El Camino de Santiago; Pamplona, Navarra, Spain

“You know the value of every article of merchandise, but if you don’t know the value of your own soul, it’s all foolishness.”  This is a quote from a 13th-century Persian poet named Rumi.  One defining moment for me when I arrived back to Canada from Pamplona, Spain back in June 2014 that I can resonate with this quote is getting rid of material things that I had accumulated but never let go of.  Are they (material items) valuable then myself?  Does it (material items) define who I am?  There were so many questions going through my head and I would like to conclude one part of my personal experiences taking part in Centennial College GEO Language and Culture exchange in Pamplona, Spain on the Centennial College’s Global Experience blog.

Even my time in Pamplona, Spain translate well with this quote on my weekend back-packing trips.  Having relied on whats in my back-pack was all I really needed to survive and live.  What I bring out of these mini-trips were lessons and good memories and a great appreciation for my self-worth.  While the majority of people were just waking up from their slumber or getting much needed sleep, I was ready and wide awake to start my day.  What gave me a jot of energy to go outdoors, live in the moment, and discover more of Spain and ultimately some of myself are the pilgrims that carry their back-pack and hiking sticks early in the mornings while taking the path of the Camino de Santiago nearby the University of Navarra.  The Camino de Santiago is a network of ancient pilgrims pathway that leads to St. James tomb that I had the opportunity to walk part of it.

Soon enough, I discovered the biggest reason to walk the path in the early mornings when the blazing scorching sun in the afternoons made walking the path slightly unbearable.  It helps that the sights of olive groves, grape vineyards, and community gardens filled my eyes during the walk.  To quench my thirst, each town had drinking fountains, with the spout pouring water out of a bronze lion’s mouth or some other creatures.  Carrying my Camino de Santiago “passport”  I entered each town searching for an Albergue, hostel in English, a bar, or a church to get a town’s stamp to officiate that I had been there (the town or the actual place). This was a great gem that I discovered of Spain after the coordinator mention it during my tour of the University of Navarra that I will one day come back to Spain and walk the whole path.

Photo courtesy of Jack Yin

 I am stoked and  ready to walk the el Camino de Santiago on a beautiful Sunday morning, the walk to the mountain was an interesting one. There were towering straw bales along the path, sunflower seedlings sprouting and waiting for the hot summer sun of July, and small trinkets of tokens left by other pilgrims on sea shell markers. The blue and yellow depicts a seashell motif. The rays on the shell symbolizes different pathways that reflect to one single point, St. James tomb. I am holding the passport to collect stamps along the 500 mile path.

Photo courtesy of University of Navarra

The countdown to the San Fermín festival!  Me and my classmates are also standing in front of the shop called Kukuxumusu, flea kiss in Basque language, Pamplona-based clothing and product stores, selling many San Fermín items. 

Photo courtesy of University of Navarra

 My classmates and I are standing in front of the town hall building in Pamplona.

Sin título
Photo courtesy of University of Navarra

First day of school, me and my classmates are standing in front of the entrance to University of Navarra, where I spend three weeks studying Spanish.

So, coming back to Canada, I donated three bags full of quality but slightly worn clothes, recycled magazines and paper clippings of quotes and typography that were my source of inspiration at that time, and utilize my letting go of attachment to items to devote my focus on my academic journey in Massage Therapy at Centennial College and getting more involved with Centennial College extracurricular activities.

September is right around the corner and Centennial College will soon have many school fairs, one of them are school services and what is offered to students.  I made the right decision of taking a moment one day to talk to Pearl Vas, advisor of GEO International Mobility, at the GEO Language and Culture Program booth.  The partnership of Centennial College and the University of Navarra have designed an unparalleled experience for students to discover Spain while studying Spanish in an immersive environment.  This balance between academic and global experience defined me in many ways and taken my thinking to a worldwide view and learning outside the classroom then a one-dimensional view.  With this said, if you are interested I encourage you to take a moment to talk to someone from the GEO booth, read about it on the global experience blog, or talk to past participants.   The opportunities are endless at Centennial College and if something catches your eyes don’t hesitate, take that leap!

Sherry Ing

Massage Therapy Student at Centennial College

GEO Language and Culture Exchange Summer 2014 in Pamplona, Navarra, Spain

28 days later; Pamplona, Navarra, Spain Summer 2014 GEO


Welcome to my blog entry, after spending 28 glorious days studying at University of Navarra in Pamplona, Navarra, Spain with three fellow Centennial College students.

