How I Chose Bilbao, Spain

I am kind of the average joe. I mean, my name, Amanda, is one of the top ten girl’s names from 1995.  I’m a marketing major. I use French Vanilla Coffeemate. I have a Pinterest board full of sweets I will never make. Totally average over here. However, in the midst of all of that, I have some unique qualities, too. For example, I make toast on my stovetop because I am too stubborn (or maybe too cheap) to buy a toaster. I have a weird vendetta against finishing books. And perhaps most important to this blog, I am about to embark on a study abroad journey to Bilbao, Spain with the organization International Studies Abroad (ISA).

I wasn’t ever sure I wanted to study abroad; I’m still not really sure. But DU gave me that little push to apply. Being unsure, I created a mental list of criteria for my study abroad destination:

  1. Spanish-speaking. This was important to me because I am debating adding a Spanish minor and I thought living in a Spanish-speaking culture could help me determine if I would want to use the language in my career.
  2. City life. Living in a larger city would give more opportunity to sightsee while also providing access to better developed public transport.
  3. A school with “limited” DU students attending. I didn’t move far for college (3 miles away, to be exact), so this would be my opportunity to start fresh and be on my own.
  4. Apartment or dormitory living accommodations. Homestays seem like they would limit my independence because I would be on my host family’s time. I had already moved out on my own, I didn’t want to have parents again!
  5. Service-learning opportunity. I took a service-learning class my freshman year and I think that it gave me a tie to the community that we often take for granted.

Photo by Kadir Cinoglu

In the end, I chose the Universidad de Deusto in Bilbao, Spain. Specifically, I am enrolled in the program for Business, International Relations, and Spanish Language. I can take classes for my marketing major, as well as classes accredited to the Spanish minor at DU. There is also a service-learning course, a tandem program (for partnering with local students to teach each other Spanish and English), and a Spanish cuisine class! Additionally, the city of Bilbao has so much to offer. I look forward to exploring the Bay of Biscay, Mount Artxanda, the art of traditional dance, and the famous Guggenheim Museum.

After reviewing my criteria, I realized that none of the schools met my five requirements. I shouldn’t have set too many expectations before going abroad. And I think recognizing this was one of the best ways to prepare for studying abroad (along with buying a new digital camera, of course). Since it’s a different country and culture, I need to remember that not everything will meet some mental checklist of mine. Learning to “go with the flow” will suit me well on my journey in the fall, especially because I tend to be type A to a fault.

The only criteria the Universidad de Deusto did not meet: residencia living accommodations. Last week, I tried something new and went to a tarot card reader. The tarot reader said that I am too serious and have too much of an old mind to be 20. She said the only way to change this mindset is to let go of the past. I think Bilbao is my opportunity to take this advice. And so, although I’m terrified of living with a host family, I’m going in with a youthful mind. I’m finally ready to immerse myself in a new life this fall.

Hasta luego,

Amanda

A Pleasant Memory of Cow Poop

Hello Internet? I don’t know, introductions are tricky. My name is Kerry and I’m a junior studying English and Spanish. The past month I was studying Spanish and Iberian Culture with a DU program in Santander, Spain. The program is now over and I am spending a little time traveling until September 1st. From then until December, I am participating in the ISA Hispanic Studies and Electives program in Sevilla, Spain. I chose to study abroad in Spain because I want to learn Spanish and experience a little European future and oh boy has Spain delivered. After only one month I can feel my Spanish improving emensily. The post below was written two weeks into my Santander program, so let’s all hop in our time machines and get to work.


English and Spanish at DU. I have been studying abroad in Spain for about a month (!!!!!!) already and I am head over heals in love. The past month I did a program with DU Spanish professors and students in Santander, Spain taking two classes in one month. Then, starting September 1st, I am participating in and ISA Hispanic Studies and Electives program in Sevilla, Spain. I wanted to study abroad in Spain to learn Spanish and to experience a bit of European culture and oh boy has Spain delivered. I can hear myself speaking Spanish with more confidence and fluidity. The blog post below was actually written when I was about 2 weeks into my program with Santander. So let’s hop in our time machines go back to the future¡¡¡¡

