Walking into the room, it finally hit: three weeks have come to an end. I look around at all the faces, faces that I had never seen before three weeks ago. Now they were faces that were going to become familiar when walking around campus. Three weeks in an unfamiliar country with unfamiliar people was an incredible, once in a lifetime experience and I am so grateful I was able to participate in this journey.
In restaurant Aitana, as we sat down to eat we were very impressed by how nice the setting and the atmosphere was for the dinner. We had a beautiful private room in the back with greenery falling down from the walls. Props to Professor Z for picking such a nice place for us! While waiting for food, it was such a wholesome moment to watch. Everyone was reminiscing in their memories they made during the three weeks, laughing and getting along. The good ones, the bad ones, the scary ones, the funny ones. We all had one thing in common and it is the little stories we are going to bring back with us from San Sebastián.
For my readers or potential participants of study aboard, I figured I would compile some information from that would be helpful. I first started off by asking what is one piece of advice you would give to people traveling here. Some were packing tips such as packing less, packing sunscreen as it can get quite sunny and a raincoat as it can also get very rainy. One said another thing to pack is a journal to be able to write down everything you’ve experienced and keep track of day to day activities. One said keeping an open mind. San Sebestian has a very unique culture and it is important to be respectful and accepting of how differently they do things than one is used to. You should always be down to try new things. One said to keep track of things you see so you can come back to do them later. Take pictures of stores or activities that you see on your way to other places so later you will be able to come back to see them. Another very important piece of advice is do not take time for granted. Three weeks may seem long in theory but towards the end you realize there is still so much to do and see. Lastly, one said it is ok to be alone at times or to explore the city by yourself at least once. That is when you experience the most things as you only have yourself to rely on and are able to find out more about your potential.
As I mentioned how unique the culture is here I next wanted to find out what the biggest culture shock was to them. The one thing that stands out in San Sebastián are the pintxo bars and how many of them there are. Just walking down the road you can find so many bars to choose from. In fact there are very few restaurants. Every restaurant is a bar but not every bar is a restaurant meaning in not every bar will you find a full meal. Next, it seems like everyone here has a dog and the dogs are extremely well trained and loyal. You will see dogs walking next to their owners off the leash amongst a crowd of people and not bark or run away. Another big thing was how women could be topless at beaches and how everyone was respectful about it. You would even see young kids completely undressed at the beach. Something like this back at home would not go so smoothly but here it is completely normalized. The city is so well made that it is possible to walk or bike anywhere. Walking takes a bit more time but the city is very bike friendly which makes it a reliable source of transportation. Another shocking thing was if you ever get thirsty you can literally drink the water from anywhere this even includes the bathroom sink, the shower, etc. There are plenty of water fountains placed all around the city for you to refill your water bottle. Lastly we all agreed that although San Sebastián is a city it does not move fast. Compared to other cities, San Sebastián is very relaxed. The people here take their jobs seriously but are so carefree and do not hold the burden of stress. We saw this being promoted by almost everything being closed on Sundays and the idea of siestas where everything closes from 2 to 5 for people to have lunch and to take a nap. Overall everyone seemed to really enjoy this type of relaxed feel while being in the city.
To finish off the dinner we reminisced more into our favorite moments and the things we were going to miss. One main thing we all are going to miss is the convenience of being so close to the beach that you could go whenever you want. Some other favorite moment said were the churches, the funicular up Mount Igueldo, hiking, the witch caves in Zugarramurdi, Zarautz, Getaria, weekend trips to Paris and Rome, getting stranded and lost, the horse race, Semana Grande events which included the fireworks, live music and the carnival, and lastly, meeting new people from different places in our spanish classes.
Overall, this whole trip was amazing. I am sure I can speak for everyone and say if we all had the chance to go on this trip again with the same people we would do it in a heartbeat. Also would like to thank Professor Z for hosting us, planning activities for us and being an amazing professor!