Firstly, from the bottom of my heart I like to say thank you to Yana Avdyeyeva and Pearl Vas, the manager and the advisor of Centennial College GEO International Mobility, respectively.

My name is Sherry Ing and I am going into my 2nd year in the Massage Therapy Program at Centennial College.  I am working towards my goals in becoming a Registered Massage Therapist in Ontario, Canada.  Also I am building knowledge and skills to share it one day and become a better advocate for holistic health care for all.   Along this road, I would like to become an International Massage Therapist and practice worldwide.

Here are a few hints of Pamplona, Navarra, Spain: wine, ciudadella, pinxhos, old town, and running of the bull festival also known as San Fermín.

Before I stepped onto the plane from Toronto, Ontario, Canada to Pamplona, Spain, I had written a personal and a professional goal for this journey.  This is what I had written:

“I like to learn to speak and read Spanish with the long term goal of professional proficiency in Spanish. I like to immerse myself in a different culture and country and break my own limits and barriers, with the long term goal of being comfortable and confident with building stronger relationship with people.”

Twenty-eight days later and the results are wonderful:  I learned to pronounce Spanish words and read Spanish literatures.  I can greet people with a hello, hola; thank you, gracias; excuse me, pardon; how are you?  ¿Cómo estás? ¿Qué tal?; googbye, adiós.

This truly was an immersive cultural experience that I will never forget, from juevinxho nights, siestas, to learning the jai alai sport.  I felt very connected and comfortable with asking for help or directions from locals and trust others when I needed help, such as when I needed help in finding a hostel to stay for the night in Estella, Navarra, Spain when another hostel was full.  Note: For two Sundays, when I am not studying, I walk part of the path of el Camino de Santiago, one of the pilgrimage path to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great.

During the 5 hour taxi ride from Madrid to Pamplona on the first day, I had the opportunity to share a view of the landscapes with three fellow Centennial College students.  I had the chance to see wild orange-red poppies dotting the green hills, counting over 70 windmills spinning their fans, giant shape of the bull every now and then as we zoom by, and miles of miles rolling hills and pine trees.

For the next few weeks, I had the chance of taking the public transit, rented a bicycle and explored Pamplona before and after classes, bought grocery at some of the major food chain; Eroski, Días, BM, and Carrefour, and talked to some locals.  What I observed from these mini-trips were:

  • plenty of green space and bicycle paths
  • public transit is accessible, clean, and easy to use
  • there are car sharing program and bicycle sharing program
  • automobiles are smaller in size
  • there are many round-abouts
  • Zara, the popular retailer store is based in Spain, many people like shopping there
  • Red and pink Geraniums overflow beautifully on balconies
  • Spain is on a hill and there are many outdoor elevators and escalators….and long stair paths
  • at the old town, bars have dried-cured Jamón (ham) decorating the bar
  • there are stores with Ernest Hemingway name due to his contribution in San Fermín recognition after referencing the San Fermín festival in his journal entries and novels
  • on doors, windows, or somewhere closeby there is a cartoon picture of what the store or object you are entering, such as shoe store, pharmacy, and sometimes elevators

Classes were fun!  Muchas Gracias to my professors who were patient and provided encouragements.   The first three weeks were immersive Spanish, A1 (beginners) at the main school building.  From there on, classes were at the Amigos building, build by fund raised for the school by the public.  I had taken Hospitality, Tourism and Experience Management and Spanish Literature: Miguel de Cervantes for my electives.  Here is a small insert of a letter I had written on the first week of Spain, to a friend about my new school and country:

I am writing this email from the schools´student computer in a hallway
that anyone might mistaken for an art gallery.  Its really beautiful
here in Pamplona, Spain.  The university is incredible.

Almost everyone here likes to walk their tiny dogs and jog.  They are
very healthy people.  The senior population are healthy too.

They are big on recycling and composting.  There is less litter here
too and many bins, they are even attached to the poles.

We did a walking tour to the area where the bull run takes place for
the San Fermin festival…so incredible!!


At class, we watched films in Spanish (The Others starring Nicole Kidman), listen to music in Spanish (Libre by Nino Bravo), and I had researched and presented a topic about Flamenco in Spanish.

     El flamenco es la danza folclórica y la música española que se inició en el siglo XVIII. Se conecta a las personas de etnia romaní de área Gitanos de España. Oriundo de la región de Andalucía, en el sur de España, el flamenco es un arte expresivo, que incluye cante, togue, baile y palmas. 

