent the locals, and the students from across the globe, who represent the enthusiastic travelers. After being here for two weeks already, I can understand why San Sebastian will be named 2016 European capital of culture. There is a mix of culture, both old and new, which was something that I also noticed on our day trip to Bilbao yesterday.

We started our day relatively early and took an hour bus ride into the city. Fun fact, J.R.R. Tolkien named the character Bilbo after this city. I digress, but during the ride from San Sebastian, we drove through the countryside. It was quite a view, seeing the fields of green and the clouds just covering the tops of the mountain.

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The view on the bus ride to Bilbao

And as we got closer to Bilbao, the countryside started to fade away and we entered a city that was very similar to San Sebastian. Not too long ago, Bilbao was an industrial city. It remained that way until the Guggenheim Museum was built there. But what I liked most about the Bilbao was it’s mix between old and new. There were older buildings and structures, such as the city hall or the buildings by the Parte Nueva, “the New Part”, as well as newer structures like the Guggenheim Museum or the very aesthetically pleasing Zubizuri bridge.

While in Bilbao, we visited the Museo Vasco, and we learned about about the Basque culture, from daily living to primary export to traditional celebrations. One peculiar tradition we learned about was one where people would wear oversized heads and hit children over the head with lamb bladders. Apparently, lots of children get scarred from it, yet this is still something that continues on today. After learning about the history of the Basque people, we went to Guggenheim Museum, which was quite a contrast from the Museo Vasco.

Museo Vasco

Museo Vasco

The Guggenheim Museum features modern art, some of which, in my opinion, was a bit strange. For instance, there was a huge statue of a balloon animal in a shape of a dog, which was a part of a larger exhibit that represented happy children’s memories. However, the very first gallery I went to was The Matter of Time by Richard Serra, which featured eight massive steel sculptures, was more enjoyable, mainly because the art was interactive. Viewers could walk into the sculptures, which were meant to create a dizzying effect.

The Guggenheim Museum

The Guggenheim Museum

The giant balloon dog

The giant balloon dog

Although we spent the entire day in Bilbao, I wish we had more time to explore the city. The theme of new versus old was very prevalent on yesterday’s excursion, as well as on the entire trip. Walking around both cities we can see how old traditions linger in everyday life. More importantly, we experience how proud the people are to be apart of the Basque Country.

There´s No Place Like Home

If someone had told me my senior year of high school that I would be attending a study abroad program at any point in my college career, I would have called them crazy or maybe gave them a half-hearted laugh, saying “Haha, maybe” and then quickly change the subject. I am not one to step out of my rather small comfort zone, but when given the option for this opportunity, I quickly and impulsively agreed to attend this 3 week trip. While I may present myself as someone who strays away from social interaction, I love hearing people talk about what they are passionate about and learning random pieces of information about people who I may have never talked to, and San Sebastian provides me with this opportunity. Whether it´s my host family describing the geography and animal life of their home country of Columbia, using references to tv shows to break the language barrier (thank you Mr. Krabs), or a random couple on the beach telling us the meaning of the male and female names in the Basque language, Asier and Amaia, the beginning and the end, this trip is full of opportunities for individual connections to people I would never have the chance to meet in the United States.

But despite the different population of people, San Sebastian and my home state of Massachusetts have far more in common than I had previously known. The Basque people are intensely passionate about their country, surroundings, and the history of their culture, which I and every other Bostonian can relate to, as we are a part of a state who somehow find pride in the term “Masshole” and rightfully have pride in their favorite sports teams(go Sox!) Both of these regions understand their history and feel pride in their past, which I have come to learn are extremely similar. Both Massachusetts and the coastal Basque countries were powerhouses in the whaling industry during the 17th century. I have learned from trips to various museums that the Basques were respected for their superior whaling techniques, even lending advice to other European countries and eventually taking sailing routes over to the New World in parts of Canada and Northern United States, and as someone who comes from a family with history on Nantucket Island and a veteran of whaling museums in Massachusetts(shout out to my mom), I appreciate the notion that at some point in history, these two countries shared a strong connection in the same industry.

My trip to Bilbao, the capital of the Biscay Province, strengthened the bond between my trip and my home state, specifically the town of Lowell. Both Bilbao and Lowell jump-started their various industries, Lowell with textiles and Bilbao with iron and shipmaking and both drew in immigrants with the hope of new jobs. Unfortunately, both fell into an economic downturn and garnered less-than-desirable reputations that have since been in the process of reversing, Bilbao with the construction and opening of the Guggenheim Museum and Lowell with the help from the constantly evolving University.

