Student Blogs/Alex in Spain

It’s been a few days since I took off from home, and a few more since I found Pamplona. At this point, it’s a lot more like a finally-found-a-free-hour kind of post. Let me run you through the past few days, and you’ll understand exactly why this post was a few days late.

Alex walking down the street in Spain

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Sunday, August 25, 2018

8:00 A.M. – Arrival to Spain!

I didn’t sleep much on the plane, making me too tired to get overstressed about anything at this point. I made it through customs and luggage pick-up, easy peasy lemon squeezy – until I realized I had a bus to catch in an hour and no idea where to catch it. Just as I was too tired to be stressed, I was also too tired to speak Spanish. To get around this, I showed every information desk my bus ticket and waited until they pointed in a direction. Then, I’d follow their arrow until I reached a new information desk. Lather, rinse, repeat until I finally found the bus after nearly an hour – right in time to hop on.

Did I know for sure if it was my bus? No. But, I knew it was a bus headed north. If it wasn’t, it just meant more sleep time for me!

3:30 P.M. – It turned out that I made a the right choice as this bus took me right to Pamplona!

4:30 P.M. – Quickly after I moved into residence, I needed to move out. Imagine a regular Canadian university residence but smaller, with no A/C in +30° C heat and a half hour bus ride away from anything. And I mean anything.

residence in Spain

5:30 P.M. – My first chance to explore the city meant I needed coffee – nothing like good old espresso to give you the energy and motivation to start speaking Spanish!

8:00 P.M. – As eight p.m. is the (really) early end of dinner time here, I met up with a friend from Carleton and her roommate from Ireland to go for tapas and wine. FYI for anyone going to Spain: the one that sounds like it will be just spicy calamari? It certainly is not, but the wine is always a good option.

Monday, August 27, 2018

9:00 A.M. – I got up and ready to move into a new apartment! A little jet lagged, but I already felt much more awake than the day before.

10:00 A.M. – It turned out that finding apartments is no different than the Hunger Games. My spot was rented out by a girl who got there just before me, leaving me so thankful that I hadn’t moved out of my residence room yet.

Apartments in Spain

11:00 A.M. – I ran all over the city looking for apartments and stopping to buy clothes along the way (this city has good sales on every block… you won’t find me complaining!). I had my first conversation entirely in Spanish where I completely understood what was going on! It’s been two days since that happened and I’m still excited!

3:00 P.M. – In Spain, almost everything closes between 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. for siesta (nap time). Anyone who knows me, knows I love my naps. Trust me, it’s WAY better when you know that you’re not missing out on anything going on around town.

7:00 P.M. – I finally decide to get up and going again. Here, 7:00 p.m. is like the middle of the day so, I headed to the mall for more shopping and Spanish McDonald’s! Normally, I wouldn’t go for McDonald’s on the second day, but seeing it made me realize I really hadn’t eaten food all day. I knew it had only been a few days since leaving Canada, but I’m glad to report they had poutine on the menu. Mind you, a Spanish-style poutine that they call “top fries.” Regardless, I loved having something a little like home.

10:00 P.M. – After a long second day, I headed home and spent the rest of the night sending Google Translated emails to what felt like a million landlords asking if they had rooms available.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

9:00 A.M. – My alarm clock this morning was all of the landlords who I had emailed in the middle of the night. They were either not interested because I am a student, wanted to set up a meeting but were frustrated that my Spanish isn’t great, or told me they will email me instead. (I’m still waiting on those emails…)

10:00 A.M. – I rushed to the bus to get to a house that the landlord gave me half the details about. When I got to the bus stop, I realized he never gave me an actual address. Just the cost of rent and the time to meet. (He never did answer my email about what time to meet).

A view of the dirt field from the bus

11:00 A.M. –  I dropped off paperwork to apply for a monthly student bus pass and took a bus to the police station to apply for my Foreign Identity Card. Although I have a visa, it is only good for 90 days and I need to apply for this card (in Spanish: TIE – Tarjeta de Identidad Extranjero) within 30 days of my arrival to Spain. After my 90-day visa expires, my TIE will be my only way to get in and out of Spain. They gave me a list of paperwork I need and told me to come back by Friday.

12:00 P.M. – I made it back to city centre and started the wild goose chase to find everything. The list included a completed application form, photocopies of my passport and visa, proof of enrolment at my university, proof of where I am living in Spain, passport-style photos of myself and a complicated form that I took to the bank and paid them €15 to stamp, even though I don’t know what it means.

3:00 P.M. – Finally, I had everything I needed so I stopped to buy myself a new pair of shoes(!) and headed home.

7:00 P.M. – Through a Facebook group for exchange students, I met some girls from Colombia who were looking at a house and asked me to join. We saw the house and decided it wasn’t great because it was very expensive and far from the city centre. However, I do have other viewings booked for the next few days so I am still holding up high hopes. I also picked up my bus pass! It’s a relief to not be spending €1.35 per trip and accumulating handfuls of tiny change anymore.

8:00 P.M. – My laptop had been dead for almost a full day and I was doing all my communications using my phone. When I wanted to start writing this post, I gave in and decided to buy an adapter. I was really worried they would be expensive as I saw them for sale at the train station going from Madrid to Pamplona and they were €35 ($50 CAD). When I went to buy the adapter at a store near my residence, the employee told me that they don’t sell them anywhere except in the city centre. I took yet another bus (I take around 4-6 buses a day, not counting the ones that I take in the wrong direction). I got my adapter for €13 (yay!) and hung around the touristy area while it filled up with everyone going to and from dinner. The extrovert inside me loves being in the plazas at this time of night to hang out with the walkers, shoppers and diners of the world.

11:00 P.M. – I made it home after yet another long day. At this point, I needed sleep just to think straight.

More than anything over these past few days, I’ve been incredibly unsettled. However, don’t mistake my unsettledness as unhappiness. Leaving Canada, my biggest fear was that I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Being here now, and seeing everything that could possibly go wrong has, of course, really stressed me out. But it has also shown me what I didn’t know. Which, in essence, is a perfect picture of me getting exactly what I had asked for.

Here’s to having a new place to live and food that I can eat on a regular basis by the next update. I’m holding high hopes!

Until the next post,

– Al

Alexandria Hewko is a third-year Bachelor of International Business student who is studying abroad in Spain.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018 in , ,
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