Hamilton College Academic Year in Spain (HCAYS) students recently visited the autonomous community of the Basque Country, known as Euskadi in Basque, and situated in the northeastern part of Spain. Twenty-seven percent of the population speaks Basque- an ancestral language isolate to its people that is believed to be one of the few surviving pre-Indo-European languages in Europe. Its origin is not known.
With its three provinces, Araba, Gipuzkoa and Bizkaia, the region is culturally known today for its cuisine, its rural sports agriculture and fishing, and for its economic success (ranking first in Spain in terms of per capita income).
Hamilton College Academic Year in Spain offers students the opportunity to develop true linguistic proficiency and to experience the many facets of Spanish life.
The group’s visit started in San Sebastián (Donostia), the capital of Gipuzkoa, and a coastal city only 20 km from France. The students were able to watch the Basque sport Jai Alai (Pelota Vasca), and learn how to play it. San Sebastián’s main economic activities are commerce and tourism, being one of the most famous tourist destinations in Spain since Isabel II in the 19th century used to go there for vacation and rest. Today it holds the famous International Film Festival of San Sebastian.
Last stop was the city of Bilbao, in the province of Biscay. Bilbao used to be a gritty port and an industrial center during the 19th and 20th century. But in the last 20 years, it has experienced an ongoing social, economic and aesthetic revitalization, which started with the building of the iconic Bilbao Guggenheim Museum, and continued by infrastructure investments.
Besides visiting the Guggenheim Museum, the students were able to hike to the San Juan de Gaztelugatxe hermitage located on an islet connected to the mainland by a man-made bridge. The hermitage, which date from the 10th century (although discoveries indicate that the date might be the 9th century) is dedicated to John the Baptist. Everyone agreed that the views from the islet were worth the hike.