     Curiosamente, la palabra flamenco se puede describir como la llama ¨flame¨ en Inglés, debido a la fuerte expresión emocional de fuego que es el arte del flamenco.Para el artista para alcanzar esta intensidad, utilizan sus brazos, manos y estampación rítmico de los pies. Por otra parte, el flamenco también puede ser un solo o el desempeño del grupo. Como mención, hay diferentes partes en el flamenco y me centraré ahora sólo en la parte del canto flamenco


     Se desarrolló en la época dorada de 1869-1910. Hay tres clasificación en la parte cantada del flamenco que ayuda a distinguir una cierta emoción.  Están Grande, cante intermedio, y chico canto.


     El cante chico es un flamenco más liviano, y puede incluir el uso de una voz más suave; que expresa el amor, el humor subido de tono, y puede ser cantado alegremente con el acompanionment de la guitarra flamenca. Algunos ejemplos del cante chico son fandanges y cantes de ida y vuelta, que tiene influencias de América Latina. 


     Relativamente, las sevillanas está relacionado con el flamenco y la mayoría de los artistas flamencos tener al menos un clásico Sevillana en su repertorio. El estilo origniated como un baile castellano medieval, llamada la seguidilla, que fue adopeted con un estilo flamenco en el siglo xix.


     En conclusión, el flamenco es una forma de danza y música tradicional interesantes de Andalucía, España y puede ser disfrutado por muchos, ya sea como actor o una audiencia.Gracias y espero que hayan disfrutado de la breve presentación del flamencoSi usted tiene alguna pregunta, voy a intentar mi mejor esfuerzo para responder o referirlo a una mejor fuente.


What did you learned about flamenco?  If you do not know Spanish similar to me, I did everything with a dictionary and an online translator.  Before I went to sleep, I read Spanish poetry out loud and recorded myself to listen to my pronunciations.  Also, I borrowed books at the school library and also signed up for a public library card and borrowed books and disc from there too.

To finish this blog entry, I like to say thank you to University of Navarra, the International Summer University coordinator: Nicole Mayes, International coordinator: Mei-Hsin Chen, and the orientation leaders: Natalia and Nachi.

Finally, this experience had challenged me to live outside my elements, if I can do this, you can too, so what are you waiting for? Make that effort in class, spare that hour to write a letter of interest and complete that application form for the GEO program, and tell your friends and family on what you are doing, its unbelievable how many people support you and how many you can inspire to do the same.

Here are significant events that shaped me during this journey in Spain:

  • Walked part of el Camino de Santiago, from Pamplona to Puenta la reina to Estella.  The journey to Estella was a tough one for me, as the weather was sunny and extremely warm.
  • Planned a weekend trip to Bilbao, visited the Guggenheim Museum, designed by Architecture Frank Gehry and hiked San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, a small island in Bakio, Spain in the Basque country.
  • Watched the magic fountain in Barcelona, taught my three friends stand -up paddling in the Mediterranean Sea at Barceloneta
  • Asked local for directions
  • Lived in an apartment with four outgoing girl
  • Horse back riding at Casa Gurbindo, an organization that promotes local food and a school that teaches people agricultural skills
  • Made friends from around the world
  • Unfortunately my digital camera had malfunction every now and then, apologizes for the lack of pictures, but thankfully my amigos were generous and were not hesitant in taking photos for me when I asked

I hope my personal experience has inspire you to take that chance and be open to a new language and culture, please do not hesitate to ask questions and leave a comment.


Sherry Ing

Massage Therapy student at Centennial College

The wonderful place called Pamplona (Roald)


It has been a week since we got to Pamplona and there are still so many things we learn here, but first of all, I want to apologize for not being able to blog until now. There is just so many sights to see, things to learn, and people to meet but not enough time, but nonetheless I am happy that I get to spend two weeks in this wonderful place.

The people I’ve met here so far are really nice, especially my homestay host for she treats me and another student like family. Everyone here is really supportive when it comes to learning Spanish and they are willing to help as long as you are willing to put an effort in learning the language.

School has been interesting also; along with learning a new language I have also gained new friends who are also trying to learn Spanish. At first it takes me a while to understand others when they speak Spanish but now I am able to talk to them a bit in Spanish. I am really looking forward to see how far I can still go  with learning the language even with only a few days left until we go back.

I will have to end it here for now but I will try to blog every time that I can.

I hope everyone is having a great summer!

-Roald Palaya