Proctor en Segovia: Learning Through Travel - Spain's Basque Country

Posted by Proctor en Segovia


While Segovia is the home base for Proctor’s linguistic and cultural program in Spain, students travel on week-long excursions to at least two of Spain’s distinct regions. On the road, classroom learning about history, art history, and culture is made visible. Enjoy these student reflections their recent excursion to País Vasco (The Basque Country).

Proctor experiential education in northern Spain

Ellie ‘23

We left on a Wednesday to drive up to Pais Vasco. It was about a five-hour ride total. We took two cars. For the last thirty minutes or so of our ride, we were driving up the hills of Navarra. As we continued to get closer to the house, the drive got more and more beautiful. We saw more farms than I had ever seen before. Before even venturing into the depths of the País Vasco, we got to experience a whole new way of life that was much different than life in Segovia. It felt much simpler. When we got to the house, we all got settled in to our individual rooms. The rooms were quite nice, each with its own bathroom to the side. I shared a room with Ella, and she was the best roommate ever. I had fun sleeping three inches away from her. Aside from our ant problem, it was a great room. It had enough space for both of us, and it had a great view of the mountains through the window. The house had a common space with a couch and a TV that we all shared, along with a kitchen and a large dining table big enough to fit all eleven people. There was a terrace to the side of the house with a breathtaking view of the mountains in front of us. The family who owns the house lives upstairs with their dog, Pincho. They have two goats located in a fenced-in area and a chicken coup with about seven or eight chickens. It was always fun to go outside for a little bit and look at the goats or watch the chickens run around aimlessly.

Proctor students get to experience culture in both urban and rural Spain

Proctor students live and learn in a house together in rural Navarra / Basque Country

After we all got settled in on the first day, we all headed to the kitchen to prepare dinner together. We had some frozen pizzas and a salad that we all helped prepare. When it came time to eat, we all sat together at a table as a group. Everyone did their part to help with dinner, whether it be cooking, washing the dishes, or setting the table. We got to learn the power of teamwork as we had to navigate through the endless pile of dishes produced after the meal. Sitting together as a group made us all a lot closer because we got to have many meaningful conversations with each other and got to know everyone better. We got to experience the power of being together, especially as we all sat in the living room together and watched movies. Every morning, we had breakfast together, and every evening we had dinner together, whether it be in a restaurant or at the house. Every meal I made sure to sit next to a new person so I could get to know everyone as well as possible. This plan worked. After my trip to Pais Vasco, I became closer with the whole group, and got to learn the power of working together.

Proctor students share a traditional meal in Basque Country

Proctor students share a traditional meal in Basque Country

Elliott ‘23

On the third day of our excursion to Pais Vasco, half of our group decided to go on a hike. We left our house in a torrential downpour. The road up to our hike wound through the beautiful hills below the mountains. Thousands of sheep grazed through the small grass fields surrounded by thick forest. A small, quiet town sat at the base of the sharp and rocky mountains that cut through the clouds. The town was composed of a dozen houses completely made out of granite. The rain quickly passed and left a fog that floated over the hilly terrain. After a couple of missed turns we finally arrived at the base of our hike.

The trail started as a wide forest road surrounded by wet and mossy trees. Water rushed down the side of the trail before it splashed into the large green fields. The trail quickly turned into a skinny mud pit. With every step my feet would sink three inches into the mud. At the top of our hike there were multiple wooden towers camouflaged by the trees. The old rickety towers shook and creaked with every step up the ladder. After ten minutes the trail turned into a large field that looked up at the snow capped mountains. The smell of mist filled the forest as we walked back to the car.

Proctor students live and learn in a house together in rural Navarra / Basque Country

Hayden '22 - Mountains of the North

While staying in Pais Vasco, our house was nestled into the mountains among the goats, sheep, and donkeys. The roads wound up through farm fields, mountain streams, and woods. When we arrived, all I could think about was uncovering the mysteries the ancient land had to offer. Finally, my chance came to explore when the group had some free time.  I started out by walking up the one lane road towards the mountains.  The woods were thick and full of vegetation. Everywhere I looked was a lively green.  There were no trails, so I had to forge my own.  

