FOR the past nine years, Princeton University has sent two interns to the Olive Press as part of their International Internships Program.
The project sends undergraduate students from the world-famous Ivy League campus to all corners of the globe for eight weeks of summer work experience.
Soon after applying, we were carted off to ‘Sabi’ (Sabinillas) a small beach town on the southern coast of Spain, with no idea what to expect. But before we knew it, we were caught up in the whirlwind of life at the Olive Press.
As our eight weeks come to a close, here are the highlights of our experience writing for the best expat paper on the Costa del Sol.
At the Olive Press, our voices were heard and our works were published. We were treated as journalists, not just as interns, which motivated us to produce original, engaging pieces. We wrote both hard news stories and features.
Although many of our working days were spent at our desks, typing away on our laptops, the diverse stories in Spain and our weekend travels made even those sedentary hours enjoyable. Many of our assignments allowed us to experience Spanish culture first hand. We wrote about Malaga’s campaign to award Unesco protection to its espetos (sardines roasted on skewers
from boats on the beach) and reported on the new government decree to allow live music in Málaga. And after the last word had been written, we chowed down on these delicious fishy skewers and listened to musica en vivo at a local café.
There were fascinating backstories and quirky details to be explored and reported on at every location we visited.
We were both newcomers in Spain so every chance we saw to explore, we jumped at it.
We made the trek up to the bustling cities of Barcelona and Madrid and climbed the steep hills of Sacromonte under the scorching heat. We drank our way along the sun-kissed beaches of the Costa del Sol. We chased after one of our biggest passions, jamón, in Jabugo and marvelled over beautiful cathedrals and delicious tapas in Sevilla and Córdoba. We also fell in love with the rich culture and history of Granada.
And on our memorable last weekend in Spain, we danced with the locals in flamenco dresses at the famous Feria de Málaga and sipped wines on a balcony overlooking endless vineyards at a bodega in Ronda.
We’ve tackled a lot in the past eight weeks but have yet to set foot in the Basque Country or in Mallorca where an edition of the Olive Press is published every two weeks, which gives us the perfect excuse to return and add to our long list of the strange things we found in Spain! Here’s what stood out for us this time round:
Bonkers dining habits
Figuring out the dining customs has been quite an ordeal, from having to flag down a waiter for everything to the crazy eating hours, with dinner at around 9 or 10pm. Even after eight weeks, dinner at 8pm is the best we managed.
In American restaurants, you walk in for dinner around 6pm and are greeted with free water and bread, courtesy of the restaurant. When we walked into our first restaurant
in Spain at 7pm the waitress gave us a puzzled look (presumably because we were so early) and brought out two bottles of water and a bread basket for which we were charged €5 euros on the bill. Things which are free in the States and which we’ve come to take for granted aren’t free in Spain.
Another surprise was the Spanish penchant for drinking. Whether at lunch or dinner, it was common to see most customers casually downing glasses of vino blanco or cerveza. And while restaurants in America will often round off your meal with free mints, we were taken aback by the shots of red Pacharán liquor that were brought out with the check.
Siestas are for real
On our first day in Spain, we tried to find a place to buy a phone charger at around 3pm. Big mistake. Wandering along the streets of Estepona, we found ourselves faced with closed door after closed door. We hadn’t realised the famous Spanish siesta wasn’t just some archaic piece of trivia we learned in Spanish class but still alive and well!
Then there’s Spain’s Sunday hours … or not. Nothing’s open, as we discovered after depleting our supply of groceries for a week and setting off for Mercadona on a Sunday. Still, dinner out was an unexpected treat.
A festive feast
We had no idea Spain held so many festivals and we came at the best time to enjoy them, during the summer months. Here’s where we mingled with the locals:
Feria de Estepona (3 – 8 de Julio)
Día de la Virgen del Carmen (16 de Julio)
Feria de Málaga (11 – 19 de Agosto)
Festividad de la Asunción de la Virgen (15 de Agosto)
Certamen Mundial del Jamón (10 – 15 de Agosto)
When we applied to the Olive Press, we were unsure about journalism as a career. After eight weeks, we’re still unsure but our passion for investigative journalism and honest reporting has only grown during our time here. We’ve witnessed our tenacious newsroom colleagues asking tough questions on behalf of the victims of medical tragedies, chasing down paedophiles and staying at the office until sunrise to meet press day deadlines, putting all their energies into producing a quality, free newspaper.
As we head back to Princeton, we not only take with us an impressive portfolio of our work but great tans and a newfound appreciation for all the backstage drama, pressure and late nights involved before your paper hits the newsstands.