Why You Should Live With a Host Family

Why You Should Live With a Host Family

Posted By: Rachel Arp

Date: April 30th, 2018

Living with a host family has been the best choice I’ve made in terms of study abroad. Not only is it a great way to practice your language skills, you also get exposed to Spanish culture and everyday life. In my host family, there are two teenage daughters. They both help me to learn the pop culture of Spain, from TV shows like Operación Triunfo (go Amaia!) to the music they listen to. I also am constantly learning new slang words from them. I have even gotten compliments on how my Spanish seems more fluent because of the vocabulary that I use.

Another perk of living with a host family is that they always have very practical wisdom to share with you. My host mom has helped me countless times when planning trips by telling me the best companies to fly with, the easiest way to get to Madrid, and many other things. They genuinely treat me like I was one of their own daughters. A few weeks ago, my friends and I had to take the 1am bus to Barcelona for one of our trips. My host dad told me the safest way to walk there, and recommended that I didn´t take the shortcut that I usually do. They will also check in on me on trips to make sure that I´m doing all right, and to remind me that I can ask them for help if I need anything.

I think my favorite thing about living with a host family is how much they start to feel like your real family. I’ve spent many evenings playing games with my host sisters and laughing around the dinner table with my host family. They take me with them wherever they go, from the mall and the grocery store to their grandparents’ house for a visit. There was even a couple of days that I was sick, and my host mom took care of me just like my real mom would. She made me soup, and gave me juice and crackers to eat until I started feeling better. These are the experiences that I would have completely missed out on if I had lived with roommates instead. Most of my friends wish that they would’ve lived with a host family instead of roommates, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is considering it. Not only do you get a different perspective of the Spanish culture, you also end up becoming part of a real family.


Posted By: Sara Samir Salah Bazian

Date: April 30th, 2018

The first thing that Spain taught me is that if you think you’re fashionable, you’re probably not over there. The Spanish have such a distinct style but the good news is that it´s really easy to get a hang of. All you need are two things: a sense of what suits you and what doesn’t and a trip to ZARA. I’ve noticed that the Spaniards believe FA-SHUN to have a feel good look  good effect. Therefore, whatever you think you look good in will help you fit right into the Spanish fashun. With the months I’ve spent in Pamplona I’ve realized that in order to fully grasp the Spanish sense of style, you need to know where it comes from. That was when I went on a stalking spree of Spanish influencers on Instagram and came across Maria Pombo. Maria Pombo in my opinion is the epitome of Spanish style and beauty, her fashion, being both effortless and natural, appeals to everyone.

The two biggest don’ts in Spanish FASHUN are hard to decipher if you’re not from here, but the good news is I can let you in on what I’ve learnt to be the taboos. Thongs? No don’t get excited we’re talking about flip-flops. You cannot go around assaulting others by the ubiquitous sight of your toes. In other words, if you are thinking of wearing flip-flops to school in University of Navarre, erase that thought indefinitely. The Spanish take attire very seriously, the day I noticed this I was wearing yoga pants at school, sitting in my boss’s office and discussing the differences in our distinct cultures. There we were an American, a Saudi Arabian and a Spaniard, deliberating the nitty gritty habits that we should drop while in Spain. My boss at one point looks at my pants and says in a motherly tone, ‘Cariño, in Spain we only wear yoga pants to yoga classes´. That was the last day I wore yoga pants to school. Of course, it depends on where and what you study… To wear yoga pants as a medical student is widely accepted, however, as a law student, let’s just say I wouldn’t want you representing me in court.

A Vegetarian Abroad

A Vegetarian Abroad

Posted by: Rachel Arp

Date: April 19th, 2018

With choices such as Iberian ham and seafood paella, people often have a hard time understanding how I can be a vegetarian in a place with a renowned gastronomy. The Spanish cuisine has definitely been a challenge at times. There has been several occasions where I can either order an appetizer as a meal or settle for one of the many meat dishes. Luckily, while my host family is really considerate of my choices and will prepare separate meals for me, eating at restaurants can sometimes be a challenge. Here are some tips I´ve gathered for anyone else who does or will have to deal with the same thing.

  1. Look up menus beforehand.

This is always my go-to trick before I go out to eat in a restaurant. Unfortunately, this is only successful a select number of times. Many restaurants in Spain don´t list their menu online, making this step a little more difficult. Luckily, many restaurants will have their menus outside of their shop, which makes it easier to decide before committing to a restaurant.

  1. Bring snacks

This is an important tip for travelers in general, not just for vegetarians. Sometimes after a day of traveling, it can be a challenge to find a restaurant everyone agrees on. I always have two or three granola bars with me in case we can’t decide on a restaurant to go to or if the restaurant doesn’t have vegetarian food. However, a granola bar isn’t always enough, which brings me to my next point:

  1. Be flexible

Thankfully, my friends are really patient and willing to find restaurants that has something that I can eat. However, when it´s been hours since everyone ate and your group is looking for a restaurant, you might just have to settle for whatever you find. The truth is that you have to remember that you are living in a foreign country. Although in some countries it may be easy to find a restaurant with a wide array of vegetarian options, sometimes you may just have to settle for the restaurant that only offers one vegetarian dish just so that everyone can finally agree on a restaurant.

