From a young age I’ve been fortunate enough to travel quite a bit with my family. It’s something we’ve always enjoyed doing and something I really wanted to do more of. When I first arrived at college and learned about the Study Abroad program, I knew I wanted to study abroad, but I wasn’t sure of where. I started taking Spanish when I came to Auburn and realized I wanted to go somewhere I could continue my finance curriculum, but also improve my language skills. I found the AU Business exchange program in Pamplona, Spain and it seemed like the perfect opportunity and an adventure. On paper it had everything I wanted, and in person it would exceed all my expectations. As the time to leave approached, I was very excited but also nervous; the thought of moving to a foreign country, with limited language skills, for six months was somewhat daunting.
I had some issues on the way over, a missed flight, a closed hotel, but despite the bumpy start, I began to settle into my new, albeit temporary, life in Spain. While initially anxious, I began to relax and feel more comfortable after finding a place to live and starting classes. The city of Pamplona was incredible, and so different than what I was used to. I’d always lived in a quiet, small town so it was a huge change to live in the middle of a city. I really loved learning about the local customs and did my best to assimilate. I was amazed to find that, yes, they really do take siestas; just about everything shuts down from 2-5 and people go home to have a big meal with their family. Bullfighting is another Spanish cliché, but it really is an integral part of their culture. Matadors are well respected and the sport is popular; even my barber was an amateur bullfighter in his free time.
One of the best things about studying abroad is being able to travel. It’s relatively cheap to get around in Europe, so I was able to travel over the weekends and at the end of the semester. I went to Portugal, Italy, Greece, and the UK. I spent a week in Italy with no reservations or any semblance of a plan. I stayed in hostels and campsites, met some interesting people, and saw all the tourist traps from Rome to Venice. I visited the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland and saw the town where my ancestors used to live. It was awesome to be able to casually go to another country for the weekend and something I definitely miss.
The food was incredible and one of my favorite things about my time abroad. Spain is known for tapas, but in Pamplona and other Basque areas they’re known as pintxos (pronounced pin-chos). In Old Town, every Thursday night they had pintxos and drinks for 1 euro a piece. There were always hundreds of people there, crammed into the narrow streets of Old Town drinking, eating and having a great time. It was also a great time to use the language I spent a lot of time studying. Talking with native speakers really helped improve my speaking ability and was also a good way to make friends.
I’m so glad I decided to study abroad; alongside coming to Auburn I think it was one of the best decisions of my life. I made friends with people from all around the world and learned so much more than just what they cover in the classroom. I got to explore parts of the world I’d never seen before, experience a new culture, and by the time I left it felt like a second home.
Sean McCann ~ Spring 2016 ~ AU Business Exchange Program at University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain