Study Abroad: Notes from Spain
Wrapping Up My Time in Spain
by Dani Schneider '09
I can't believe that my time in Spain is just about over. Even though it's been six weeks, I feel like I just got here. This week was one of firsts and lasts; first time visits to cities, my first bullfight, but unfortunately my last excursion, my last class, and my last week.
Last weekend, I went on my last excursion with International Study Abroad (ISA) to Bilbao and San Sabastian. We stopped in Bilbao for just enough time to visit the Guggenheim Museum there. Before my visit, I had heard that the actual building itself is more impressive than the artwork it holds. After my visit, I agree. I'm not a big modern art fan, so compared it to what I saw in the Prado and the Guggenheim didn't phase me much.
Afterwards, we jumped back on the bus and headed for San Sabastian. The city was lined with bright blue waters and white sandy beaches. I spent my free time walking through the city and enjoying La Concha Beach. Unfortunately, I didn't have much free time here before I had to meet up with the rest of the group. At the time, I wasn't aware of the surprise our tour guide had planed for us later that afternoon. We got back on the bus which took us to Monte Igueldo. Not only did we get an amazing view of the city from here, but there were also amusement rides! We might as well have been five years old again riding the little roller coaster and playing on the bumper cars. After playtime, our tour guide bought us some churros and then, we headed back on the bus to Santander.
After having "Banos de Ola" last week, this week was the Festival of Santiago. Every night, there was a bullfight and Thursday was the official holiday. I wasn't sure if I wanted to go at first, but I did decide to go since I'm in Spain and our director Carmen got cheap tickets for us (only 9 euros!).
The area around the ring was mobbed with people selling things and people heading for the fight. The bullfights were sold out every night this week, and although there were tourists, there were also tons of locals. Before I went I didn't know much about bullfighting other than men wearing funny hats and outfits who were called matadors killed bulls. When I got to the bullfight, I found out it was not just one bull, it was six. The first fight was horrible. I did not like it at all and it almost made me sick to my stomach. Some of my friends even left early. After the initial shock, I started focusing less on the bull and more on what the matador was doing; the art and techniques of bullfighting. As the evening progressed, the crowd became more involved which helped make the fight a little more enjoyable. I'm not sure that I would ever go see one again, but I am glad that I went.
In addition to the bullfights, another festival meant more concerts and fireworks. Even though I missed out on fireworks on the 4th of July, which they obviously didn't celebrate here in Spain, having fireworks the past two weeks made up for it. The night life here in Spain amazes me. It's not uncommon to see young children out with their parents at midnight or staying out until 4 or 5 in the morning. I also couldn't imagine having a big outdoor concert until 2 in the morning and not having any of the nearby residents complaining. I can't speak for many cities, but I didn't know that things like that happen here very often.
I guess about Wednesday it really started to hit that I only had three days left in Santander. That week, we had final exams and Friday was my last day of class. It was really more like a party/reflection than an actual class. In grammar, we sang Shakira and talked about differences within our respective cultures and our favorite things about Spain. Surprisingly, most of the people went to grammar, but that was not the case for Culture. Gema told us it wasn't a big deal if we didn't go, but I decided to anyway because it was only for an hour and I figured we would get out early anyway. It ended up being probably my favorite class. Only six people including me were there out of the 80+ signed up for the class. I think I enjoyed it so much because it reminded me a lot of my classes at Catawba because for the first time in that class we were actually able to have a discussion. We talked about everything. Aside from what we talked about I think the best part for me was acknowledging how far my Spanish has come since being in Spain. I was able to hold a conversation, an actual discussion in Spanish. We asked questions about Spain and Gema even asked us questions about the U.S. It was a mutual learning experience, and it was awesome. I don't know of a better way than that to cap off my classes here in Santander.
Saturday came a lot quicker than I had hoped and before I knew it was time to say goodbye to my new friends and family. From the time I woke up until the time I left, my madre gave me about a million kisses and that is no exaggeration. She told us that we had to come back and study again next summer and that we could stay there again. She said the worst part about hosting so many students was saying goodbye. We promised to write and to call when we got home so that she knew we were safe. Tonight, I take an overnight bus to Madrid with my group and catch my flight home tomorrow afternoon. Here's hoping that my flight home will be less eventful than my flight here. Once I'm home I'll write a final reflection blog about my summer abroad here in Spain.
Dani welcomes e-mail correspondence from current and prospective members of Catawba's community and can be reached at email@example.com.