Guest Post By: Senior studying Marketing, Entrepreneurship and CISB, Gabe Evenson. Gabe did an exchange program at the University of Navarra for this fall semester.
The transition coming of moving to Pamplona was unlike anything I expected. The Foster school did an amazing job preparing me and helping me expect any sort of worst-case scenario or initial challenges that I might encounter. However, my first weeks getting into Pamplona were surprisingly an absolute joy with next to no challenges.
I arrived a few days before I was able to move into my apartment and was staying in a hotel by myself near the campus. I spent most of the first two days by myself, which was a fun way to start exploring the area, but then I was able to meet some fellow international students my second evening. A group of about 20 of us got together for some drinks and everything took off from there. For the next two weeks, there were different events happening in and around the city in order to allow us to meet people and start establishing friends in the international community. For any given term, the University of Navarra welcomes about 650 single term exchange students. With the large influx of students every term, each term starts with a huge welcoming week to allow the students from the international community to get to know one another. Even though classes hadn’t started and none of us lived in student housing like dorms, I easily met well over 200 people in those first two weeks. Over the following months, those were people I continued to stay in touch with in passing while establishing close friendships with others.
To my good fortune, two of the people that I met on my second night out for drinks ended up being two of my three roommates. We all moved in together that next day. I roomed with two guys from Ireland and one from Canada. The three of them were all wonderful roommates and I can’t begin to express how fortunate I feel for having them as my roommates. I highly encourage anyone interested in going to Pamplona, or going on any exchange program, to find a way to live with other students. As much as I would have preferred Spanish speaking roommates in order to work on my language skills more consistently in a casual sense, getting to live with classmates from other cultures and other walks of life was undoubtedly incredible.
I think that the way in which the Foster school prepared me for my abroad experience was both useful and necessary, but I am thankful that I did not experience some of the challenges that I had anticipated. I remember being so nervous upon coming to Pamplona and felt incredibly worried about not making friends. I feared that being an American people might judge some of the negative things that our country has done or that I would have challenges fitting in with European culture. However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that every international student was eager to meet other people. A girl I met from Germany nicely summed up the reality of the Pamplona international student community by noting, “I wasn’t nervous about meeting people and finding a community while abroad. I knew that I was eager to make friends and meet people and that all the other international students would likely feel the same”. Pamplona is a very fortunate and surprising place for its international community. I am amazed by the way in which it fostered an environment for students to connect with one another and to integrate ourselves into the campus community. I recognize as well that the relatively small size of the town and the proximity of places to go coupled with the size of international student group arriving in the fall greatly contributed to making the welcome and smooth as it was.
As much as the community environment is fostered through the welcome weeks and by the school itself, it is without a doubt the responsibility of every student to get off the couch and join in on each event that you can in order to meet the other students. My roommates were wonderful in being a point of encouragement to go and participate in every event possible, so I recognize that having some friends as a base is also very important. Overall though, just putting yourself out there and being open to the new experiences that Pamplona and the University of Navarra have to offer will allow you to have an incredible and welcoming experience almost immediately upon arriving.