Week 4 in San Sebastian: Semana Santa

I wanted to start off my blog post with a pic­ture of my favorite view from the past week. This is the view of Granada from a Palace in the Alhambra:

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I spent most of week 4 trav­el­ing for our extended Easter Break. Sem­ana Santa is what the Span­ish call Easter Break and most stu­dents get a week off from school. Many shops and stores shut down dur­ing Sem­ana Santa because it is such an impor­tant hol­i­day. After spend­ing the first few days of Sem­ana Santa in San Sebas­t­ian, I then trav­eled to Sevilla and Granada with a few of my friends.

Below is a pic­ture of me and some friends in front the the Cathe­dral in Sevilla:

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A few pic­tures of the dis­plays held by up to 30 men dur­ing the Easter processions:

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A group of 4 of us flew from Bil­bao to Madrid en route to Sevilla. We ended up hav­ing an 8 hour overnight lay­over in Madrid which meant sleep­ing in the air­port Star­bucks. I was pleas­antly sur­prised that sleep­ing in the air­port was fairly com­fort­able (I remem­bered to bring earplugs). After spend­ing the night in the air­port we flew to Sevilla, where we locked up our belong­ings in a train sta­tion locker and went to explore. We walked to the Cat­e­dral de Santa Maria which is an absolutely gor­geous Cathe­dral in the mid­dle of the city. There were tourists every­where because of the Easter hol­i­day. Through­out the streets of Sevilla we watched the Sem­ana Santa Pro­ces­sions, the pro­ces­sions are mas­sive parades put on by dif­fer­ent churches in the city to cel­e­brate the ris­ing of Jesus. Even though I myself am not a reli­gious per­son, I thought the ded­i­ca­tion of the peo­ple to their pro­ces­sions was inspir­ing. After spend­ing a few hours walk­ing through the pro­ces­sions we had to make our way to the bus sta­tion and travel to Granada later that night.

This is a pic­ture I took from a street in Granada look­ing up at the Alham­bra, this pic­ture shows the style of houses in Granada:

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Pic­tures from inside the Alhambra:

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We got in late to Granada and after tak­ing a taxi to our Hos­tel it felt amaz­ing to sleep. The next morn­ing we decided to take a walk­ing tour of Granada, and despite the rain I fell in love with the city. Our tour guide told us about the his­tory of Isabelle and Fer­di­nand at the Alham­bra dur­ing the Span­ish war. The war uni­fied the coun­try and it was inspir­ing to be learn­ing about the his­tory of such a famous place. Granada itself is a town based around a col­lege with around 80,000 stu­dents, not includ­ing all of the inter­na­tional stu­dents. It is a mas­sive city devoted to the stu­dents, which was great for us because every­thing was cheap and eas­ily acces­si­ble. My num­ber one pri­or­ity for the visit was to see the Alham­bra, Isabelle’s famous Islamic style cas­tle from the 15th cen­tury. Tick­ets have been sold out for months and the only way to get your hands on one is to get in a line at 6AM to pur­chase one of the 500 daily tick­ets. We got in line at 6AM, stood in the rain for two hours, and suc­cess­fully pur­chased tick­ets! That after­noon we got to visit the Alham­bra, and it was well worth the wait. My child­hood dreams of being a princess in a cas­tle came true. The views of Granada from the Palace were the best in the city, and the designs inside of the palace were even bet­ter! I would have to say that Granada is my favorite city I have vis­ited so far on this trip.

Below is a pic­ture of the “Run­ning of the Sheep” in Ordizia:

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Upon return to San Sebas­t­ian after Sem­ana Santa about half of us in the pro­gram went to Ordizia, a small Basque town, to expe­ri­ence their weekly mar­ket and annual sheep fes­ti­val. This was the first time I have heard peo­ple using the Basque lan­guage. The lan­guage has no sim­i­lar­ity to Span­ish which meant none of us could com­mu­ni­cate with the locals, our pro­fes­sor helped us a lot. We got to expe­ri­ence their annual sheep parade, or as we liked to call it “The run­ning of the Sheep” which is wherethe Ordizia locals line the streets of the city and parade herds of sheep to dis­play to the town. Sheep are a big part of Basque cul­ture because they have been used for food, heat, and cloth­ing since the begin­ning of the Basque his­tory. We were the only for­eign­ers in town dur­ing the fes­ti­val, and even were inter­viewed by a local tele­vi­sion crew for our opin­ion of the fes­tiv­i­ties. It was a great expe­ri­ence to see the Basque peo­ple inter­act with each other and expe­ri­ence a fes­ti­val that has been a tra­di­tion for many centuries.

