Travel abroad in Spain proves both rewarding and tumultuous

Chris Chan

Travel abroad in Spain proves both rewarding and tumultuous
by Chris ChanTraveling abroad can become an enriching experience, but not always because it takes you to sanctuaries of security.
Two Lawrence students, Jordan Webster and Becca Neubauer, experienced danger firsthand while visiting Spain during the fall term of 2001. Though both students described their experiences abroad as positive, relating many enjoyable and edifying experiences from their trip, the joys of Spain were marred by terrorist activity.
The individual regions of Spain have a great deal of autonomy, and there are groups that feel that the Basque region of Catalonia deserves to be made into an independent country.
The ETA, which stands for Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (Basque Homeland and Freedom), is a Basque separatist group that has been responsible for many terrorist attacks in Spain for nearly thirty years. Both the positive and the negative aspects of Spain have influenced Webster and Neubauer, providing anecdotes they want to share.
A double major in government and Spanish, Neubauer decided to study in Spain in order to analyze Spanish politics and to perfect her Spanish speaking and writing abilities. Neubauer was particularly interested in the effect the ETA has on the Spanish political arena.
Webster went to Spain because of the recommendation of people who had studied abroad, particularly her parents, who lived in Spain for six months and consider the trip “one of the most prized experiences in their lives.” Webster also has studied Spanish extensively and loves Europe.
Neubauer and Webster lived in Salamanca, a small city in the Castilla y Leon region, approximately two and a half hours northwest of Madrid. About a quarter of Salamanca’s 140,000 residents are students studying at distinguished universities. La Universidad de Salamanca, where Webster studied, was founded in the thirteenth century.
Their hosts treated both Webster and Neubauer very warmly. “They were very welcoming and made me feel like one of the family,” said Neubauer. Webster remembers having conversations with her hostess for hours on end. Her favorite memories include riding in cable cars, eating delectable seafood meals, visiting the cathedral of Santiago de Compestella (believed to house the remains of St. James), viewing museums, participating in the university choir, dancing in discos, and taking trips to the seaside.
The idyllic coast of Spain was marred by the terrorist activity of the ETA. During their stay, there were numerous bombings and bomb threats. Two traffic police officers were murdered, one of whom was pregnant and left behind two children.
Several students who were acquaintances of Webster witnessed the slayings. Another acquaintance lived in an apartment next to the quarters used by terrorists to stockpile explosives. Three ETA members were arrested in Neubauer’s neighborhood. “It was scary to think that I may have passed them in the street,” she comments.
Both Webster and Neubauer were saddened by the horror such groups as the ETA inflict on the Spanish people. “I can’t imagine what it must be like to live with this threat every day of one’s life,” said Webster.
Despite the unsettling activities that mar the studying abroad, Neubauer and Webster both highly recommend the experience. Webster declared, “Many of my experiences were challenging and even uncomfortable, but I found.that [such experiences] were some of the best.”