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Europe

Ian Woller Proves the Cliches of Studying Abroad Are True With Reason

The View from San Sebastian

The View from San Sebastian

Cliché study abroad sentence #1: If you told me the first day that I arrived in Spain the experiences I would have had up to this point, I wouldn’t have believe anything you said. I remember perfectly the day of travel that I endured to get to Pamplona, a small city in the heart of the Northern Spain province of Navarra, an hour south of France and three hours west of Barcelona. My day began with a canceled flight from Logan to JFK, a re-route to Heathrow followed by a six-hour layover, and then finally on to Madrid and Pamplona.

The night I arrived I was too exhausted to want to speak Spanish, but I felt I should try. As I left the airport I asked my taxi driver in Spanish if he accepted credit cards. He immediately responded in English, allowing us to have a laugh at how poor my accent was.

Castle at Olite

Castle at Olite

This was one of the few highlights of my first few days here, which consisted of getting lost for three hours (blessing and a curse), finding nobody who speaks English, being without Wifi for three days, and realizing that my apartment is in fact a 45 minute walk from campus, not the 15 minutes I was told by the landlord. Cliché study abroad sentence #2: While these first few days were very difficult, I’m almost glad that they went the way they did because they helped me understand that living in a different country wasn’t going to be easy at first. It was nice to be cut off from the internet and world of cell phones for a few days, as I had the opportunity to explore the city and practice my Spanish. Putting in the effort the first few weeks has definitely put me in the position to make the friends that I have, improve in another language, and travel to some incredible places.

The beauty of spending the semester in Northern Spain is the variety of terrain, and the number of small towns that are easily accessible by bus and train for outrageously low prices. Just to name a few, I’ve visited small towns like Olite where a castle from the 1200’s still rises above the cobblestone streets.

Candanchu Ski Resort

Candanchu Ski Resort

There are mountains in the Pyranees such as Candanchu, where the powder skiing compares to nothing on the east coast of the US. Aside from a trip to California in sixth grade, that day of skiing may have been the best of my seventeen years in the sport. Then there’s San Sebastian, a small town on the Bay of Biscay and fifteen minutes from the French border that has views of the water you wouldn’t believe.

Cliché study abroad sentence #3: While people talk about it over and over again, the travel in Europe is incredible compared to the United States. With buses and trains going virtually anywhere, not to mention the cheap flights that can be booked to any major city using the right airline, it presents great opportunities to travel to a new place every day. On a trip to Bierritz, a group of friends and I actually entered France via train without even realizing.

Ian, catching sun in Bierritz, France with Emily & Lauren

Ian, catching sun in Bierritz, France with Emily & Lauren

It took a confused three-quarter Spanish, one-quarter French conversation in a local bakery to realize we had actually crossed the border. Hopefully in my next blog I can add a little more about the actual school, seeing as I’m the first person from GW Business School to come here, but the experience all around has been truly phenomenal. Cliché study abroad sentence #4: In two days I will have been here for exactly one month, and if the next four are anything like the first, I may never be able to leave.

Ian Woller is a GWSB Junior studying Finance.  He is studying abroad at University of Nevarra in Pamplona, Spain, taking a mix of business courses and electives.  To learn more about the exchange program with GW, visit the Office for Study Abroad’s here

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