For our students, being in Barcelona means being in Europe. For many of them, it is the first time that they visit the old continent, and living in Spain is a unique opportunity –it is the unrepeatable combination of youth and the desire to explore new territories– to walk the streets of Berlin, London, Rome, Paris, Amsterdam, Dublin… And the desire is so great to see Europe that sometimes our students forget that it is not necessary to cross the invisible European borders to encounter diverse landscapes, accents, customs, climate... Sometimes they forget that they can discover all of this right here in Spain.
In CIEE we are conscious of the importance of this, and it is for this reason that, amongst other cultural activities and field trips, we organize a weekend trip in one of the many corners of Spain that, in other circumstances, is not a priority destination for our students. Last week, we took a plane from Barcelona and, in less than an hour, we arrived in the Basque Country. It was fantastic to see our student’s reactions when they realized that at such a short distance –Far away but so close!– they can find such an important contrast in landscape, in customs, in language, and gastronomy. It was an unexpected discovery for them: sometimes, to travel far, it is not necessary to leave home…
Danielle, from Vanderbilt University, and Steven, from George Washington University, wanted to share with us in this Newsletter their impressions of last week’s trip.
Danielle Serphos, Vanderbilt University
The opportunity to travel throughout Europe during my time abroad is something that I will never take for granted. Upon arriving in Barcelona, I was beyond excited to find out that our Advanced Liberal Arts group would be traveling to Bilbao and San Sabastián towards the end of our program. I was looking forward to this trip from day one, and now that it is over, the Basque Country (País Vasco) certainly did not disappoint. Spending time with our intimate, small and close-knit CIEE program was filled with new experiences, food and culture.
We were accompanied by three separate tour guides as we were educated about Bilbao, San Sabastián and the ever so famous Guggenheim Museum. Without a doubt we managed to fit in the famous “pintxos” the typical regional food taking over restaurants in the Basque Country. Additionally, there was a well planned balance of structure and free time on the trip as I was simultaneously educated about all that Bilbao and San Sabastián had to offer and was given the time to explore and relax with friends. Whether it was the grey and cultural town of Bilbao or the blue beach town of San Sabastián, the weekend away from Barcelona was all I could have expected and more.
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to travel with my Advanced Liberal Arts Program to Bilbao and San Sebastian with the CIEE staff. I found the trip to be very interesting and engaging and everything from plane tickets, to the hotel, to our schedule was extremely organized. I particularly enjoyed this trip because of the opportunity to see parts of the Basque Region of Spain that I would not normally be able to visit independently. We stayed in Bilbao and got a walking tour, which was extremely informative and intriguing due to the industrial past of the city.
That night, our directors took us out to a great pintxos restaurant about a half a block from our hotel to watch a soccer game. The food was delicious and the restaurant was very cool! The next day we took a bus to San Sebastian where we had a walking tour of the city and had about five hours to both explore the beautiful coastline of San Sebastian and to try the local food. The final day we toured the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and learned about the relation between modernist museum and Bilbao. I enjoyed this trip and am grateful for the opportunity to experience Bilbao and San Sebastian!