Proctor students live and learn in a house together in rural Navarra / Basque Country

As I was scrambling my way up and down the mountainside, I came across a ruin of a stone building. It appeared out of nowhere, covered in vines and moss. It was camouflaged perfectly. The floor was completely gone, reverted back to the forest. It makes you think of how our time on this planet is so minimal, but the objects we create leave a window into the lives we lived after we are gone. Later, after walking into an opening I suddenly saw something jump up and start to run away. The animal had 4 legs and was a decent size. Whatever it was it then started to make a yelling sound at me while running. I ended up reaching the base of the mountains and had to turn around due to no more time.  The way back was just as treacherous as the way up. When I got out of the woods every part of me was caked in mud.

Sin Yee ’23

During our visit to Pais Vasco, we had great meals in both Bilbao and San Sebastian. The meal we had in Bilbao was amazing, I had turkey served with smoked bacon cream. When the dish arrived, I could already see that it was going to be delicious.  The turkey was perfectly grilled. I scooped the turkey in the sauce and sent it to my mouth. The texture of the turkey was a bit chewy but that was a delight because it helped mix the sauce with the meat. After the first bite, the following bites were delicate.

Proctor students visit San Sebastián
The next day, we went to San Sebastian. After the San Telmo Museo visit, Luis, Sydney and I went to a tapas and pintxos restaurant which was extremely memorable. One of my favorites was the scallops dish. The scallops were really fresh and it went awesome with the sauce served. The scallops were small, but they were powerful enough to make me remember for the rest of my trip here. After the scallops, we also had tuna pintxos. The tuna pintxo was served with mayonnaise salad, I am not a fan of mayonnaise, however, I enjoyed the pintxo a lot. 

Proctor students experience San Sebastián's famous food culture

Sydney ‘23 - An Unexpected Day

Our second day in Intza, I was up and ready. We left the house at 9:00 sharp. Piled into the car, I was anxious for the long day that awaited me. I popped in my headphones and drifted off to sleep while listening to a podcast. Podcasts are always my way to relax and be able to destress when I know I have a long day ahead. When we got to San Sebastián, we started walking to the museum, and all I could think about and hear was the sound of my classmates’ and my shoes on the pavement. I was talking to Vic about how hot the day was and how grateful I was that I made the decision to wear shorts instead of pants. When we got to the museum Luis explained that it was a guided tour and explained the rules of being inside the museum. Masks were required, photos were allowed but no flash photography, and we were to be quiet and respectful when interacting with tour guides and other museum guests.

Proctor students learn about Basque culture firsthand

Once we got inside the museum we were greeted by a very sweet man who ended up being our tour guide. He explained the rules once again and handed each of us a pair of headphones with an adjustable speaker. He told all of us that he would be talking through the speaker and the headphones were for us to hear him without him having to speak loudly in the museum. The first half of the tour was amazing. I was learning so much as we were walking through the museum and I was taking lots of pictures. Towards the end of the tour, I had to leave the museum because I was feeling under the weather. I felt like I needed some fresh air. Laura, Sin Yee and I made our way outside where we met up with Luis. I was sitting down and I was feeling a bit dizzy. A few minutes later the rest of the group came out having completed the tour. Sin Yee, Luis and I made the decision to go to a coffee shop where things were low key and I would be able to take it easy. We ended up having some coffee and having a laugh and enjoying each other’s company. From there, we decided that it was probably better to eat something better. From lunch we ended up spending the day exploring the city and even though things started off rocky, there is always something that can brighten up any day. 

Proctor students learn about Basque culture firsthand

Victoria '22

La Concha, what a time to remember. The feeling of the sand going through our toes. The sand is softer than Hampton beach, New Hampshire. Hayden, Ian and I had just gotten back from lunch at Ganbara, one of the restaurants that Anthony Bourdain went to before he passed away. Anthony Bourdain said it was the best restaurant that he’s ever been to, and Ian had invited Hayden and me. All three of us had an amazing time. While me and Hayden were walking through the alley of the beach to go to the bathroom and change, we noticed that the weather was hitting through our bodies and making us really cold.The temperature of the water was about 15 to 20°C and the water was freezing.  After we went in the water we felt warm but because we sat in there for a little bit, about 10-15 minutes in the water. Nobody in the group wanted to go in the water, just me and Hayden because it felt like New Hampshire in the winter and they didn’t have clothes, but we were prepared. The reason why I went in the water was because I had never been out of the country more than once. It was an experience of a lifetime that I will probably never have again, so I had to make it count. While running to the water and as the sand was going through my toes, I knew it was going to be really cold. I didn’t think of the animals that were in the water. I just wanted to have fun. Diving headfirst Hayden and I went in so quick but then I stayed in a little extra after experiencing the water in this part of the Atlantic Ocean. The feeling I had after was shivering, goosebumps and Hayden needed to hug me because I was really cold. The trip to San Sebastian was an amazing time, and I’ll never forget the memories that we created in a place with an amazing group of students. I wish there was even more time for us to go in the water and spend time in San Sebastian. 

