April 23, 2015, by Rachel Bainbridge
Greetings from the Basque Country
¡Saludos del País Vasco! Or should that be “Agurrak Euskal Herritik”? Either way, I mean to say “Greetings from the Basque Country”, as I am spending roughly nine months in San Sebastián, a beautiful city in the northern Basque region of Spain.
I´ve been here since the end of August and so far it’s all been pretty swell to say the least. Armed initially with a level of Spanish that should have been much better than it actually was, no grasp of the Basque language whatsoever, and a dreadful lack of street smarts and sense of direction, I’d say that I’ve done pretty well to have lasted this long!
My official job title here is “Auxiliar de Conversación” (that is to say, an English Language Assistant in an institution in a nearby town to San Sebastián), and I won’t lie- to be paid to just speak your own language to various classes of adults is great. This is helped by the fact that I’ve started to give private English lessons as well to help reap in some extra dough. Despite the fact that the level of English is surprisingly very low for adults (meaning that I often have to rely on my Castilian language skills to communicate with the class), it’s a fairly enjoyable job and I get on with both staff and students alike; it’s good to know that my “dazzling personality” shines through in my attempt to speak Spanish as much as it does when I speak English.
Living amongst a large bunch of Erasmus students in the stunning city of San Sebastián (or “Donosti” in Basque) also provides me with a great mix of cultures, an amazing group of friends, and a way to attempt to practice a couple of my other languages that I have long forgotten since starting university. My A* GCSEs in Italian and German have now been relegated to mere party tricks when I occasionally blurt out a phrase that I remember (much to the amusement of the natives of the respective languages) and my A Level French, that I was fairly confident in, is now but a shadow of its former self. But not to worry- I´m here to speak Spanish and thankfully that is what we Erasmus students uniquely converse in, so “poco a poco”, we’re improving together.
As the supposed gastronomy region of Spain, the food, the beer and the nights out here have been simply the best, and I’m really enjoying the language, the people and the way of life as a whole. In general, my first impressions of my home for the next better part of a year have been awesome, and I hope… no, I’m sure that this will continue.
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