Describe your favorite must-have food that you tried abroad.
Lindsey: Nothing beats the meal I had at a Sidería. The first course was a traditional Spanish tortilla which is similar to an omelet for American students. The second course was Bacalao al Pil Pil which is a codfish dish served in an olive oil and garlic sauce. This is such a simple dish and one that I ended up missing the most when I returned home.
The third course was a “chuletón” or a ridiculously rich steak about two inches thick. The entire meal was accompanied by all-you-can-drink “sidra” which is a hard cider that you must catch out of a barrel. The experience was awesome but the food was unbeatable.
What was the best place you visited outside of your study abroad city?
Lindsey: As an avid hiker, I couldn’t get enough of the scenery in the area I was studying. One day I took city busses to other neighboring towns and it was the best day ever. I got to do some mild hiking overlooking the sea and visiting old buildings. However, my favorite part about this visit was the community I experienced; nothing compares to the people I met and the hospitality they showed me.
I found this was especially true in the small Basque towns of Ea and Lekeitio. They were so incredibly nice and there wasn’t a tourist shop in sight. It was so authentic and relaxing. One of my only regrets is not getting out and doing daytrips like these earlier because they ended up being the best learning opportunities. You became totally immersed in the language and you didn’t have the conveniences of Wi-Fi or translated signs, it was a test of self-reliance for me.
What did USAC do for you and what did you need to do on your own?
Lindsey: USAC really took care of all of the basic needs. They do a group submission with a lot of visas which is super nice because you don’t need to make an appointment with the consulate. They also find housing (with Wi-Fi) for students who request it and assist with metro passes and other forms of transportation.
The staff even accompanied us to the doctor’s office and pharmacy when needed. The staff gives advice on cell phones but that was something we had to take care of on our own. USAC also offers a group flight option so you can fly over with other USAC students and be met at the airport by a faculty member which was awesome especially when my luggage got lost for six days by the airline.
What made this study abroad unique and special?
Lindsey: In Bilbao, I was able to take classes that otherwise wouldn’t be offered at my home university. For example I’m from Nevada, the desert, and I was able to take a surfing class while abroad which was such an awesome experience. Surfing is a very popular pastime of many Basques so it helped integrate students into the culture.
I also had the opportunity to teach English while abroad which was not only a great way to earn a little extra money but was a learning experience and actually catapulted me into a career focus. In addition to those classes, students could take a field trip class that dealt with Basque history and culture as well as a cooking class which I know was a huge hit. The culture in the Basque country is unlike anything I’ve experienced and it made my time there impossible to beat.
Do you think the program changed you as a person?
Lindsey: Absolutely. I’m a control freak and when you’re studying abroad, guess what, there are just some things you can’t control like your luggage getting lost for six days, or missing the last bus back to the city and that’s okay. I am better at handling stressful situations now because I have the confidence I lacked before.
Living in a country where you don’t speak the language fluently is hard and at times frustrating but I gained such gratitude for where I live and how I was raised and the opportunities I have. I finally feel like I can see the big picture; I finally know how I want to spend my time and the kind of people I want to spend it with.