Proctor students at La Concha in San Sebastián

Ian ‘23

My favorite place in País Vasco was San Sebastián. Of course all of Pais Vasco was cool, but San Sebastián was the one place that really stood out to me. I was excited to eat the food in San Sebastián. It is a place known for its food. The restaurant where Victoria, Hayden and I chose to eat was nice. This restaurant stood out because Anthony Bourdain had eaten there. The three of us really wanted oysters. As we looked at the menu there were some things that I had never eaten before. We ordered a lot of oysters, twenty-nine to be exact. The oysters were worth it. The oysters were meaty and juicy. To some people the smell would be awful, but to others the smell is good. We also ordered a stewed pigeon and a steak. I have never had pigeon before. The pigeon was amazing and it didn’t taste like duck. The stewed pigeon was quite small and was easy to eat. The sauce was delicious. I wish there was more of it. The steak was small as well. Most nice restaurants give you small portions that taste good and look good. This was a really fun meal.

Proctor students learn about pinchos and Basque food culture

Proctor students learn about Basque food culture in San Sebastián

Proctor students visit the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao

Ella B. ‘22

If you told me Bilbao was in Spain, I would actually laugh because there is no way that sounds Spanish to me. It was our first day in a new place in Spain, in beautiful País Vasco, which is so different from what we are used to in Segovia. On our first day, the group took on Bilbao and went to see the famous Guggenheim. It’s an odd-shaped building with flowing, sparkling silver walls that don’t make complete sense and an enormous puppy made out of flowers out in the front. There is also a giant spider outside of it that I was not a huge fan of. The group went inside and I couldn’t wait to explore the crazy-shaped building. As we started to walk around, I became a little disappointed. For those who don’t know, the Guggenheim is a contemporary art museum, and I was excited to see what treasures it held. Only the first and third floors were open, while the second floor was opening the next day with a special exhibit. We saw some interesting art, and I made my very unpopular and maybe a little controversial statement that I don’t really like Picasso’s paintings. I just don’t see what is so special about his paintings because they are all just the same thing. I did learn that I enjoyed looking at Salvador Dalí’s paintings, and that I have more appreciation for art now since I am older. Also, going around a new museum with some good friends is always a good time. There were some interesting paintings that I just did not understand, but sometimes art is not meant to be understood.


Will M. ’22

It is so difficult to accurately sum up the Basque Country within a paragraph. I’ll focus on a highlight. The high point would have to be seeing the Guggenheim. The building itself was a piece of art, blindingly silver with endless curves and bends in its structure, it mentally prepared us for what it held within. The art varied so much from room to room. I enjoyed the bottom floor abstract room. The colors and necessity to stop and analyze for a second were pleasant. Instead of the art immediately giving you the subject, there was a game of how many faces were in the painting or if it was even human or not. The brightness and jaggedness of the colors with the blunt, contrasting lines reminded me of an Andy Warhol left in the rain. I’m sure the artist would not appreciate that description, but I know I can’t unsee it.

Proctor students study 19th and 20th century art history at the Guggenheim Museum
The other part that was specifically spectacular about the museum was the forty-foot dog made of flowers. The flowers were not uniform in shape or color or size, but together they were rendered into a spectacular sculpture. I couldn’t help but think about the time and effort that must have gone into making a massive statue with different species that bloom in different ways. I related it to my time working at the golf course and how difficult it was to keep the greens, green, much less a brilliant emerald green, magenta, burgundy, solar red, and blue like the dog. I can only imagine how difficult it was to repair it as well. I know it would take us weeks to fix a spot that started to die or we messed up mowing. We noticed that some of the flowers on the neck had started to brown and wilt. I would hate to be the guy who had to climb up in there and pull out a part of the structure to replace that individual part. I could see myself pulling out a few flowers and pulling out half the root structure. Regardless of the sheer labor that went into a forty-foot rainbow dog, it was one of the most incredible parts of a museum that contains some of the most important pieces of art of the last two hundred years.

Proctor students visit the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao

Click here to see more photos from Proctor en Segovia Spring 2022! 


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