I have always been really bad at anticipating my emotions. Before a big event or a change in my life, I am incapable of really anticipate how that change will make me feel. For instance, when leaving school for the summer or for our long December break, I never really completely comprehend how much I am going to miss my friends. I see my friends crying and hugging each other so tightly it must hurt. I do hug my friends tight and say goodbye, but I never cry, or really feel much of anything. But then I leave and I find myself thinking about them at the most nonsensical times and my stomach twists and only then, I feel like crying. For instance right now, I am thinking of my excellent friend Tiffany. She is ridiculous in the most marvelous and fabulous of ways, and she was the one who encouraged me to tryout to be a DU blogger. I wouldn’t be “here” without her. And.. I’m crying. Send help Tiff.

Point is, I have never been good at foreseeing my emotions.

I’ve been in Spain now for a full week and, perhaps inevitably, I feel nothing like I thought I might. Honestly, I thought it would be weirder. I thought I would miss home and DU more. I thought it would be odd to live with a stranger in a home stay program and I thought I would be in a constant state of fear. I thought all of this on the way to the airport. I felt nothing but small waves of excitement the months of June and July and then, on the way to the airport, all my nerves hit me at once. My poor parents where trying to talk to me, the last in-person conversation for five months, and I shut down. Sorry Mom and Dad, I didn’t mean to.

But holy-guacamole I am having so much fun. (also like, guacamole. amirite?) The program I am a part of in Santander is a very work-intensive program. Last week, we had one day to explore the city, 7-8 hours of one class in 2 days and then a full day excursion. woof. These next 2 and ½ weeks are only going to get harder, and I even have a mid-term on Wednesday. Obviously, I am learning a lot. Outside of the many hours inside studying, my time here is invaluable (My time studying is also very important, the other stuff is just more fun).

One of the first notable experiences happened on Friday: the whole class went to this replica of a Celtic village. The Celtic people are a group of people indigenous to the Iberian Peninsula, and then the Roman’s came and conquered as Roman’s do (did). If you’ve seen the movie “Gladiator,” it’s more or less that. (Learned that shit in class last week). Before the excursion, we were told to dress “comfortably.” To us, that meant walking shoes, jeans or shorts, and some sort of shirt—casual, comfy, cute. Upon arrival, we were presented with a sizable hill. It was not that long of a walk up, however the plethora of cow mierda (google it) made the walk a little less enjoyable to say the least. Then, we met Raúl: straight up the smelliest man alive. He showed us how to build a house out of mud like the Celtics did—with water, dirt, and sticks

Celtic Village in Northern Spain
Celtic Village in Northern Spain

Then, he told us we were to help repair some damages the snow had caused in one of the houses. He said this is very fast Spanish, so there was a moment when we were all just looking at each other. “He didn’t just say.. no I must have heard wrong.. We’re doing what?” Nobody had any idea that we were going to have to basically roll around in the mud and build a house, and were thusly not dressed appropriately. We immediately bonded over the shared distaste for manual labor, in nice(ish) clothes, in the rain (it was raining). One hombre in my group was wearing new white vans–they were pink at the end of the day; he was so salty about it, but we all just laughed and laughed (parents: salty=angry, mad, bitter). Throughout the day and on the walk back in nice, wet cow mierda, I laughed harder than I had all summer. I realized then, the phenomenal group of people I had been thrown together with would make any walk through cow poop fun. (Mierda is Spanish for shit if you hadn’t caught on or googled that yet.)

Not to get too broad and preachy, but I think that that is a big part of being abroad. You can’t always know what you are going to do or how it is going to make you feel. When you are in a new circumstance, knowing how you will feel coming out of it is nearly impossible. You don’t know that you are only going to learn the Spanish word for shit by walking through it for ½ hour. You don’t know a smelly Spanish man named Raúl is going to, without warning, smear a bunch of mud all over your face for no reason. You don’t know not to wear your favorite, fancy pants to a Celtic village where all of your effort will be put into not ruining them. And you also cannot explain or control your reaction. But, sometimes with the right group of people, you can have a fond memory of cow poop. Study abroad you sneaky bastard you—thank you.

-Kerry Nelson

DU Sophomore

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Me in my favorite fancy pants showing the celtic people, and the people of the world, what Fashion really is.