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.