My stay in San Sebastian has opened my eyes to the differences in American and European culture but has also led me to realize that the phrase often associated with travel, ”there´s no place like home”, may not be entirely true.

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Depiction of Whalers

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Whale Vertebrae

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Chart of Whaling Routes

The Day that Never Ends

Our last Saturday in San Sebastian, or as the locals call it, Donostia, started a little earlier than most, namely the night before at a Blues festival. It took almost an hour by bus to arrive at the festival, but once there it was well worth the trouble. We saw several bands playing: some were local and many from the United States; I enjoyed both. Some of my music major friends were a little miffed that they only played the same chords but I can’t tell the difference, so I enjoyed it despite their apparent flaws.

We caught the 12:30 bus back to Donostia and made it back around 1:00, where we then proceeded to meet up and hang out with some friends instead of going to bed. On our way back home we encountered a fellow American who had enjoyed the benefits of wine being cheaper than water a little too heartily. The poor fellow did not know where he was and was a danger to himself. The police were called but could not do anything to help and told us to just leave him on the street. As a nursing major I could not let this poor kid fend for himself all night in the streets when there was a chance of him hurting himself. With some friends (two of them fellow nursing majors) we got him off the street and stayed with him until we could get and ambulance to take him to the hospital. In all honesty I enjoyed having that encounter because it was my fist real nursing experience.

Donostia ended up not only being the place where I better my Spanish but also where I get my first hands-on experience for my major. Finally getting home around 3:00 in the morning, I preceded to sleep until 1:00 pm, by which point I dragged myself out of bed and went to meet some friends at La Concha (one of the beaches) to watch the boat races. Fortunately the day took a turn for the better and we enjoyed a nice day of shopping and relaxing in the presence of a shy sun.

The day ended with delicious empanadas from a region south of Donostia where my host mother’s family is from. Unlike a traditional empanada, it almost looked like an apple turnover but with meat filling; it was delicious. That night we decided to check out some bars in the old part of the city (Parte Vieja) and then go dancing at the local discotec. We met people from all over the world: France, Australia, California, and even a couple of locals. All in all it was a long, fulfilling day, just one of many in the adventure-filled world that in Donostia.

blues festival

Why I Hate Everything About This Trip

I’m pretty sure it goes without saying that going abroad is a unique experience for those of us who are used to our American culture. Therefore, I won’t say anything along those lines. After all, what’s the point of doing anything new if all you take from it is your own preconceived notions and ideas? So forgive me if I take a bit of a different tack here, because I actually do hate everything about this trip so far.

Before we get into that, let me tell you what I did yesterday. I had the opportunity to write about any number of school trips and events, such as a Basque cooking class, a trip to Bilbao, or a wine tasting. Instead, I’m writing about a free day that had no planned activities. This, in my humble opinion, lets all of you see exactly how an expatriate lives and feels in San Sebastian, Spain. So disclaimer: if you’re expecting a deep dissertation on an educational class trip, you might want to look elsewhere.

Let’s start with the first thing of the day, and generally my favorite part of most 24-hour periods: breakfast. Or as they apparently call it in Spain, bread. Arick and I have had bread every single morning since our arrival, since some Basque people think it’s heresy to have even eggs for breakfast. Maybe that speaks more to the hedonistic and over-the-top attitude of America, but I digress. Next up, school. Lacunza school is a pretty doggone good place to be if you want to learn Spanish. They focus on conversational and everyday Spanish, which helped my painfully American self learn how to survive in this foreign land. That, coupled with its proximity to a shop with wicked good cafe con leche and cafe con chocolate, would lead me to write it a glowing Yelp review if such a thing were possible.

What I’ve just described is a typical morning for a student abroad. Wake up, eat a fat breakfast of pan, then head out and attempt to hone your survival skills and look less like a complete moron. The rest of the day? Filled with exploration and activities all around the city and its surrounding areas. We’ve been all over this section of Basque country, learning about its history and its culture, all of which is fascinating. From climbing Jesus Mountain, to going to a Spanish blues festival, to paddlesurfing in the blue ocean, to sharing a drink with a bunch of Spanish youths on the massive stairway outside my house, there is very rarely a dull moment.

Which is exactly what makes the dull moment important for me. I’m writing right now about a night on the beach. No activities, no bar hopping, no escapades, even though a lot of my time here has been filled with such things. Last night I just spent some time on the beach, hanging out with some friends and doing absolutely nothing special. I looked around at the lights lighting up the mountains off the coast. I heard a couple laugh as they walked down the boulevard. I saw a man walk down the waterline with his dog. I heard vague hints of music from the carousel. And I just knew that I hated everything about it.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. If that’s so, take a look at a few thousand words, and I’ll tell you why I despise them.

20150629_162410 20150709_112042These are all things I got to see. These landscapes and beautiful sights amazed and awed me. I got to see with my own eyes things most people only see in books or in a Google search bar. And I hated it. I hated it because I knew that I would never again feel this way. That moment on the beach, with the breeze blowing off the bay and the glowing vibe of San Sebastian all around me, is something I can never feel again in exactly that way. The absolute awesome and unreal feeling that struck me this first time on foreign shores won’t come back the same. This is my first time abroad and the experience is completely amazing and awe-inspiring. I have not spent a single moment of this trip not utterly grateful for the unbelievable experience of every moment here, and I know that this sense of wonder won’t ever be the same. I hate this trip for its fantastic and unbelievable experiences, which have touched my heart in a way nothing else ever will.

20150706_161509Yet there’s something to be said for all this. As much as I hate what this trip has done to me and to all my future experiences, it’s also sparked something. I’ve discovered a new love for the world and all it has to offer. My life is one of passions; as a kid who first picked up a guitar three years ago because he was tired of merely air guitaring to Stevie Ray Vaughan, received no training all through high school and learned to play purely through emotion, and is now a music student not because of skill, training, or marketability but instead pure love for the subject, I’ve based a lot of my adult life purely on passion. This trip has awakened a new intense love for the world and exploring it. I know I may never experience anything like this trip ever again, but I have a hunger for it. I may never get another moment like I had on the beach, but there are more beaches and more moments out there to be had, and I am determined to find them.


Combs of the Wind

(posted on behalf of Kathleen_Cameron@student.uml.edu)

If I had to choose one aspect of this experience that I enjoyed the most it would be the fierceness of the Basque culture. Throughout this trip, that has been the theme that has been carried over again and again. From the willingness of my host family to answer any and all questions, to the smile on a local person’s face when I stumble my way through “hello” or “thank you” in Basque, this experience has picqued my interest in cultural immersion. The Basques are a passionate people, intent on sharing their culture with anyone who is interested to learn.

An example of this desire to perpetuate their culture is literally cemented in rock. The Comb of the Wind is an architectural structure of three pieces created by Basque artist Eduardo Chilled Juantegul. The three sculptures, each within varying distances, symbolize the past, present, and future. The aspect that I enjoyed, however, was what they were constructed with. Each sculpture was made from iron gathered from a multitude of ore deposits in the Basque mountainside. So, right down to the core, all of the sculptures are entirely Basque-made. And, because they are directly on the coast, these structures are the first thing in the city the air touches. So, even before the air reaches the city it has already been enriched with a piece of Basque culture. This symbiotic relationship between the mountains, sea, and wind in this sculpture signifies how much the Basque people value, and work to maintain, their culture.

From the Comb of the Wind our group traveled to the top of Mount Igueldo, which had the most incredible views of San Sebastian. There was also a hotel and amusement park at the top, so many of us passed some time on the bumper cars or riding the roller coaster. It was the perfect way to spend an afternoon, and the funicular rides up and down the mountain provided a relaxing and unique mode of transportation.

This trip to San Sebastian has been unparalleled to any other life experience I have had thus far. Traveling to Europe for the first time has undoubtedly expanded my previously closed-off horizons. San Sebastian, being a popular tourist city, has an amazingly diverse amalgamation of various cultures. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some amazing people so far, and each one has taught me something different. The Basques are an amazing, intense people. It is clear that they are deeply proud of their culture, and that is certainly what I admire the most.

I have had an incredible and unbelievable experience so far. Our previously mundane classrooms have turned into mountain tops and beaches, and our discussions about Basque culture are unlike those I have ever had. From spending afternoons on the beach, wandering and exploring the city at night, and yes, even the Spanish class at Lacunza, I have fallen in love with San Sebastian. I cannot reiterate enough how lucky I am to be in this position. Each day brings with it new adventure and I cannot wait to see what next week has in store!

The view from the top of Mount Igueldo!

The view from the top of Mount Igueldo!

2/3 of the Comb of the Wind sculpture (an attractive fence was blocking the third).

2/3 of the Comb of the Wind sculpture (an attractive fence was blocking the third).

These geysers are next to the sculpture. There are 7 representing the 7 Basque provinces. When the sea gets rough the waves shoot up through them!

These geysers are next to the sculpture. There are 7 representing the 7 Basque provinces. When the sea gets rough the waves shoot up through them!

The roller coaster at the top of Mount Igueldo!

The roller coaster at the top of Mount Igueldo!