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My name is Kristen Hinckley. I am a ’17, meaning that I am a rising sophomore on the Big Green lacrosse team. I am currently in Santander, Spain, on an LSA+ through Dartmouth. Along with 16 other Dartmouth students and Professor del Pino, we are spending our summer here in Santander learning Spanish and immersing ourselves in the Spanish culture.

Why did I want to go?

One of the main reasons why I wanted to come to Dartmouth was because I love the emphasis that the school places on global matters and studying abroad. I have always wanted to study abroad and was comforted by the fact that many students go abroad with the D Plan, including most of my teammates. With our lacrosse schedule, my freshman summer (now) seemed to be the best time to go. Although I was scared I would be homesick, I am so glad I decided to come. It is definitely a big decision to live in another country for a summer, but I truly love it here. This summer abroad works very well with my academic plans because I am considering majoring in Spanish - no better way to learn Spanish than in a Spanish country! I am so thankful for this great opportunity to be in Santander for the summer!

Where am I?

Santander is a beautiful small city situated on the Northern coast of Spain. Boasting a beautiful coastline with marvelous beaches and a historic center rich in culture and tradition, Santander is the perfect place to spend a summer in my opinion. Unlike Madrid or Barcelona, bigger cities in Spain where many students go, Santander has more of a "homey" feel to it. It is more of a town than a city. I love this atmosphere because it reminds me of Dartmouth. Dartmouth has such a great community feel and I feel like I am almost back at home when I walk around and see people I know here in Santander. A very clean city with many tourists in the summer, Santander is renowned as an intellectual center. There are many foreign students who come to Santander to study abroad for the summer. Our group studies at the "UIMP," as the people from Santander call it - Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo.

What am I doing?

We each have the esteemed privilege of living with a host family here in Santander. I live with an older host mom and her dog. She has a daughter and a son in their 30s who do not live at the house, but come over for some meals. Living in a Spanish home and being forced to speak Spanish at all times has been a great experience because my language skills have really improved. I am lucky in that I live in a location that is central to just about every place I go in the city. Everything is so convenient! I am about a two-minute walk to the university, five-minute walk to the gym (yay!), a 10-minute walk from the beach and a quick bus ride to the historic center of the city.

We are taking three classes here that are all completely in Spanish: Spanish 20 (taught by Profesor del Pino from Dartmouth), Spanish 22 (taught by a Spanish professor) and Spanish 32 (taught by a Spanish professor). We are learning about Spanish literature, art, culture, and history. Our literature classes especially impress me because I am learning literary elements that I have never even learned in English!

What is a typical day?

A typical day here for me consists of class from 10-1, coming home for lunch with my mom, then beach, working out and homework… can’t complain! It is nice to have a slower pace here so that we have more time to appreciate the Spanish culture and a different way of life.

How is Spain different from our lives in the US?

I have found that Spain is similar to the US in some ways as expected, but VERY different in many other ways. The pace and the lifestyle are much slower and calmer, at least in Santander. The meals are very different in that breakfast is small, lunch is a huge meal and dinner is small and around 10 p.m. It has been difficult to get used to this new dining, especially considering how much we eat as athletes! Also, a lot of people take a ‘siesta’ (nap) after the big lunch meal; that aspect has not been difficult to get used to at all! Spain is in an unfortunate economic situation right now and it is interesting to hear about it from their point of view. I love talking to my host mom about the differences between our countries and our views of the world because those are the conversations where I learn the most.

Do they have lacrosse in Spain?!

Unfortunately, the answer to this is no. However, I have had some very interesting experiences here while practicing. When I am walking around with my lacrosse stick, people look at me very weirdly because I think it looks like a foreign weapon to them. When I do wall ball at the gym, I don’t think the Spanish people understand why I am throwing a ball against a wall repeatedly… However, I have had the opportunity to teach lacrosse to some of the locals here who I am friends with! Although they had never seen or touched a lacrosse stick before, they were having so much fun learning how to catch and throw. Though their stick skills aren’t exactly up to par yet, they really enjoyed learning how to play. Moreover, I have been lifting with the two volleyball girls on our trip. It has been so great to have people to go to the gym with. We have had to get used to the constant stares that we get from the men in the gym because they are not used to having girls lifting weights. We even got asked to join a football team!

What excursions have we gone on?

Since we only have class Monday-Thursday, we have Fridays/weekends reserved for excursions and free time to learn about Spain. We learn about the places we are going on the Thursday before our excursions. It is so educational and fascinating to be able to explore in a hands-on experience. Our first excursion was to Ponte Viesgo where we saw the Caves de Monte Castillo. These caves are decorated by ‘arte rupestre,’ with paintings that were created thousands of years ago by some of the first humans. We also visited a couple small ‘pueblos’ (towns) that gave us a different taste of Spanish life. When we went to Potes, we spent some time in a small town with only 53 inhabitants. It was intriguing to learn about how much their community works together in order to survive and how tight-knit they are. After Potes, we hiked up the Picos de Europa (peaks of Europe) and saw stunning views of the mountains and landscape. We were also surprised when a group of wild goats started chasing us… My favorite part of our excursions so far was when we went to a monastery in Liébana that holds the largest piece of the cross that Jesus died on. Being able to touch that piece of wood was one of the most moving experiences I have ever had.

What has been my favorite part?

Churros con chocolate of course...But still, it’s really hard to say. I have had so many great experiences here so far and have met so many interesting people. One of my favorite memories from our time in Spain was our trip to Pamplona. Two weekends ago we got to see the running of the bulls during the Celebration of San Fermín. It was remarkable to be able to experience this cultural tradition that I had only ever read about in my Spanish textbook! I have loved being able to speak Spanish here and I am so happy that I have learned a lot of new vocabulary. However, I still have a long way to go.

Overall, I am loving my time in Santander. The term is going so fast (as usual). I really miss Dartmouth but it’s great being surrounded by Dartmouth people so far away from home. I can’t wait to get back on campus with the team in the fall!

Thank you for reading my blog! Stay tuned for updates in the upcoming weeks! Have a great summer!

Kristen Hinckley