Erin Quinlevan '15

As we are nearing the end of the orientation month in Pamplona, my friends and I went to our favorite spot in the city, Cafe Iruña, one last time.  We had an interesting experience.  I won’t go into detail, but we were taken advantage of and treated very poorly because we are American.  At first, we all were enraged.  After letting it simmer for a bit, I realized that this was bound to happen at some point throughout the year.  As much fun as my year abroad will be, moments such as these will happen.  Next time I will be more prepared and more forgiving.

Due to a miscommunication between our lovely guide, Nekane, and a few students here in Pamplona, four girls were late to our excursion to our second and much anticipated wine tasting.  Nekane, a Spanish woman who lives with us in the hotel and acts as a host mother to all of us, was freaking out about us being late. When we asked her why, she said that  the people at this wine tasting were known to shut the doors and not let us in if we were even five minutes late.  They do this because Americans in the past have been notorious for being rude, which includes tardiness.

With this in mind, when the bus finally dropped us off we had a fifteen to twenty minute walk to the location, but only five minutes left before it started.  So, with Nekane leading the way, a group of 27 Holy Cross students and one 26 year-old Spanish woman ran through the streets of downtown Pamplona.  People came out of restaurants, bars, cafes, and shops to see the spectacle, some laughed and some cheered us on, calling “torros, torros!” They were referring to the bulls of San Fermines.  During the festivals of San Fermines each year, nine bulls run through the streets of Pamplona to the arena with the bravest of Pamplona’s men running alongside them.

This run, although stressful, was exhilarating because of all the natives of Pamplona watching.  I got a taste of the renowned international festival without actually attending.  Needless to say, all of the stress and running was paid off with six glasses of local produced wine.  I’ll leave the rest of your night to your imagination.

Before heading the Palma, Mallorca for the year, Holy Cross sends its students studying in all parts of Spain(including Palma, León, and Coruña) to Pamplona, a historic city in the North of the country for a month of orientation and adjustment to the culture and language.  Here, we live in hotel suites and take classes at the University of Navarra nearby, as well as go on excursions in Pamplona and other surrounding cities.  Pamplona is famous for two reasons.  First of all, the festival de San Fermines takes place here every July, which is a nine day long fiesta where the running of the bulls occurs.  Unfortunately, we came too late to see this festival.  The second reason for Pamplona’s fame is because Ernest Hemingway, an acclaimed author, wrote The Sun Also Rises, in which he mentions San Fermines, at Cafe Iruña in the heart of the city.  My friends and I have eaten at Cafe Iruña multiple times since we arrived; we love it.

I love that all of the Holy Cross students are together throughout this orientation process.  I find that it’s easier to adjust to a different culture with friends by your side.  When the grocery store cashier tells you the plastic bags aren’t free and cost 60 euro cents, it’s nice to have someone by your side who can relate to your confusion and laugh at the difference in small things taken granted in America.  Bonding in a foreign country forms fast friendships, and I have become great friends with some Holy Cross students here in Pamplona.  When the time comes I will be sad to part with the few that are headed to different sites when this month ends.  I have attached a picture of my friends and I on a trip to San Sebastián, a beach city on the northern coast of Spain.

One of the most difficult things I have overcome before departing for Spain is getting over the FOMO, otherwise known as the “fear of missing out.”  Holy Cross is an exceptional place, one of my favorites in the world, and leaving it behind for a foreign school, in a different country, is frightening.  Not only am I leaving behind a place that has helped shape me into the person I am today, but also I am losing a year with some of the most important people in my life, the Holy Cross community.  As much as I would like to stay in this environment for another year, I know that this journey ahead of me is necessary.  In Palma, Mallorca, where I will be living these next 11 months, I will assimilate into a different culture, meet new people, and have experiences I would otherwise not be able to.  Instead of pulling all night-ers in Dinand, I will be exploring a beautiful island in the Mediterranean.  I know what I will be missing at Holy Cross, but if I do not embark on this study abroad journey, I will never know what I could have missed out on in Spain.

In preparation before my year abroad, I had to journey out to the East Coast(I’m from Milwaukee, Wisconsin) one last time to say goodbye to some of my favorite people from Holy Cross.  It was so great to see them, and this visit made it easier for me to leave them behind.   In addition, I prepared for the biggest challenge to come, learning the language.  I got a job as a waitress at a Mexican restaurant near my house this summer.  Due to the fact that over half the employees, including one of my managers, were Mexican, Spanish was constantly being thrown around in conversation.  Some of my coworkers could not speak english, so our only means of communication was Spanish.  I am incredibly grateful for this environment and am hopeful that it has prepared me for this upcoming year.