Hola to all my fellow Siena Saints, family, and friends!
It’s so mind-blowing to think that as I wrote the title of this blog post, I was entering my fifth week here in the beautiful country of Spain. Time has flown by, and with only a week and a half left, it is saddening to think that my time here is almost over. There is definitely some nostalgia setting in, and I’m starting to think of the little things I’ll miss the most here, like tapas, the friendly people, the warm sense of community in the “city” of Bilbao, walking to class every morning seeing the city skyline, riding the metro almost every day, grabbing a “café con leche, largo de leche” (coffee with milk…but lot’s of milk, more so than coffee) in between classes at the same cafe served by the same woman each day, living at the residence hall in my room at the end of the hallway, and much more. I can honestly say that this has been the most memorable and amazing experience of my life thus far, and I am so grateful to everyone who had a part in me coming here, namely my professor here with me, Dr. Garces, my parents and grandparents, CIDE, Siena, and the study abroad office consisting of Br. Brian, Greg, and Michele. I am forever indebted to all who assisted me and supported my study abroad endeavors - thank you.
This past week has been filled with lots of small trips and miscellaneous fun adventures. The weather was actually gorgeous with the sun out in full blast, providing three great beach days. Each day, I visited a different beach along the northern shore of Spain, and each beach belongs to a different coastal community of the Greater Bilbao area; all are accessible by metro, making it easy to get to the beaches. These beaches, Arrigunaga, Ereaga, and Sopelana, are picturesque; the cliffs surrounding them are breathtaking, and I even got to hike while at the beach one day on the cliffs, walking out to the northernmost point in the area, Punta Galea. The views were amazing, and the hike was definitely worthwhile!
I also participated in another round of indulging in pinxtos, Bilbao’s tapas, in the Old Quarter with my friends; this time I tried a quesadilla (yes, more Mexican than Spanish) and a small bite-sized egg, ham, sausage, and cheese biscuit-type tapa - yummy! Furthermore, I made a visit to the mall to check out the end of the rebajas (big rebates in the month of July) and was able to buy two shirts for very reasonable prices. I also went with my friends to a Mexican restaurant (yes in Spain) for some great quesadillas and nachos (I know, what a traitor move). On Saturday, my friends and I visited the local aquarium, which boasted many different species of fish native to the Greater Bilbao area, a really neat sight to see and learn about; while there in the downtown beach area, we walked along the water and took in some great sights!
Today, my friends and I went to another downtown beach locale where there is a famous bridge called the Puente Colgante, which literally means “hanging bridge.” It retains this name because it offers a hanging sort of ferry/transporter across from one side of the bridge (one town) to the other side of the bridge (another town); the Bilbao River separates the two pieces of land. So, this ferry-like transporter is suspended from the bridge, hanging and tethered, and it has been in operation for decades. It transports people every few minutes across the water, and a few cars can travel each trip, too. The trip across the water only lasts about two minutes, but it is so different and exhilarating! When you look down, you just see the water below you! My friends and I thoroughly enjoyed making this trip across the river and back, huddling together at first but then feeling confident, enjoying this ride suspended above the water in this small, hanging compartment! While in the area, we shopped a bit and walked along the river, grabbing the locally-famous “bollo de mantequilla” (roll with butter, covered in sugar - amazing and delicious!) and trying a kebab; the kebab is not meat on a stick, like in the US, but instead is chicken and all sorts of vegetables and special sauces in a gyro-like roll/wrap - very interesting! The day was very enjoyable, and I have now crossed off most of the things that were on my bucket-list to do/see while in Bilbao/Spain!
The week ahead brings the last full week of classes before final exams at the start of next week. I head home next Wednesday, July 30; I don’t want to think about it yet, though! This week will also be full of small, mini-adventures, for sure. Last but not least, I will be traveling to Barcelona this coming weekend, and I am super excited to see all of the sights that this magnificent, huge city has to offer!
I hope everyone back in the US or abroad is enjoying their time/the summer, and I’m wishing all my fellow Saints, friends, and family well! I will update after the Barcelona trip/before I leave, for one last time!
