Fun fact: There is a region of Spain called the Basque region (not to be confused with País Vasco/Basque Country, a political region of Spain that is part of the Basque region). This includes País Vasco, La Rioja, and Navarra. As well as Castellano (Spanish), they also speak Euskara which is not at all related to Spanish and has unknown roots. San Sebastián is located in Basque Country (next to Cantabria). The city is so close to France that it has shifted between occupations many times throughout history and honestly couldn’t care less which country it’s part of. Thus, the people have a lot of regional pride and there’s a lot of talk of gaining independence from Spain.
More fun facts: Hello = Kaixo (KI-sho), Goodbye = Agur (ah-GOOR), Thank you = eskerrik asko (es-KEHR-ik AH-sko)
Anyway, I’ve survived our first sort-of real week of real classes! If that makes any sense. Classes didn’t start until Tuesday because on Monday we spent 2+ hours waiting in the Oficina de Extranjeros, they called our number, and then told us to go take a different number and sit back down. #bureaucracy
This semester I’m taking Geotechnical Engineering, Engineering Computation, Fluid Mechanics, and (of course) Spanish. Fluids is pretty cool, it’s about (yup you guessed it) fluids and how they move. Computation isn’t difficult (yet) but it’s incredibly boring because all we’ve done so far is some calculus BC review, Taylor/Maclaurin series, and a couple matlab codes.
Surprisingly, I’ve found Geotech to be the most interesting of the three. We’ve learned about the different types of soil and how to classify them, foundations, and basic calculations. I think the coolest part is that in Bolivia we worked with two different types of soil (shale and silt) when excavating and constructing the anchors and foundations so it’s much easier to understand and remember the concepts the professor is trying to convey because I’ve had some hands-on experience.
Spanish class, on the other hand, is a completely different story. There are only four students (the three of us from Cornell and Pauline, from Sweden) and we’re at four completely different levels of fluency. The professor agrees that it’s a terrible system but there’s nothing anyone can do about it unfortunately. The first thing he had us do today was come up to the board and write a paragraph about Superman, and from that moment I knew I was going to enjoy the class. We were allowed to write anything we wanted about Superman so that he could get an idea of where we each are at, and then he corrected each one. At this point that’s really all I want: to talk and write and have someone correct all my little mistakes. Unfortunately the class is only three hours a week, but honestly I could take it every single day.
For some strange reason the university closes completely on the first Friday of school, so we didn’t have any classes. A few of us decided to take advantage and we went to San Sebastián for two days. The first day we did a free walking tour with a very small group called Go Local and they were fantastic. We also attempted to go to the museum on the top of a hill by the beach but there were so many windy paths that we couldn’t find it, but we were not at all disappointed because the weather was beautiful and the views even more so.
The second day we went to the beach and then rented a couple of stand up paddle boards. I’d been paddle boarding before but never standing up and never in the ocean, so that was definitely my favorite part of the weekend (I don’t have any pictures though because if I did my phone would be at the bottom of the ocean, sorry!).
Last week a big group of international students went out for drinks and ironically I met a really nice girl who goes to the university but is actually from Santander. Her name is Eli (pronounced like Ellie) and on Sunday we went to see part of an art exhibition. It was a colorful labyrinth with mind puzzles throughout to figure out which way to turn. Afterwards she showed me where to find the best view of the bay (even though it was raining) and a little café called Gallofa (which doesn’t translate to anything). It had desserts, coffee, hot chocolate, and sandwiches, which may not sound very interesting but it really is because everything is just very different than what you would find in an American café, despite the names being the same.
We ordered Colacao (basically what we think of as hot chocolate, even though Spanish hot chocolate means something different) and tostada especial Ibérica, which translates to “Iberian toasted specialty” but we had no idea what it was when we ordered it. Turns out it’s toast, crushed tomato, Iberian ham, and a little bit of salt and olive oil. We ended up talking for hours and I’m pretty sure that was the longest continuous period of time in my entire life that I’ve spoken Spanish, so I was really happy.
P.S. I still don’t have wifi in my apartment so I apologize if it seems like I’ve disappeared off the face of the earth. If you want to reach me, for any reason at all, just send me a message via email, facebook messenger, groupme, or whatsapp (or all of the above if you’re really feeling it) and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible! Promise 🙂