Santander and the Smell of Salt Water

Victoria Tonan is a student at the University of Kentucky and an ISA Featured Blogger. Victoria is currently studying abroad with ISA in Santander, Spain.

At the ocean
Looking out at the bay from the Lighthouse of Cabo Mayor

It has now been four full days since I have arrived in the elegant city of Santander, Spain. I started my classes at the Universidad Internacional Menendez Pelayo (UIMP), and I am all settled in with my host family after a whirlwind of an orientation in Madrid and Toledo. Before I left, I  had been preparing for Santander for almost a year. I chose this program ultimately because of the friendly atmosphere, beautiful city center and, of course, for the ocean. I envisioned going to the beach every day between classes and learning how to surf like a Spaniard, but so far, that has not been the case. With my host family, I live about a 40 minute walk from the Playa del Sardinero. I have classes that take up most of my day during the week, but I’m enjoying the experience for what it is and am keeping an open mind.

On the first day of being in Santander, I went on an evening walk with my host mother, Rocio, so she could show me around the city. We walked around the apartment, she showed me places in the city to get ice cream, and then we ended our tour at the coast. I was so happy to be standing by the rail just looking out onto the water; it was the most beautiful sight that I have seen in a long time. Rocio told me that the smell of salt water is her favorite smell in the world, and even though she doesn’t make it to the beach often, she is still connected to the ocean throughout the city; she just smells the air.

I had never even thought about how the residents of Santander view the ocean. Do they see it as a vacation spot for foreigners? Maybe as a place to surf and play? Or is it just a source of delicious seafood? At this point, I really am unsure about the answer to this question, but if I had to guess, their ideas are very similar to mine. I love the ocean, and the smell of salt water is also one of my favorites. Not only is the ocean a fountain of resources, but also a source of happiness and a way of life. I feel connected to the city, just like Rocio, by just breathing the fresh air around me. Maybe one day I will be able to fulfill my oceanic dreams during my study abroad here in Santander; but for now, I am thrilled to be experiencing things I never would have imagined, even if that means just eating fantastic fish for dinner.

I think my stay in Spain will be much better than I ever could have expected.

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