Bilbao is the largest city in the Basque Country, an autonomous region in northern Spain and southern France, with its own language and government independent of the French and Spanish governments. As a result, the people are extremely prideful and nationalistic of their heritage, learning the Basque language, Euskera, before they learn English.
Unlike other large Spanish cities, the portion of Bilbao’s population that could speak even basic English was quite low, which made it a phenomenal place to learn and practice Spanish, simply because there was nothing else to rely upon.
In addition to my Spanish courses, I taught English lessons to local children in my neighborhood part-time. I made a particular bond with a family similar to mine–two working parents with three children, ages four, ten and 11. I began speaking English with them once per week after school, and In April they asked me to move in with them as a full-time teacher until my student visa expired at the end of July. I spent time not only teaching English, but fully taking part in their family from mid-May through July, forming an incredible bond and making an enduring friendship. We continue to keep in contact, and I would have the same position awaiting me for the summer of 2015.
I returned home on July 20, nearly seven months from when I left in January and Bilbao continues to hold a constant place in my heart. I will finish up my Spanish, Global Studies and Political Science majors in May. In the meantime, I am practicing Spanish with my conversation partners and working as an after school Spanish instructor at Prescott Elementary. Mentors served a vital role in making this adventure possible for me, and played an enormous role in the foundation of what will be my eventual career in Spanish instruction and travel. I look forward to serving as a mentor now and in the future.