- Valerie Zeffiro
Difficult to see, but this is the hanging ferry-like transporter approaching from the other side of the bridge/water!
The Hanging Bridge.
The Hanging Bridge.
The Hanging Bridge.
Quesadillas at the Mexican Restaurant in Spain!
post-hike to get up to these amazing views!
view of Bilbao from my morning walk to class!
Arrigunaga Beach from above on the hike.
Plaza Nueva for tapas.
View along the waterway.
The Puente Colgante (hanging bridge)!
Hello loyal blog readers,
Time is moving quickly as I only have two weeks left in D.C. I am not ready to leave! As usual, I had a great time since my last blog update. I spent the Fourth of July weekend visiting my aunt and cousin in Virginia Beach. It was so nice spending quality time together and catching up on life.
I received a really substantive and interesting project from Professor Leesa Klepper. Spring 2015 she is teaching a comparative health law class so I am looking at the different health care systems from countries around the world. I am analyzing whether each system is effective or not. I will then take the information and update her syllabus. Professor Klepper has been such a great person to work for. She answers all of my law school questions and she gives great advice on the application process. She even went out of her way to help me update my resume. This Sunday she has invited Steven and I to a bbq at her house with her family. I look forward to that and I hope to keep in touch with her when this experience is over.
I’ve also been busy attending different events. I went to the law firm Arnold and Porter for a D.C. Bar Supreme Court Wrap Up lunch event. Different journalists were talking about the major cases the court decided this term and what they expect for next year. The firm was very large and very beautiful. I sat at a table with lawyers from the EEOC so it was also a great chance to network. One of the highlights of last week was going to the Montgomery County Circuit Court. Steven and I went with a group of international students from Turkey to Judge Mason’s Court. There were pre-trial motions from a murder case where a husband and a wife allegedly killed the husband’s ex-wife. The attorneys were arguing for a separate trial but the judge did not grant that request. It was my first time seeing alleged murderers in court so I was intrigued by their demeanor. It was great hearing the arguments from both the defense and the state lawyers.
Since I am in D.C. I thought it would be very beneficial to check out the other law schools in the area. On Friday, I had the chance to attend an info session with admissions at Georgetown Law. They are currently ranked as the 13th best law school. The school itself was absolutely beautiful. It has five buildings and a three-story gym! The info session was as informative as I could of hoped for. Allison, the director of admissions, talked about what makes Georgetown law unique and what they look for in applicants. She told me what the most important parts of the application are, and how to make my application stand out.
This past weekend I went to Jazz in the Garden, which is live music at the National Gallery of Art. The law and government’s dean fellow, Lillie, invited me. I was able to talk to her friends about their law school experiences thus far and about their interests in law. I had a great time. Lillie is a rising 2L student who has made my experience in Washington great. I hope to stay in touch with her as well.
Finally, Dr. Cutler visited Steven and I today. We went to lunch and chatted about our time in D.C. I was very excited to update him on everything I’ve been doing. I owe this experience to him, and I cannot put into words how appreciative I am. I will write again soon!
Hola to all my friends, family, and fellow Saints!
It’s hard to believe it has been three weeks so far! Today marks the start of my fourth week here, and time has literally flown by. It’s so bittersweet because with each passing day, I look to the next full of adventure and activities, but that only means it’s closer to the time I must leave this beautiful country.
This past week was full of many new adventures with my new friends here! Some highlights include a trip to a local beach called “Las Arenas” (“the sands” in Spanish) for some beautiful views of the Port of Bilbao and tanning time, of course; a visit to the cultural center and contemporary arts museum here in Bilbao; some more shopping during “rebajas” time (rebates this month!); some pinxtos (tapas) eating in the Old Quarter; and an amazing ride up the mountains via funicular (a kind of street car/cable car - so so cool!) to get some breathtaking views of Bilbao as a whole!
