Mount Iqueldo – Spencer McCrillis – 7/12/2022

The days in San Sebastian are beginning a bit differently than back home. When the alarm on my phone rings off in the morning, there is about 10 seconds of wanting to roll over until I’m self-aware enough to realize where I am, and that I’m not about to get up and drive to work. I’m in Spain and get to go out and explore a city that’s like nothing I’ve ever seen. I’ve never been to Europe, so the way the city is set up, and the way the cars are different, is very interesting for me.  For our second morning we are starting to see the routine of how getting to class and back is going to work. I’d say we have another 2 or 3 days to figure out these bike lanes so that we stop almost getting hit by cars or pissing off pedestrians, who have so kindly shared their thoughts with how we are biking.

We haven’t even been here 2 days and have been told probably 10 times by multiple people how lucky we are to be having this weather, so we did not put our afternoon to waste. I went to Ondarretta Beach with a couple friends, and I believe a few others went as well. After a great afternoon, we met Professor Zabalbeascoa for our second excursion of the trip. Mount Igueldo was incredible in its way of presenting the city to us. We took the “funicular”, which was essentially a cable car that brought us up the side of the hill, to the park and viewing area that were at the top.

As an engineering student, I thought this was neat way of getting up; the way the cars were attached to the cable and how old it was, but this was nothing compared to what we saw at the top. The view of the city cannot be understood through pictures. From where we were, you could be looking out at the city of San Sebastian for hours.

With the ocean to the left and the city to the right, there was too much to see in the time that we were there. Going up, my mindset was to get some cool pictures, its my turn to do the blog post, which I eventually did take, but I found myself just starting off at the endless aspects of the view. The view lets you understand how different this part of the world is and builds excitement for the days and weeks to follow. Much better than the windows login wallpapers.

The old amusement park at the top was also something to see. You could tell how much they care about the history of the park because of the age and how well preserved it was. I think it was all of us that ended up going on the old roller coaster that they had, which was one of the big attractions.

Getting on we had no idea of the view that we would have from the other side. After just seeing the large European city, we were literally turned around to look at the coastline and lush mountains, with almost no sign of people having been there. I wasn’t even thinking about the fact that I was on a roller coaster. I was just looking out into the ocean, from a completely new perspective than back home. I then became quickly aware that I was on a roller coaster when we went down the other side. All of this was great, but it almost seemed like a quick distraction from what we saw behind us. The city and beach we had for the next 3 weeks.

The trip ended by visiting a popular sculpture in the city, “The Comb of the Wind”, by Eduardo Chillida. As one of our first experiences together as a full group, the sculpture was essentially used as a representation of why we were here as college students studying abroad.

Professor Zabalbeascoa explained to us a very interesting interpretation of this art, and how it can be a representation of the past, present, and future. This sculpture itself was 3 iron posts coming out of the rocks, breaking off into curls, or “combs”. The main piece, or most accessible, was in the viewing area. This was close enough that we could touch it and see it rusting and reacting with the water. Another was behind us, towards the city, which would represent the past and where we came from. The third was off in the distance, going forward, meant to represent our future. We realized that we should be mindful of where we are as to make the most of our time here. There was so much to take in, and this could be the only opportunity to experience the city.

Thomas O’Connor – 7/11/2022

I landed in Bilbao Airport at 6:00pm local time, and I began mentally preparing myself for my first ever experiences outside of North America. I had heard the stories of beautiful San Sebastián, seen the photos from our presentations, and most importantly I set no expectations for the journey. Waking up the next morning I found myself with only four hours of sleep under my belt, and jetlagged to an extent that I had never previously experienced, but somehow I was full of energy and enthusiasm. I was absolutely not prepared for the day ahead. I’ll make the summation brief – but as everyone knows, there was never a dull moment. From breakfast to Spanish class, then the sim cards and lunch, then the extensive tour around San Sebastián, the beach, the cheap dinner, I really could go on and on dissecting every moment from the day. But my first 24 hours in Spain is not best illustrated through simple summary – my personal takeaways came from the small moments alone with my thoughts or with my group mates. For example: I was always told that authentic Spaniards had a lisp when they spoke, and this always confused me. I wondered how an entire nation’s population could somehow be born with lisps, a condition that affects roughly 23% of the global population but is somehow 100% prevalent in Spain. While going through letter combinations in Spanish class, the teacher went over the official pronunciation of “ce” and “ci”, both of which involve a “th” sound. It seems like such a small detail – maybe even obvious or moronic to some, but for me it was an absolute revelation. Of course the entire population of Spain isn’t BORN with lisps, it just sounds that way because of those special letter combinations that have different pronunciations. Another example would be the group meeting behind the sculpture on the bay. The subjects of the meeting were relatively mundane as we all remember, but I felt as though I had another mind-blowing moment. I may have spaced out for a few moments, but in that time I truly took in what I was seeing. The vast views of the bay, boats floating calmly within, the masses of people on the beaches looking like ants in a sandbox. I may have been moderately dehydrated and exhausted, but I felt as though I was living in a dream – potentially sucked into a photo of San Sebastián, and I would soon be waking up in my bed in Leominster. But alas I did not – I snapped out of it and came to terms with the fact that this was my new reality for the next three weeks. I have never experienced that form of satisfaction before – it was as though my dream had literally come true before my very eyes. I’m not sure I have the words to explain it fully – I’m sure it’s one of those things that you must experience to understand, a qualia of sorts.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about making friends with my group mates. I had only met one of the twelve other students before. I was effectively walking into the situation blind – but so was everyone else, so that helped ease my anxiety over the situation. In retrospect I had absolutely nothing to be nervous about. I found that a lot of the fun and enjoyment from the day was found in the LACK of pre-existing friendships, and was supplemented by frequent chats with the group mates out of necessity. That sounds like it would be forced or unnatural, but it was actually quite the opposite. Because we had never met before, no questions were off the table: everyone was starting fresh and were in a positive, amicable mindsets. I think it also helps that we are all fluent English speakers while much of the surrounding population defaults to Spanish, putting an inward pressure on us to socialize with one another since we have a common basis of understanding. Around halfway through the day I realized that I was completely comfortable with all of my group mates. I could easily approach anyone without issue, and when plans were being discussed everyone was often easy-going and agreeable. Towards the end of the night it was nice to grab some food and drinks with a small group of us. Even after an exhausting day I was still comfortable cracking jokes and poking fun at them while we ate and drank, and they always reciprocated. It’s crazy to think that just one day together could bring a group so close to one another. It was a pleasure to get to know everyone, and I’m enthusiastic for what the next few weeks will bring for our group.