Guest Post By: Senior studying Marketing and Entrepreneurship, Gabriel Eveneson. This Fall, Gabriel studied abroad with the University of Navarra exchange program.
My experience in Spain has been nothing but amazing. I loved being able to immerse myself in the culture of the city and just enjoy living there without a need to go and do something out of the ordinary all the time. Being able to get to know the culture of Spain and the cultures of the international students was unlike anything I had ever done before. With that in mind, I want to recap three of my favorite memories: dinners with friends, weekly Spanish meetings, and my favorite trip.
Starting the first week of classes, a group of seven friends and myself established a tradition of weekly Tuesday night meals. Our group of eight was composed of three people from Ireland, a Belgian/Danish girl, an Italian girl, a Canadian guy, a German girl, and me. It was a wonderfully diverse group and we made a point that each person had to make a dish from their country in order for us to get a taste of their home style cooking. None of us had much experience cooking prior to this so it was a great way to push ourselves out of our comfort zones and try something new while also enjoying some delicious cooking. The variety of meals was absolutely delicious. Whenever possible, I helped with the cooking process so that I could learn more about how other people cooked and how specifically to cook the dishes they were making. At our last dinner, we finished with what we started with, tacos. We went around the table trying to figure out what everyone’s favorite meal was, but ultimately all we determined was every week was amazing (although some people did comment that my Thanksgiving meal had some of their favorite dishes, which made me happy considering how nervous I was to make it). However, as wonderful as it was to try the different dishes, the best part of each Tuesday was establishing strong friendships with people from other countries. I can honestly say that our simple Tuesday night meals were my favorite part of every week. We played card games, charades, watched movies, and conversed. Even in the midst of our busy schedules, we always made it a priority to not let the tradition die down. As the term went on we eventually were able to sprinkle in some guests for other dinners and even squeezed 14 people around our small tables one evening. Regardless of who came, it was always an amazing time.
One other weekly favorite of mine was a weekly meeting with a worker from the University of Navarra, named María. She reached out to me before I arrived about working on our language skills together as I was aiming to improve my Spanish and she wanted to improve her English. She is without question one of the sweetest ladies I have ever met, and I am so thankful that I responded to her email (if anyone reads this and is interested, I highly encourage you reaching out to María Manu). When we began meeting, we just met on campus and got to know each other and talk about our experiences of travel. However, as the weeks went on, we took the meetings off campus. This was wonderful in that María showed me around Pamplona and the places I would never have visited otherwise. We explored nearby towns, parks, shops, and bars. Getting to get to know where I lived on that personal level and be able to ask any questions that I ever had about the Pamplona culture was such a delight. After our first meetings of getting to know one another, we were able to open conversations into global politics, life, and traveling on a grand scale. It was the best experience I had speaking Spanish and getting to just talk about life as it pleased us both. There was no pressure to think about class or pressure to be involved, it was entirely something I wanted to do. As it was somewhat challenging to meet some of the Spanish students at time, this was an incredible experience and opportunity. I know that I have a great friend to go back to visit in Pamplona in the years to come.
My favorite trip I made was to the south of Spain when my parents came out to visit. We based ourselves out of Seville and went and visited Granada and Cadiz for day trips. This is my favorite trip I made for a few reasons. Getting to see my parents was amazing. This was their first time to Europe, and they looked to me to be a sort of guide. Being able to help them with the language and the challenges of transportation made me incredibly proud. I wanted to be able to show them that not only was I safe while so far away from home, but also that I was truly comfortable and thriving, which I feel confident that I did show. Getting see Spain to an extent through their joy and excitement was contagious. With this opportunity, I was really able to find ways to get ourselves off of the general tourist path. We obviously hit some of the more traditional tourist stops, but we were able to integrate ourselves into each city and find local digs to find some time looking around. I myself had yet to go to the south of Spain and was able to visit many of the places that my professor had discussed in my Modernization of the Spanish Economy course. We really were able to just take it all in and enjoy being a part of a culture not our own.
I could go on and on about the amazing experiences that I had, but I believe that these three do a great job of capturing my favorite parts that reflect how much I enjoyed getting myself involved with the culture and how amazing it was to experience other cultures.