One of the main highlights of this week was going to the San Fermin festival in Pamplona, a nearby autonomous community. It is a weeklong festival centered on bull fighting, an ancient religious festival, and wine! I was fortunate enough to be able to witness the Running of the Bulls (the Encierro), in which all the bulls run from the starting point through the streets of Pamplona into the Plaza de Toros (bull ring) in order to commence their fighting. It is interesting to note that people do run with the bulls throughout the streets (I know - CRAZY!), which often results in injury and has caused death before when people were not careful and the bulls were unpredictable. Once the bulls are in the stadium, the runners gather around the arena and try to provoke the bulls and fight them, and often they get trampled! It was an interesting sight to see, but it is definitely one of Spain’s traditions that I am a bit wary of! Then, at nighttime, the bulls fight each other, and in the end, all of the bulls die or are killed. The tradition is for all of the pamploneses (people of Pamplona) to don white and red during the festival and at the bull fighting events, so we all did so as well! This experience was definitely unforgettable! The same day we traveled as a group to San Sebastian, a beach town in Spain, which has amazing views and beautiful waters! While only there for a short amount of time, we hiked up a small mountain to get good views of the sea and town! It made for an amazing day. :)
Furthermore, I traveled to a place called San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, an islet (island connected to mainland by a man-made walkway) that contains an old hermitage dedicated to St. John the Baptist. The trip there by bus took about 30 minutes but then between getting out to the islet and coming back to the bus stop, we walked about 8 kilometers!! It was such a long and tiring hike, but it was great exercise and well worth our while. San Juan is an amazingly beautiful place, and the views as one climbs across and up the man-made walkway to get to the hermitage atop the islet are utterly picturesque. I took some great pictures, and it was really fun being atop the islet at the hermitage, exploring and ringing the old church bell, a tradition for all visitors!
Lastly, but certainly not least, I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to France this past weekend with my friends. The trip by bus from Bilbao to the South of France, precisely the beach and tourist town of Biarritz, took approximately three hours. It is interesting to note that since France and Spain are both part of the European Union, there is no need to go through customs and present a passport when traveling past the border; the only need for a passport is when and if a police officer were to do a check and ask one to present his/her passport to ensure safety.
The town of Biarritz is so beautiful and precious, and the French influence is clearly visible! I do not know how to speak French, but I learned some basic words that day in order to successfully get around and order/ask for what I wanted (merci, s’il vous plait, bonjour, etc.)! The architecture is of French style, and it was so interesting being immersed in French culture for a day! My friends and I hiked up to the lighthouse and got some great views of the sea and city, went shopping in the local tourist shops and clothing stores, took a walk to the different beaches around where we relaxed for quite some time while enjoying the gorgeously warm and sunny weather (interesting note - the beaches didn’t quite have sand but instead were more rocky, but the rocks were small and fine enough that they weren’t a nuisance!), and partook of the French staple foods - a croissant that was delicious, a macaroon, coffee, and many other little French goodies/pastries! However, we resorted to our roots during a meal in which we went to an American diner and ate burgers! Needless to say, this trip was perfect and I am so thankful that I had the chance to visit yet another country! Vive la France!
Well, it is the start of another week, and I have some homework to do now for my classes! Hopefully this week brings many more adventures that I can write about next week :). I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying summer!
Best wishes from España!
- Valerie Zeffiro
Bull fighting/provocation of the bulls with all the runners in the ring, in Pamplona!
My friends and I donning white and red in the name of the San Fermin Festival in Pamplona!
By the shore at Las Arenas beach!
Atop the cliffs nearby Biarritz, France!
View of the beach at Biarritz, France!
By the beach in Biarritz, France!
At San Juan!
Atop San Juan!
View at Las Arenas in Bilbao!
Atop the mountains in Bilbao with a spectacular view!
So, I’ve made it to the absolutely beautiful hotel I’ll be staying in for the next three weeks!!!! It’s absolutely amazing and I’m looking forward to sitting and relaxing for a couple hours before everything kicks off!! These next three weeks are going to be non-stop action, so I’m told, so there won’t be too much time to hang out here. But, it’s all going to be more than worth it!!! I can’t believe I’m finally here!!!! XD
Well today’s the day!!!! It’s 4:30 in the morning and I’m at the airport getting ready to head out for Tampa!!! I can’t believe that this day has finally arrived. It’s extremely surreal!! I’m only a couple hours away from meeting the people that are going help me become an even better actor and performer. This is the start of an absolutely life changing adventure. Be ready for more updates later today!!
