So picture this: you arrive to a new city, in a country you’ve never been to before, on a continent that you could only ever dream of visiting. This was me. Just a good ole American girl suddenly living her dream of traveling to Europe. Now picture the most beautiful city you’ve ever seen. Now multiply that by 10 and add one of the world’s most highly rated beaches to it and – BOOM! – you’ve got San Sebastián. The things I’ve learned or noticed in the last two days will stick with me for the rest of my life.
Day 1: We arrived to Bilbao after a few crazy nights in Madrid running on only 3 hours of sleep. That taught me my first lesson: don’t stay up until 5 a.m. when you have to go to the airport at 8, especially in a foreign country when you’re jetlagged more than ever. The drive to San Sebastián was quick and beautiful. Montse, or as we now like to call her La Reina Montse, couldn’t meet us at the bus stop because she’s a hard working nurse. Once we arrived to her apartment I learned my second lesson: work hard and you’ll own a penthouse suite overlooking the city of San Sebastián in no time. I don’t know what property prices are around here but this apartment is a real gem.
After getting settled in we decided to explore the city with our fellow American classmates. We all met up and decided we wanted to get something to eat before our families made us dinner. Walking around the city made me realize two things: I need to move out of New York ASAP, and beauty doesn’t have to be new and modern. San Sebastián is a very old city, but it has more charm than any other place I have travelled to. Old doesn’t mean ugly!
The people in San Sebastián somehow knew that we were American just by looking at us. I’m still not sure how, but I’m thinking it has something to do with the astonished look on our faces as we strolled around the city. Many of them tried to communicate with us using their Spanglish. This brings me to the third lesson: push yourself until you feel uncomfortable and then go farther. I never thought that I would be able to communicate with anyone using my 4 years of high school Spanish knowledge, but once I really tried I could have full conversations with almost everyone. Staying in your comfort zone just because you feel foreign will make your experience less authentic. It taught me that I can do so much more than I think I can, not only speaking Spanish but also with other things in my life.
Most of the first day was spent walking around the city and enjoying its charm. To learn more about the history of the city, we had a tour guide take us around and tell us about the buildings and landmarks in San Sebastián in great detail. I thought this was going to bore me to death, but it was actually incredibly interesting. Here comes the fourth lesson. A city is so much more than buildings and beaches; a city has a history that made it the way it is in present day. Every city came from something completely different. Learning about the past wars and events that occurred in San Sebastián, like those that put holes in the side of a 5-Star hotel or the bull ring that has now been converted into apartments, bring the city to life. I no longer looked at it as buildings and beaches, I read it as a story of the past. It inspired me to look up the history of my own town which is dramatically less exciting than the history of the Basque Country, but history nonetheless. The farmlands of Cicero, New York, showed me why I am able to work at such a successful farm in 2019.
Although it has only been two days, this city has already opened my eyes to so many things. Whether it be food, culture or lifestyle, San Sebastian has shown me that different isn’t always bad. If three days can teach me this much I can not wait to see what three weeks can get me. Oh, and lesson 5: eat EVERYTHING. It’s all amazing (especially the brownie gelado).
¡Adios Amigos! I ❤️ Pinxtos! (Still haven’t learned any Basque but I’m sure I’ll be fluent by the end)