  1. Be open to trying new food

This is the one that´s probably the most difficult for very strict vegetarians, but sometimes the restaurants you find will not have any non-meat or non-seafood options. There´s been a couple times where I´ve eaten meat just because we had such a hard time finding a restaurant. Although it´s not ideal, your friends will appreciate your flexibility and you might actually find a dish with meat that you like.

Internship Abroad

Internship Abroad

Posted By: Rachel Arp

Date: March 12th, 2018

This semester, I have the amazing opportunity to participate in an internship at the Institute of Language and Culture at UNAV. Having an internship abroad has helped me exponentially in practicing my Spanish and becoming more acquainted with working in a business. One of the best ways I’ve been able to practice my language skills has been through my internship. Not only have I been able to speak with native speakers, I’ve also gotten practice sending emails, editing flyers, and other various tasks all in Spanish. While it may sound intimidating to do all of these things in a language that you’re still learning, it actually ends up teaching you much more than you would expect. You also realize that it’s okay to make mistakes, because it helps you to learn what to do differently and avoid making that mistake again.

One of my favorite parts of my internship is getting to meet new people and make new friends. I work with another intern, Sarah, and we quickly became close friends. We spend our whole day laughing and having fun, while taking our job seriously at the same time. We have also gotten very close with our director Ares, who constantly teaches us new things such as the do’s and don’ts of Spanish culture. Every day we do something different, which often times involves us working with different people. We’ve made friends in unexpected places, from the receptionists in our building to the graduate professors in ILCE. We’ve been able to meet people that, without our internship, we probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet.

Another huge benefit of having an internship abroad is job experience. Before this semester, I have only had part-time jobs where I didn’t gain much business experience. For example, I worked in a coffee shop for two years, and I also worked at the front desk of my residence hall. While I still gained valuable work experience, the internship that I am participating in is very much related to my future career choice. I’ve worked on Excel sheets, sent emails, edited documents, and made changes to the ILCE website, to name a few. The wide variety of activities that I’ve done will be very useful in future interviews and workplaces.

Overall, my internship has been one of my favorite parts of study abroad. I’ve made new friends, improved my Spanish, and learned so many new things. I couldn’t be more happy with my choice to do an internship abroad, and it has surpassed all expectations that I had before coming to Spain. My biggest advice for everyone is that if you get the chance to do an internship abroad, go for it! I firmly believe that it will change your life the way it changed mine.

5 Things You Should Know Before Coming to Pamplona

5 Things You Should Know Before Coming to Pamplona

Posted by: Rachel Arp

Date: March 5th, 2018

  1. It’s not “Tapas,” it’s “Pintxos.”

Many people know Spain for their famous tapas, which are small plates of traditional Spanish food. In Pamplona, they have this – although “tapas” instead are called “pintxos.” This comes from the Basque word for tapas, because there is a large Basque influence in the Navarra region. On Thursdays, there is an event called “Juevintxos” where locals flood into Casco Viejo (the old part of town) to meet up with friends and order pinxtos and drinks. Many bars even offer deals for 1 pintxo and 1 drink for 2 euros!

  1. Public transportation, aka the “Villavesa,” is huge here.

If you want to get anywhere in town and live more than ten minutes walking from it, there’s a good chance that you’ll be taking the Villavesa. This is the locals’ word for the city bus, which has lines running all throughout Pamplona. They offer student discounts as well as bus cards that have a reduced rate. One important note with the Villavesa is that all lines stop running at 11pm and start back up at 6 am, which could make it difficult if you´re out and you live too far to walk home.

  1. The old part of town is called “Casco Viejo”

Locals affectionately call it “Lo Viejo,” and it offers many shops and restaurants for you to enjoy. It also features the famous “Café Iruña,” which is the restaurant that Hemingway used to frequent during his visits to Spain. Take a stroll through Lo Viejo to see all of the traditional restaurants, bars, and architecture that Pamplona has to offer.  

  1. Northern Spain can have very unpredictable weather.

One thing that people may not know before coming to Pamplona is how to properly pack for the weather. Many people associate Spain with being warm and sunny all the time. However, in northern Spain, you have to prepare for everything – wind, rain, sun, snow, etc. The winter months are especially cold and rainy, although the spring and summer can be very rainy as well. It´s important to pack wisely!

  1. Finally, take advantage of all Pamplona has to offer!

There are so many things to do in Pamplona, and many times people don´t even know about them. Take the scenic route to Lo Viejo through Parque de La Taconera to experience the beautiful scenery and get a prime view that overlooks the city and mountains in the distance. Spend a day exploring the local museum and the beautiful University of Navarra campus. Catch a play or a concert at the Teatro Gayarre in downtown Pamplona. Most of all, enjoy your time in Pamplona and try to experience as much as possible!