Hola my fellow Saints,
Over two weeks have passed since I arrived in this gorgeous country. Of those two weeks, I have spent the past week and a half in Bilbao. The city has proven to be such a charm - small enough to feel comfortable, but large enough to find something new to do each and every day (and I mean that, even after classes!). My peers and I constantly struggle between having enough time in one day to see all Spain has to offer, go to class, do our homework, and sleep (it is really difficult!). Spain and her charm always beckon!
There is so much to do here, and in the past week I have done things like eating pinxtos (tapas, as I spoke about in an earlier post) in the Old Quarter of the town; watching street art, theater, and dance part of a week-long festival; and going to the town where the German’s bombed during the Spanish Civil War in order to see Picasso’s painting on display there (“Gernika,” named after the town), the Peace Museum, and a local government’s Assembly House. Interesting fact: Spain is comprised of 17 different autonomous communities and 2 autonomous cities (these are regions/provinces such as our counties in New York State, but then these are divided further into more provinces!) which retain much sovereignty over political and cultural decisions, while still answering to the Spanish parliamentary monarchy system in Madrid.
I also was able to do some shopping this week at the Corte Ingles and Centro Comercial shopping mall, catching the “rebajas” of the month of July; these rebates occur during July and January, only, so I guess I am lucky I am here now! Furthermore, I visited Mundaka, a beach town with such picturesque scenery; it was such a relaxing day, and water was crystal-clear but with really large waves!! Moreover, I went to the Maritime Museum of Bilbao, documenting its past history as a shipbuilding hub and major port, as well as the Bellas Artes (Fine Arts) Museum, which included many paintings and a Japanese art exhibit. While there, I was able to have a thirty-minute long conversation with a lady in Spanish; she just struck up a conversation, and we had a great time exchanging my Spain stories and her New York City stories! Foreigners think New York City is the most amazing place on Earth, while we beg to differ at times! Lastly, celebrating America’s Independence Day, Fourth of July, was very different here, but also so unique! Some local eateries and pubs recognize that there are a great number of US students here studying abroad, and for years, they have had a tradition where on the Fourth of July, they boast an American flag, have open-mic American karaoke, and play the national anthem! This was one of the most unique 4th’s I have ever experienced. :)
Classes are going well, too! I am taking two contemporary Spain culture, politics, economics, and society-based classes, and they complement each other very well, as one puts what we learn into the larger context of Spain’s place in Europe. The classes are small and engaging, and the professors are very down-to-earth, loving the discussion we generate! It must be exciting for them, as it is for us. My Siena professor and advisor, Dr. Marcela Garcés, is one of my professors as she is teaching here this summer through the program! It has been a great time so far.
As I draw this to a close, I’m thinking of all the amazing things I have done, seen, and accomplished in just over two weeks here! However, there are so many more to come, and I will update with my experiences here in Bilbao next week, as well as with some info about a trip to see the Running of the Bulls (basically the national sport) and San Sebastian summer festivals! Also, I am going to France for a day this coming week, and I am super pumped! Stay tuned for more updates, and I hope everyone is having a lovely, relaxing, fun summer abroad and/or in the US at home!
- Valerie Zeffiro
Pinxtos, or tapas. Chorizo sausage in a biscuit.
The city from afar, viewing the landscape and walking bridge, on our way to the Old Quarter.
My nuevas amigas (new friends) and I enjoying Casco Viejo, the Old Quarter!
Hola my Siena Family,
Hi from Bilbao, Spain! I have been in Spain for almost a week now but am just getting around to this post as we have traveled this week but are now settled in Bilbao for good! I now have wifi, and getting back in touch with the world has been great! Spain is an awesome place - a rich culture, friendly people, a beautiful country. So far it is apparent that the culture is very different from that of the US, but in a good way!
The Spaniards regularly gather in celebrations in the streets, go to bed really late, walk A LOT (so they are all so fit!), and engage in the tapas-style eating I described in my first post (update: they really are that good!). Also, the meal-eating schedule is different: breakfast is pretty big, eaten around 8-9am, lunch is almost like a US dinner and is eaten around 2-3pm, and then everyone goes home to take a nap and close business/rest for two hours. Then, everyone opens back up shop, and businesses close around 7pm. In between and afterward, people eat tapas to stave off hunger, and dinner is eaten around 9, 10, or 11pm and is usually light fare. This is very different but awesome!
