UCSD student’s travels give meaning to research project

Editor’s note: UCSD student and La Jolla Country Day graduate Michael Hirshman, who recently placed second in the university’s 2008 Undergraduate Library Research Prize, sent this correspondence about his experiences studying in Spain.

By Michael Hirshman


Last year, I wrote an 80-page research paper as a UCSD undergraduate on Spanish history. I described how a rebellion in the Basque province of Vizcaya provoked a series of events that brought Spain and Britain to war. The paper won second prize for undergraduate research at UCSD in the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.

This fall, I am continuing my history studies in the northern Spanish port of Santander. Here I am, only an hour away from the site of the tumultuous events in Vizcaya. Living here, I can better appreciate the people and places I described in my historical narrative.

Having grown up in a young city like San Diego, I had instinctively viewed history as happening only in distant places. Here in northern Spain, the immediacy of the history is striking - from the scattered Roman ruins to monuments to Spain’s seafaring past.

As far as I am from La Jolla, my connection to UCSD has provided considerable entree as a young historian here. UCSD has a superb reputation for Spanish history, and it houses the finest archive on the Spanish Civil War outside of Spain.

I have also benefited from support by UCSD’s nationally recognized study abroad office. Our university sends more students abroad than any other UC school, and it often sends more than 100 students to Spain each year. However, many choose to study in better known locales such as Salamanca, Grenada and Madrid. Few venture to Spain’s rainy, but historically rich, northern coast.

I am the only UCSD student undergraduate studying at the University of Cantabria. When my California friends ask me where I am this fall, I tell them I am studying at the one and only Spanish UC.