Ali's Blog

Spain Flag Spain

August 10, 2016
Even a lifetime would not be enough to experience everything that the Basque Country, let alone Spain, has to offer. Everywhere you turn, you’re hit with another piece of the rich culture, meet more kind-hearted people, and witness more of the beautiful views. The Basque Country is the northern-most area of Spain. I spent this past month studying in Bilbao, its capital. While Bilbao has more recently become a tourist’s “hidden gem,” it was not always that way. Bilbao was historically a hub for the fishing industry in Spain, home of the best seafood in all of Europe. Back during the times of the Roman conquests, the Sierra Nevada Mountains barred any take over of this part of Spain.

Because of this, the people, language, and traditions were not influenced in any form by Roman ways. While Seville, Granada, and even Madrid were forced into speaking Spanish and practicing Catholicism, the Basques still reigned as independent peoples. So I have come to the conclusion that the Basque Country is truly a hidden gem. This speaks to my education abroad experience as well. No one really knows where their traditions come from, but they are some of the most interesting in the entire planet. In addition, Euskera, the original language of the Basques, is one of the oldest in the world’s history. While Barcelona and Ibiza are attracting many visitors, I believe that the delicious food, beautiful beaches, and history of the Basques just can’t be beat.

On a more serious note, it would be amiss to not mention the source of my passion for traveling in my last blog. I have had a front-row seat to the words, “Life is too short.” When my father passed away three years ago, I promised myself that when my time came, I would have no regrets. I would see all that this world has to offer. I would refuse to let this life pass me by. And I can safely say that I accomplished this in Spain this past month. As I head back to Nebraska in less than week, I can’t help but begin thinking about my return to these people and this place that have stolen my heart. So, thank you Bilbao. Thank you for pushing me out of my comfort zone, helping me gain independence, and forcing me to try new things. Thank you for showing me that there is more to life than what initially meets the eye.

You will be seeing me real soon.

Collage of photos: Top left to right: 1) bacon dipping in drink. 2) A toast. 3) Old building front. 4) Water way. Bottom 2 photos: Left) Sunset. Right) Boats in a marina

July 26, 2016
The crowd is going crazy, everyone yelling and chanting, “Viva Pamplona,” the stadium is filled with red and white, and everyone is anxiously anticipating the arrival of the bulls. The countdown begins and there are only 10 seconds until the bulls are allowed to run free through the streets of Pamplona, Spain, where the most famous bull fights occur for one week every month of July in order to honor their patron saint, San Fermín.

Photo of a full stadium right before the bulls and matadors come out
I’m on the edge of my bleacher, intently watching the big screen while these bulls barrel through the alleyways, taking out anything and anyone in their way. At first, I’m excited; I’m finally able to witness first-hand a traditionally historical part of the Spanish culture, one which is a common thread throughout my Spanish studies. But then, a bull’s horn gets stuck in a guy’s stomach; he is lifted by the bull, and then thrown back down on the cobblestone. I suddenly don’t think this is as exciting anymore. The bulls enter the plaza, followed by the brave souls that teased them in the streets. Now I’m biting my nails, scared for anyone that may be the next victim.

The bulls are running aimlessly around the plaza and everyone is pulling their tails and flashing red flags at them. The bulls are raised to respond as they scrape their hooves along the sand. The crowd encourages anyone that gets run over! I’m in awe while I gaze over the crowd, excited over the torment of these bulls. At first, I thought this event was just a part of the culture, “a tradition that must go on.” But now, I think it borders on animal abuse. And we didn’t even witness the actual bullfights! This was just the beginning of the fun. Right now, a big debate exists among the Spanish citizens: should the government ban the killing of bulls during this week or not?

A bull in the ring is surrounded by matadors
I can easily say that this was one of the craziest experiences of my short 20 years!

July 19, 2016
This blog will be an attempt to describe my education abroad experience thus far; but truthfully, I don't believe that can be done. Simply put, there are no words in any language that can help explain the like-minded and genuine people I have met throughout my travels, breathtaking views I have witnessed, the beauty in the awkwardness of a language barrier, my change in perspective on worldwide circumstances and consequences, and most importantly, my increase in passion for experiencing each and every corner of the world and the people that inhabit them.
Images of Ali in Spain on Day 1 at the El Aquaducto.

For my first blog, I want to share an engineering (yes, I was the only one ‘nerding’ out over this!) marvel that stands in Segovia, Spain. “El Aquaducto” was built in the second century by the Romans, with the main purpose of transporting water across the city. You’re probably wondering, what’s so cool about it? Well, they didn’t use any cement; it stands solely due to the force of gravity on the stones. So I have one word: engineering. Yeah, I won’t be changing my major anytime soon. To be able to stand beneath a structure almost 20 centuries old and still appreciate its full stature was breathtaking. This is Spain.