So far, I have thoroughly enjoyed Spain, and I am very glad I made my choice to study and live here this summer! We first arrived in Madrid and met as a program group of students from all over the US, and we toured there and Segovia from Monday through Wednesday, seeing the Royal Palace in Spain, the famous Museo del Prado (artwork) of Spain, much street life and local attractions in Spain, ancient aqueducts in Segovia, the Alcazar castle in Segovia, cathedrals, and much more! Spain is so wondrous, clean, and magnificently beautiful. The architecture and environment is magical, and the rustic feel is definitely present.
After Madrid, we traveled to our home in Bilbao for the next month or so. It took five hours to travel to the University of Deusto, where I will be living at the Colegio Mayor (like a residence hall and everyone gets his/her own room!) and taking two Spanish culture classes. The University is so beautiful, and it is situated right alongside the Bilbao River, which runs around the city and leads out to the ocean. So far, we have seen the grand Guggenheim Museum of contemporary art (Yoko Ono temporary exhibit was very interesting!), visited the Old Quarter for pinchos (tapas in Bilbao), shopped at the super malls with supermarkets in them, strolled alongside the Gran Via street which abounds with little cafes that I frequent, went to the beach in nearby Plentzia, saw another seaside town of Nerugi, went to an American local rock concert (yes, I know - in Spain!), and attended a street fair/night festival in a local town.
I have seen more sights in one week than I could ever imagine. There is only much more to come, and I am excited for these adventures with my new friends here in Bilbao! Classes start tomorrow afternoon, and I am ready to take on these and much more! Hope everyone is having a great summer back home or abroad! :)
Till next time! Adios!
Me in Segovia by the ancient aqueducts!
The Royal Palace in Madrid
Riverside by the Guggenheim in Bilbao
In Madrid with fellow Siena student, Staci Archambault
Hello all! The past two weeks at WCL have been great. I had the opportunity to sit in on some really interesting and engaging law classes. The highlight of my trip so far was going to the Supreme Court! Professor Wermiel got Steven and I two reserved seats. We sat in the first row and watched Justice Breyer and CJ Roberts hand down decisions. Justice Breyer wrote the opinion of the court on the Aero decision. The court ruled 6-3 that the streaming broadcast TV company Aero is illegal. This means television companies will be able to collect hefty fees for the transmission of their content. CJ Roberts wrote the opinion of the court in Riley v. California and United States v. Wurie, which were decided together. These are two major cellphone privacy cases. The court ruled that police may not search the digital contents of a cellphone taken from a suspect during arrest. It was very exciting hearing this decision in person since I studied both cellphone cases this past semester in Dr. Cutler’s class. I am forever grateful to Professor Wermiel for those seats. It was a really special opportunity and something I will always remember.
I attended a variety of law school classes in both the Institute on Law and Government and the Health Law Institute. Some of the Law and Government classes were: Employment Discrimination, Same Sex Marriage, International Law in U.S. Courts, The CFPB, The SEC, Transparency in the Obama Administration, and Banking Regulations. My favorite classes were Employment Discrimination and The SEC. Emily Stephenson from the EEOC taught the employment discrimination class. We talked about different theories of discrimination and we focused a lot on Title 7, age discrimination, equal pay, and pregnancy discrimination. She shared with us a variety of scenarios that employers have to deal with. She gave us different fact patterns and asked us what we would do in each situation. We had to provide the proper law to back up our claim. Linda Thomsen taught the SEC class. She talked a lot about the enforcement office and how the SEC deals with insider trading and embezzlement. She shared a lot of personal stories and even told me how I could apply for a SEC internship.
