Written by Bonnie Beam, Foster undergraduate
Who knew that small, quirky Pamplona would forever hold a special place in my heart? I had the incredible opportunity to study abroad at the University of Navarra in the Fall of 2014. During my time in Spain, I was amazed at how much I don’t know and the capacity I have to learn if I humbly allow others to teach me what they know. A huge part of this realization came about in my living situation in Pamplona. Early on I decided I wanted to live with locals of the city, knowing that my Spanish was bound to improve much more than if I were to live with people who spoke my native language. This was by far the best decision I made! It was awesome to learn about UNAV, Pamplona and Spain at large through their eyes. They were very eager to help me improve my Spanish, correct my embarrassing mistakes (like referring to God as sexy instead of good – it’s “Dios ES bueno” not “está” in case you were wondering) and teach me all those idiomatic expressions.
Another “must” is going on all the trips with the international students, arranged by the international student office at UNAV! It is the best way to get connected with your fellow exchange students and experience Northern Spain. Our trip to Asturias was by far my favorite- a weekend full of repelling down waterfalls, kayaking, cave-exploring, mountain-climbing. What more could you want?! As a side note, the international student office and the student ambassadors were extremely helpful during my time at UNAV and were always more than willing to answer questions about the school, registering for classes, and give their suggestions for things to do/see in Pamplona and the surrounding cities!
Some other cool experiences I had were tutoring two Spanish kids in English (there is a large demand for English-speaking tutors so look into it if you’re interested in hanging out with kids a few hours a week and earning a little extra money), getting involved with an evangelical church in the area and getting to know more college-aged Spainards that way and playing badminton every week at the polideportivo (UNAV has a variety of sports for which they offer free group lessons every week) and learning how to play pádel with my roommates.
I had a wonderful experience at UNAV! Was it challenging? Very. Awkward? You bet. Eye-opening? Most definitely. Fun? Of course! Worth it? Totally. Whenever you place yourself into a new environment with a completely different culture, language and set of norms, you can expect to grow. But only to the degree that you allow. So if I could give you one piece of advice, it would be to allow yourself to grow A LOT! Attend the conferences, go on awesome adventures with the International Office, serve in some capacity at Navarra, talk with the locals, go to your professors’ office hours, live with Spainards, do things you wouldn’t normally do when your back in the comfort of your home country!
Hanging out on the beach of Southern France with my roommates. France is only about 2 hours away- you must go!