The Walk to School – Travel Stories

Student Zeke Lloyd ’24 studied in Spain during Summer 2022 as part of CC’s Summer in Spain program, based in Soria. Students live with host families and participate in city life during two summer blocks. In addition to immersive language learning, the program incorporates multiple cultural activities and excursions to places such as Madrid and San Sebastian, to learn about the history and cultures of Spain. Zeke shared stories and images of his summer experience throughout the course.

The main street of Soria is like nothing I have ever seen. I walked along it every day on the commute to school. The four-lane avenue served as a central artery, curving from one end of the town to the other. The most important buildings lay along this street. Every morning I passed an enormous bull-fighting arena, a 17th century Catholic church, and a social security office, where a Spanish flag hung alongside the blue banner of the European Union.

In Colorado Springs, or any other American city, this road’s centrality would make the walk incredibly noisy. But my commute was void of blaring horns, loud motors, and general city raucous. In fact, there was never any traffic. Cars cruised seamlessly through roundabouts, and pedestrians walked across roads without much need for stop signs. There were two things I came to expect on my morning trek: a coolness about 15 degrees lower than the midday heat and a calmness you would only find in a town that has no rush hour.

It was a taste of small-town Spain, a place that has remained uniquely unimpacted by foreign influence. With a population of around 40,000, Soria doesn’t attract much tourism. Its rural location also contributes to this cultural seclusion. Soria sits roughly two hours by car from any major city. 

There is another component of Soria’s lack of tourists: the rarity of English. Shop owners, cashiers, waiters, and many tour guides use only Spanish. This presented one of the greatest challenges on the trip. Few people in our group were fluent; roughly a third of us were beginners.

But perhaps even more difficult than understanding how to speak a language is learning about the cultural context that shaped it. Rural Spanish customs introduced a plethora of habits I was once unfamiliar with. It was not uncommon for dinner to last until 11:00 p.m., and walking was the most common method of transportation. Not to mention, Soria’s location in the middle of Spain’s open plains meant the temperature was frequently above 90 degrees.

Admittedly, the whole experience was intimidating. In a single day I crossed the Atlantic Ocean, met my host family, moved into a new home, and began a life in a foreign country. At the outset, it was difficult not to feel a little isolated.

The first Saturday after classes began, a day when the temperature exceeded 100 degrees, I found myself in an open field surrounded by at least one thousand people, all packed in tightly. The event was part of a series of festivals the town hosted over the summer. Food carts lined the outskirts of the scene, music blared from every direction, and everyone was talking, eating, and dancing. In one area, a group of bulls pranced with spectators watching from on top of the stone wall which enclosed the animals. The entire experience was like nothing I had ever seen. Sweating under the hot sun, I felt incredibly far from home. 

Then, I remembered that I wasn’t alone. Looking around me, I was with a group of ten other CC students, all sitting together in the grass. I only knew a few by name. Afterall, most people on the trip had never met. As we sat steaming under the Spanish sun, the overwhelming novelty of the scene around us did little to stop the conversation from flowing. We all struggled with the same things: communicating and connecting with our host families, and understanding the customs of a new place. Sitting together, we chatted about those difficulties. It made everything seem easier. From that moment on, I didn’t feel so alone.

Colorado Springs was 5,000 miles away, but Soria soon came to feel like a second home. Armed with the confidence that we were exploring this new country together, it didn’t take long for us to get into a normal routine. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we trekked to a dance studio to learn salsa and bachata. Some of us went to an old warehouse to play soccer with local friends on Wednesdays. As our Spanish improved, we found ourselves better able to connect with our host families. Lunches and dinners transformed from quiet, confusing meals into opportunities to laugh, learn, and bond.

When the Fourth of July arrived, we had been abroad for well over a month. That Monday marked the end of a San Juan, an annual five-day festival in Soria. We hadn’t seen much of it; the night before our group had returned from a stay in San Sebastián. And now, with only a week left in class, it was apparent that the trip was coming to an end.

As is traditional for the end of the San Juan, Soria put on fireworks. The serendipity of its coincidence with our Independence Day produced an interesting irony. Fireworks searing the sky served to remind us of home, but in that moment, many of us did not want to leave Spain. The quiet, trafficless city of Soria had captivated our hearts. Gone was the sense of urgency my daily routine once included. It was replaced by lunches that took all afternoon, strolls without destinations along the river, and conversations in Spanish restaurants that lasted late into the night.

By the end, Spain didn’t seem so new. Time spent there just felt like living, which is why our departure felt like such an odd conclusion. It didn’t fit the narrative. There were many parts of the experience which seemed unusual for that reason. Like any tale of travel, our trip did contain elements of a good story. There were protagonists, challenges, and triumphs. But important parts of a clear, classic plotline were missing. There was no call to adventure. There was no major conflict. There was no satisfactory conclusion. We overcame obstacles, and then we found a routine no more unfamiliar than the one we had in the United States. Then we left.

So, in considering my time abroad, the most memorable part was my morning commute.

Stories from a CC Summer in Spain
Castle and Canyon - Our First Excursion in Spain
Traveling Through History - Our Trip to Segovia
A Journey Through Paradise - Our Trip to San Sebastián 
The Final Farewell - Our Last Night in Soria

Report an issue - Last updated: 08/10/2022