The Health Law classes were equally as interesting. I attended a two-day Bioethics session taught by Professor Heidi Gertner. She is a member of the WCL faculty and she was fantastic. She shared a lot of passion for the topics we were learning about. We spent a lot of time talking about the right to live and the right to die. This included a lot of discussions based around abortion and families who have loved ones in a vegetative state. We watched a video on Nancy Cruzan. Nancy was in a terrible car accident at 25, which put her in a vegetative state. After 5 years her parents wanted to take her feeding tube out because they insisted Nancy would not want to live like this. The state wanted to keep her alive. After a long battle her family was finally able to get a court order to remove her feeding tube. It was a very emotional situation and I must say I had to hold myself back from crying. The other two- day session I attended was ARTS (Assisted Reproductive Technologies). The best part of the summer institute was a guest speaker from the ARTS class. Laurie Widerman is a surrogate mother who has carried three babies for families who are not able to have children of their own. This topic was so interesting. Laurie carried babies that were genetically not hers (which I didn’t even know was possible). She expressed how great it was to help families who wanted babies so bad but were physically unable. We also got to see the legal side of things. The surrogate and the parents have a written contract that covers every scenario possible. The parents pay for the surrogates to have their own lawyer, for child care if the surrogate has kids of her own, bed rest time, time missed from work, etc. I didn’t know all the technicalities of this situation and it was great to hear from someone who has been through it.
I have learned so much in the past two weeks! I am very appreciative of all the new professionals I have met. It was really encouraging to hear their stories and to learn about how they became successful in their careers. I am now halfway done with my internship! I look forward to working on some new projects this week.
Hi friends! This week at WCL was awesome. On Monday I attended a lunch panel discussion titled “Women and Politics in the Americas: Advances and Challenges”. Three Congresswomen from Argentina and a Member of the Legislature of the City of Buenos Aires were the guest speakers. They talked about how women have worked to hold higher political positions in Argentina. Argentina currently has a woman president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. It was truly inspiring to hear from women who have worked so hard to accomplish their goals. They spoke with such passion and are dedicated to helping women. The discussion then went on to talk about women politicians in America. Women do not hold nearly as many political positions in America than they do in Argentina. Cynthia Terrell was another speaker representing FairVote USA. She discussed how women have made great strides in America but more still needs to be done.
On Thursday WCL professor Stephen Wermiel invited Steven (the other intern) and I out to dinner. We went to this amazing Spanish restaurant in China Town called Jaleo. I can honestly say it is one of the best restaurants I have ever eaten at. It offers an assortment of tapas, which are small dishes to share. Some of the dishes we had included: rabbit, garlic shrimp, spicy mussels, seafood paella, etc. Chef José Andres was a James Beard Award Winner and was named among the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2012. The conversation was also great. Professor Wermiel gave me great advice on how to find the right law school and how to choose what type of law I want to study. I am so appreciative of that experience.
The major project I worked on this week included helping Professor Leesa Klepper find articles for an advanced seminar class she is teaching in the fall. The class is for students who have completed an externship, which means they have worked in a law setting outside law school. The class meets to help students reflect on their externship. They will be discussing topics such as: how to receive proper feedback, how to communicate with different generations in the workplace, time management, social media, and how to make the right impression. The next step to this project will involve me taking my findings and creating a class syllabus. This project has been very helpful because as I am finding articles, I am also gaining a lot of useful knowledge that will help me in my future professional career.
I had a great weekend because my teammate Abby visited me. She stayed both Friday and Saturday night. We also went out with Steven and some of his hall mates. On Friday we all went to La Tomate, an Italian restaurant in DuPont Circle. I had the mushroom cream sauce pasta, which was delicious. After that we went to this local bookstore which is also a restaurant and lounge. On Saturday we all went to the Smithsonian National Zoo and the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. Both places were great, and also free! The zoo has over 2000 animals. The best part was seeing a monkey swing on a ropes course (pictured above). The Natural History Museum had an exhibit with minerals and gems. It was breathtaking to see all the different colored stones. After a long day of walking around we went to a local restaurant to watch the Italy vs. England soccer game. Go Italy! It is exciting being in D.C. for the world cup because every restaurant is packed with enthusiastic people rooting for their team.
Starting tomorrow I will be attending some actual law classes. There will be two programs running: Health Law and the Program on Law and Government. I am really excited because I get to learn what law school is like before I even go.
Until next week!