Now I am back in San Sebas­t­ian and midterms are quickly approach­ing. I have two essays and a pre­sen­ta­tion due at the begin­ning of next week, time to get started! Now that school work is becom­ing more time con­sum­ing this trip is start­ing to feel more like school than just a vaca­tion. I occa­sion­ally feel home­sick when I am up late doing home­work or when it starts rain­ing, but then I remem­ber how lucky I am to have this expe­ri­ence to live Spain. It really is amaz­ing! Through­out the month of May we will be going on var­i­ous dif­fer­ent excur­sions to Basque towns with our pro­gram. I will make sure to keep you updated on my travels.

Thanks for reading!



Week 3 in San Sebastian: Lisbon, Madrid, and more!

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The say­ing time flies when you’re hav­ing fun could not be any truer. San Sebas­t­ian really feels like home to me now. I have set­tled into the dorms, unpacked, and really have a basic feel for the city. Hard to believe this is my third week here. The weather has been on our side so far, only one day of rain which the locals say is very rare! Usu­ally Spring is the rainy sea­son, keep­ing my fin­gers crossed that the rain will stay away. Although I have been in classes for 3 weeks now, it still seems like I am trav­el­ing on one big vaca­tion. Our home­work mostly con­sists of read­ing many arti­cles, books, and essays related to Basque cul­ture and nation­al­ism. The course­work has all been very inter­est­ing so far, I had no idea there was so much his­tory behind these North Spain ter­ri­to­ries. Span­ish class has been the most dif­fi­cult for me, but being around the lan­guage con­stantly means I have been learn­ing very quickly.

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My favorite things to do in San Sebas­t­ian are walk­ing along the beach, eat­ing ice cream, and going on hik­ing adven­tures. The town is very wel­com­ing to tourists and there is always some­thing to do. Below is a pic­ture of me and a few other stu­dents at the top of our hike to Monte Urgull with a great view of the beach behind us:

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Below is a panoramic shot I took while at the top of Monte Igeldo on the one rainy day so far:
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There is a tra­di­tion in San Sebas­t­ian where locals go out on a Thurs­day night for Pinxto-Pote. Pinxto is a Basque word that means small snack, or treat. The rule of a pinxto is that it has to be con­sumed in 2–3 bites. Most com­monly pinx­tos are a small piece of bread with meat on top, usu­ally ham or fish. Tor­tilla is also a famous type of pinxto, it is almost like a quiche with eggs and pota­toes. These small bites can be hot or cold food. The con­cept of pinxto-pote is get­ting one of these treats with a drink for 2 euros which is very cheap. The entire town likes to take part in this tra­di­tion, it is a great time to social­ize with your neigh­bors. The food in San Sebas­t­ian is deli­cious! This pic­ture is an exam­ple of pinx­tos that we made at a work­shop the other day:
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It is impor­tant for me to make sure I travel and visit other places in Europe while I am here. Last week a large group of us from the UW pro­gram trav­eled to Lis­bon, Por­tu­gal. I have only great things to say about Lis­bon. It was rain­ing and over­cast while we were there, but being from Seat­tle this was not a prob­lem. The build­ings, mon­u­ments, cas­tles, and cathe­drals in the city are breath­tak­ing. The build­ings are all white stone with red clay roofs and long wind­ing alley ways with shops hid­den among them. Most of the peo­ple in Por­tu­gal could speak Eng­lish which was great because none of us knew any Por­tuguese. The locals were so wel­com­ing and always helped us when we looked lost, or were plan­ning our day trips. I highly rec­om­mend vis­it­ing Lis­bon if you have the chance, it is one of the most beau­ti­ful places I have ever seen!
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I got back yes­ter­day from a week­end trip to Madrid with another group of stu­dents. Madrid is the cap­i­tal of Spain so it is HUGE. I would have loved to stay there to explore more, but had to come back for classes. Dur­ing our time in Madrid we vis­ited Botin (the old­est restau­rant in his­tory), the Plaza de Mayor, Par­que del Retiro, the Pala­cio de Cristal, and the Pala­cio Real de Madrid. The weather was sunny and warm which made it even more enjoy­able. Below is a pic­ture of the Pala­cio Real de Madrid, or the Royal Palace:
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This upcom­ing week I will be trav­el­ing to Sevilla and Granada for Sem­ana Santa (Easter Break). Word on the street is that Sevilla has some of the best Easter Fes­ti­vals in the entire world! Look out for an update of my Sem­ana Santa com­ing soon.

