First Impressions Are Everything

It’s only day two and I am already so in awe of everything this city has to offer. From its dazzling beaches to its historic landmarks, the city of San Sebastian really captures some of the greatest culture that Spain has to offer. The Basque country is so unique, and I can confidently say that I have never visited a place quite like this before. It’s hard to translate such beauty and history into words, but I will try my best to show you a small glimpse of the charming city that I have gotten to see so far.

            My very first impression: beautiful. Just everything about the city is filled with beauty. During our drive from Bilbao into San Sebastian, I couldn’t stop looking out of my window and taking pictures of the beautiful scenery that surrounded me. There were endless green fields, rolling hills, cattle grazing among the rich grass, bodies of water, and magnificent mountains in the distance. As you can probably tell, a lot of the beauty in San Sebastian comes from its rich nature. This is the first time I have ever seen a society prioritize its nature so much. Over by the town hall (which was once a glamorous casino in the 1800’s), there were many trees and other vegetation planted along the cement pathway which gave such a warm, welcoming feeling along the path. Maybe they did this for the pleasing aesthetic or maybe they did this for the environmental advantages of planting trees. Either way, they succeeded at both. All I could think about was how in the city of Boston, you would never find trees planted along the cement sidewalks of the North End. You don’t see much greenery at all in Boston, especially not all throughout the entire city. It’s the complete opposite here. Although it’s just a few trees, it was extremely refreshing to see many different types of plants growing throughout the city and even in places you would least expect.

            The beach is most definitely my favorite sight here. The way that the bright blue water glimmers against the buildings and homes that surround it is just magical. I could literally stare at it all day, and I take pictures of it every time I walk by! I think that for me, what makes this beach so beautiful is the atmosphere that surrounds it. There are always pedestrians walking around the shore, cyclists riding in their biking lanes, families lying out on the sand, and people sitting at outdoor restaurants with the beach as their view.  I’m so lucky to be residing just a short walk away from the beach because I get to see this extraordinary view that truly takes my breath away every single day. I have never seen a beach this beautiful before, and seeing it fills me with so much happiness.

            The Basque way of life here is so interesting to observe. I have experienced many cultural shocks already and expect to experience even more during my time here. Some of these shocks include not leaving a tip at a restaurant (because it is already included in the bill and the servers are paid a living wage), being constantly aware of nearby biking lanes (you do not want to walk into one of those without looking both ways) and experiencing the night life much later at night than what a typical American would be used to. One of my favorite activities that I have done here is biking. This is one of the main sources of transportation for people who live or work here and once you get the hang of it, it makes for a very efficient way of getting around the city. One of my favorite memories from the trip so far was riding my bike back from class along the beach view. It was a gorgeous sunny day with many eager pedestrians walking around. The bike lane was nice and smooth and occasionally, I looked over my shoulder at the sparkling, blue ocean. As I said before, the ocean is my favorite sight here. There was just something about riding my bike on a nice day and looking over at my favorite view here that made me feel so content; I realized I was finally starting to immerse myself in the Basque culture.

            What it all comes down to is that the Basque’s have an immense respect for their land and for their history. Even after only being here for a few days I can already tell that this is a united community, and the locals want to make this city the greatest that it can be. The outdoor areas are well managed and filled with vibrant colors from all the plants. The historical buildings and bridges contain such intricate architecture that they have been able to preserve over all these years. And the food is simply unbelievable. It is all cooked, prepared, and served according to Basque tradition. The Basque people respect their land and their history, and as a tourist this has become very evident to me. This experience has already given me so much insight into the Basque culture and I am so grateful to the Honors College for giving me such a wonderful opportunity. We need more places like San Sebastian in the world. But maybe that’s exactly the point- there is really no other place like it. And that’s what makes this city so beautiful.

Vegetation around the City Hall.
Beach Sunset
Beach view at night.
A body of water with buildings in the background

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Text Box: Beach view at night


Follow students as they take learning outside the classroom and are exposed to structured situations and experiences through a Humanities lens in San Sebastian, Spain from June 20-August 20, 2021.

Chosen as the 2016 European Capital of Culture, San Sebastian offers students the best of both worlds: a modern Europe-an city with an Old Quarter that preserves its rich legacy of history and culture.

Students will be immersed in the culture of San Sebastian through field trips and excursions, on-site lectures, an examination of Basque and Spanish history, politics, culture, geography, cuisine, literature, cinema, sport, and art.