Today concludes my first week in Spain! What an interesting seven days it has been. There has been so much to digest with being in a new country, making new friends, meeting my host family, and starting classes.
Roughly 20 hours of travel brought me from Northern California all the way to Northern Spain. With my eyes glued to the window of the taxi from the airport, I wondered about the other students, my host family, classes, and what Spain would be like.
I very quickly learned about the other students. For the first two nights, we all stayed in a hotel while our advisors learned more about us in order to fit us with the best host families. I arrived with one other student and was told that we would have roommates. I went to the room to find one queen bed for me and whoever was assigned to me, which very quickly bonded us. There are 16 of us in total and we all became close instantly. It’s hard to tell if it’s been a week or possibly several months since we’ve all been here!
After these first two days, all of us said goodbye to our hotel rooms and moved to Getxo to live with our new families. I am currently living with Thais, a mother of two working in fashion, and her two children (13 and 17). They all speak English pretty well and have been incredibly welcoming. I’m feeling very spoiled with three delicious meals a day and the beach just five minutes from my door. The first weekend was reserved for bonding with my new family and friends. All of the students live within a few metro stops of each other in Getxo.
These days were spent exploring Getxo and Bilbao, trying new food, attempting to pick up as much Spanish as possible, and lots and lots of walking. Bilbao and Getxo are near the coast and surrounded by mountains. Not only is the landscape incredibly beautiful, but the cities are beautiful and filled with new sights and smells.
The food has been particularly fun to try. Pintxos are very popular here. They’re pretty much the Basque version of tapas. Typically, they’re served atop a thick slice of bread and with a beer which I definitely can’t complain about. My first pintxos experience was with a few of the other students in Plaza Nueva in the center of Bilbao. We found a little place that chose six pintxos at random, giving me squid in squid ink croquettes (a deep-fried ball of puréed, black, inky squid), goat cheese with ñora pepper paste and honey, sardines, and more. Quite the tastebud exploration! I also had my first kalimotxo here which is very popular in Basque Country. A kalimotxo is red wine mixed with Coca-Cola which at first sounded a little…..odd to me. But of course, they’re delicious! How bad can sugar and red wine be after all? A man told us that people like to drink them because they start drinking so early in the day that once the evening comes, they need something with a little bit less alcohol
in it. I have to say I’m already very much enjoying the built-in time to spend with friends to eat a couple of pintxos and drink a couple of beers! It helps too that these are general each only about one euro.
After all of this excitement, we finally started classes. Each day, we have class from 10am-1pm and then are free to roam the city and explore. I am studying sustainable urban design in Basque Country and housing rights/rights to the city. So far, lectures have been centered around sustainable urban development, providing incredibly interesting context about the city I’ve just begun to explore. I am studying mainly at the University of Deusto, an old catholic university. We learned that the school was once used as a forced labor/death camp for Spaniards seeking independence during Dictator Franco’s regime. This city has gone through so much change since its origin. To see it now as such a beautiful, welcoming, and sustainability-minded place is truly fascinating. The resilience built into not only the people and culture but also the design of the city is clearly paramount in its current progress and success.
So much has happened in the last week, it’s difficult to even begin sharing it all here. I’m hoping over the next several weeks, I’ll find my rhythm in sharing with you all the intoxicating adventures this trip has shared with me. The next time you’ll all hear from me, I’ll be just across the border in France! Until then, agur!