Thanks for reading!



Week one in Spain!

Blog by Eleanor Wort — Study Abroad Spain

The first few days in Spain have been sur­real and amaz­ing. It is hard to believe that all of this is actu­ally hap­pen­ing! I never thought it would be so easy for me to apply to a Study Abroad Pro­gram and have the oppor­tu­nity to travel across the world with other UW stu­dents. I came to Europe a week before my pro­gram began to visit fam­ily in Eng­land. I had a great time explor­ing all of the tourist attrac­tions in Lon­don, espe­cially Big Ben and the London Eye!


It was great to visit my fam­ily in Eng­land before my Pro­gram began, but my mind seemed pre­oc­cu­pied as all I could think about was San Sebas­t­ian. Now that I have been in San Sebas­t­ian a few days I have finally unpacked my suit­case and explored the city. Our res­i­dence hall is called Res­i­den­cia de Olarain and is located on the West­ern side of the city. We take classes at the Uni­ver­si­dad de Deusto which is a 35 minute walk to the other side of town. I love walk­ing to cam­pus because the road goes along the famous San Sebas­t­ian beaches with the best view I have ever seen.


I have expe­ri­enced a bit of cul­ture shock within my first few days here. The lan­guage bar­rier is a bit dif­fi­cult because I am not flu­ent in Span­ish. I am still able to commu­ni­cate with hand motions and sim­ple Span­ish words, and have already learned a ton of new things about the language.

It is part of the Span­ish cul­ture to have “siesta” every day. Siesta in Spain is when most stores close between 1:30 and 3:30 PM for a break in the day to eat lunch. This is cus­tom­ary because lunch is seen as the most impor­tant meal of the day to spend time with fam­ily and friends. A lot of the Span­ish peo­ple also use this time to take naps before going back to work in the evening. Dur­ing this siesta time the streets of San Sebas­t­ian which are usu­ally filled with peo­ple become empty. Only the tourists and for­eign­ers are on the streets at this time of the day. It has been hard to adjust to siesta so far because I am not used to eat­ing lunch so late in the day. Also, it is dif­fi­cult when the stores all close in the day and you have to buy food. It is also com­mon to eat din­ner at 8:30 PM or later. The sched­ule is much dif­fer­ent than what I was used to in America.

Classes began this week and have already proven that the aca­d­e­mic work load will be the same cal­iber as reg­u­lar UW classes. We are tak­ing a Span­ish class in order to gain more knowl­edge of the lan­guage we will be using. There is also a Cul­tural His­tory class about San Sebas­t­ian, and a nation­al­ism class which dis­cusses the Basque peo­ple and the Basque nation. It is very inter­est­ing to be study­ing about a cul­ture dif­fer­ent from that in Amer­ica, while I am also liv­ing in it. 

One of the most dif­fi­cult things about the trip to Spain was plan­ning and prepar­ing for it. The hard­est part of my prepa­ra­tion was pack­ing. How am I sup­posed to fit three months’ worth of cloth­ing into one suit­case? The answer to that ques­tion is to use dis­cre­tion. If you don’t wear a shirt while you are at home, you prob­a­bly wouldn’t wear it abroad either. The weather will be chang­ing a lot dur­ing my pro­gram as the sea­sons will tran­si­tion from Spring to Sum­mer. I made a list of cloth­ing to bring and nar­rowed it down to one suit­case worth by pick­ing cloth­ing that was neu­tral and easy to pair with other items. Pack­ing comfy walk­ing shoes was also a must for me because I walk to class every day and want to explore the city.

Another source of hard­ship dur­ing my prepa­ra­tions was fig­ur­ing out how I should use my Cell Phone while in Spain. The most viable option for me was to bring my phone from home and use it to con­nect to Wifi. Through Wifi I can use apps such as What­sApp and Viber to con­tact my friends and fam­ily back in the States. I also made sure to get a wall plug con­verter for my cell phone, cam­era, and lap­top charg­ers that can work with the volt­age and out­lets in Spain.


So far, I have loved every minute of liv­ing in Spain. The cul­ture through­out the area is so unique from any­thing I have ever expe­ri­enced. Every road I walk down there is another beau­ti­ful build­ing and site to see. This week­end I will be tak­ing a trip to Lis­bon, Por­tu­gal with a few other stu­dents in our pro­gram. I will make sure to write another post about my expe­ri­ences in Portugal.

Adios mis ami­gos, and thanks for reading!