Three reasons to say “Eskerrik asko” for my Year Abroad
In Euskera, a co-official language of the Basque Country, “Eskerrik asko” means “thank you”.
I have recently been inspired by Rupy Aujla, @doctors_kitchen on Instagram to start a daily gratitude exercise.
This involves listing three things I am grateful for each day and ranges from the latest cupcake I discovered at Mami Lou in Bilbao, to a weekend away with friends. Not only does this boost my positivity on the more difficult days but it also encourages me to put my relatively small problems (e.g. having to trek to the seven-storey department store to get my hands on some fresh fridge milk) into perspective.
Although sometimes I may complain about the Euskera language barrier and the non-stop rainy weather, I am truly grateful for my Year Abroad so far, and everything which has come with it.
Here are my top three reasons to say “Eskerrik asko” for my Year Abroad:
The spirit of Bilbao
There aren’t many places I know where despite a 24/7 rainfall, the population seems to be smiling and going about their daily lives with a spring in their step. The people of Bilbao seem to have a very positive and relaxed approach to life, and it’s having a great effect on my Year Abroad so far.
The park next to my house is a hubbub of every generation enjoying themselves, from the children whizzing round on roller skates, to the elderly upping their steps on the various low-level gym apparatus dotted round the city. I even spotted an OAP whizzing down the half-pipe on his skateboard the other day, with a huge smile on his face.
I am very grateful to live in a city which seems to be a buzz of smiles and positivity everywhere you look.
The ‘eureka’ moment with languages
From the darts of quick Spanish which you have no chance of understanding to the lengthy conversations in Euskera which are just impossible, a Year Abroad in the Basque Country is throwing up many challenges.
But it was a couple of weeks ago in Biarritz, on the ‘French’ side of the Basque Country where I had a ‘eureka’ light bulb moment and felt that I had cracked my language learning journey.
Standing on the pier looking out to sea and the beautiful French scenery was a great photo opportunity; but after hovering awkwardly hoping someone might offer to take a photo I asked the nearest person, in French if they wouldn’t mind taking a picture. They turned out not to be French locals but also tourists who had, like us, travelled from Spain for a mini-holiday. After they mumbled something in Spanish I turned round and asked them to take the photo again, this time in Spanish.
Of course you don’t have to be fluent to ask if someone can take a quick picture, but being able to say “Oh you’re Spanish? No problem!” and translate into another language was a pretty good moment for me in terms of my language learning journey.
The wonderful people I have met
Embarking on a Year Abroad is a nerve-wracking experience: moving to a brand new city knowing nobody. Luckily, I have stumbled upon the best group of people in exactly the same boat, and we have made some fantastic memories over the last few months.
From the universal understanding of absolutely needing a cupcake from our favourite café, and afternoons spent in an Irish pub watching the Six Nations, to the weekends away escaping for some sunshine and road trips across the Basque Country, I have been extremely lucky with the friends I have made here.
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