The Basque Country?

Melinda D. is currently a junior at SYA Spain and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C.

I knew little about Spain’s northern autonomous community of País Vasco when I’d read my name on the sheet which assigned students to each travel group. The class had been split up into three groups for a week-long trip with each group heading to a different part of Spain: Barcelona, Andalusia, and the Basque Country. 

To be honest, I wasn’t the happiest camper (nor a grateful one) when I realized I’d be going to the cold shores of San Sebastián for a week, while my closest friends would be together soaking in the warm rays of the south. However, I hadn’t realized that the split from my usual group was a strategic move made by our considerate teachers at SYA. 

Next thing I knew, I was hiking to see the sunrise over the mountains of the coast, racing across green fields to hunt for the etched signatures on sculptures of a famed Basque artist (Eduardo Chillida), strolling under moonlight as waves covered my feet, and laughing and animatedly speaking in Spanish for the entirety of dinner, all with students that I had yet to truly get to know before this week. Similarly, I was unfamiliar with this part of the country before the long bus ride that left our new home, Zaragoza, behind. 

What’s so alluring about the Basque Country is that it is unlike any other part of Spain. It is a community known for its natural beauty, rich artisan culture, delicious seafood and pintxos, and even a distinct language that has no relation to the other languages spoken here: Euskera. Here are a few simple words from the unique language-

“Kaixo” - Hello

“Agur” - Goodbye

“Bai” - Yes

“Ez” - No

“Lagun” - Friend

“Ongi etorri” - Welcome

By the end of the journey through the Basque Country’s main cities (Vitoria, Bilbao, San Sebastián) and beautiful small pueblos that neighbored the French border, I stepped off the bus in Zaragoza with new (and renewed) relationships along with a developed appreciation and knowledge of the culture of País Vasco.

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