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Photo Essay Contest

Brittany McClain
Host Institution: Universidad Pública de Navarra -- Spain
Home Institution: Mansfield University
Period: All Year 2007-2008


Life's a Highway

Students from all over the World went to UPNA or La Universidad Pública de Navarra for an experience of a lifetime. Some went to study while others went to party and have a good time before getting too serious, but what most of us did not know was how this semester or two semesters abroad was going to change each and every one of us forever.
Leaving home from a small town and small University was a big feat and huge step in my life. My soul purpose was to learn Spanish and be fluent but what I learned was so much more. I lived in Pamplona, Spain where every year thousands of people gather for San Fermin or as more commonly known as the running of the bulls.
Throughout my stay in Pamplona I had the opportunity to do many things and meet many people. I met some of the greatest people of my life. At first, the other exchange students and I had two things in common, first of all being an exchange student and being foreign and secondly speaking Spanish. We all grew together and matured while learning about the different lives everyone leads in his or her own country, from Japan and Turkey to Poland and Italy, not to mention Australia and Canada.
The Spanish culture was also shocking to me as well. I was not used to the "siesta time" in the middle of the day or nothing being open on Sundays. Despite all of its tourism, Spain is still a very traditional country. Every day between the hours of 1:30 and 5:00 all of the stores and businesses closed for lunch. Lunch is the biggest meal eaten in Spain and dinner is between 9 and 11 with just something light to eat.
On Saturdays when the stores would close for lunch they would not reopen again until Monday morning because again nothing was open on Sundays. But it was not long before I acclimated and adjusted to the culture and was settled into a new way of life. As much as I loved Pamplona and the friends I had met there, it was also great to get away.
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel. From Dublin, Ireland to Paris, France and Switzerland, Germany, Portugal and even Morocco, I was able to see and visit some of the most notorious and legendary sites the world has to offer. Places such as the Eiffel Tower, The Berlin Wall and the United Nations in Geneva are places that most people dream of seeing. I realized the opportunity I was given and took advantage of everything and appreciated all that I did.
I learned more than just Spanish and things from a book. I learned about life, people, cultures and most importantly to be more open minded to new ideas and cultures. I left Spain a changed person with a new outlook on life and given the chance to do it again I wouldn't think twice or hesitate in the least. This year has definitely been the best year of my life and I am left with memories that will last a lifetime.
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