|cafe con leche y tapas|
For about two and a half weeks, I have been living in the beautiful city of Salamanca in Spain. I still cannot believe that I am finally living in the country I have always dreamed of visiting. Some of you may remember that Spain was my first choice when I studied abroad as a Rotary Student, however, I got my third choice, which was Chile. Although I do not regret how my first experience studying abroad panned out, I am very thrilled and blessed to be in Spain, ¡por fin!
Just a little background for those of you not familiar with Salamanca, it is located in Northwestern Spain in the region of Castile and Leon. It is home to a few hundred thousand people and about 30,000 students. It has a huge population of international students, making it a very diverse and culturally rich city. The University of Salamanca is the oldest in Spain and the fourth oldest in western university. For this, and many other reasons, it is a very historical city.
|La Plaza Mayor, Salamanca|
|With Momma at Home Lisbon Hostel|
We also visited the town of Sintra for a day. Sintra is about an hour train ride from Lisbon for about $5 there and back. It is well worth the little bit of money! There are a variety of castles to visit and it is a beautiful place to go if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. It is literally a town that looks like it is out of a storybook and the castles are right out of a fairytale. This weekend I have a trip planned to Bilbao, which is on the Northern Coast of Spain. I will remark on that trip in my next blog post!
Now, let's get back to some more of how my experience as an exchange student in Salamanca is going. First off, I am very lucky to have a very kind host mom that has taken me and my roommate in as her own children. Host families, in my opinion, are a huge part of a study abroad experience. Essentially, you will most likely leave the country you studied abroad in with a new "family." I am lucky enough to have two Chilean "families" from my previous study abroad experiences and I am confident that I will leave Spain with a Spanish "family" as well.
|Alcázar of Segovia|
Besides the classes we have daily, there are also excursions to other cities, visits to museums, etc. that are a part of the class with our professor from WIU. The first excursion we had was to Segovia. This city was the home of Isabel de Catolica (aka the famous Isabel and Ferdinand who sent Christopher Columbus to find the Indies). I am kind of obsessed with these two monarchs and their daughter Kathryn of Aragon (1st wife of Henry VIII), so it was a very magical experience for me. We got to see the Plaza that Isabel was crowned in and the castle that she lived in (this castle was the inspiration for Disney's Cinderella Castle). Walking through that city was literally like walking through history. I cannot describe how much I loved being there, even though it was for a short time. On our way to Segovia, we stopped at Ávila, which is the last completely walled city left in Europe. We had a chance to stand on a hill overlooking the city and take photos of the amazing architecture that has withstood hundreds of years.
One thing I decided to do on this study abroad was to do some different immersive experiences. First off, I got a gym membership the first week of I was in Spain. Now I did do it a little bit to try to keep of the exchange student weight, but also to help me use Spanish and hear Spanish in a more normal daily life activity. It has been a great way to keep my mind focused on Spanish and has even helped me learn some words and phrases. It is also a great way to experience different cultural aspects and meet the local people.
In addition to a gym membership, I am doing a conversation partner program. I am meeting with a female student from one of Salamanca's universities once a week for a conversation hour. This "exchange" is where we talk to each other in the opposite person's language. Therefore, I talk to her in Spanish and she talks to me in English. This is to help each other with the language we are trying to learn and give us an opportunity to have a cultural exchange as well, which doesn't necessarily occur when you are taking language classes abroad. I am excited to do this and hopefully will gain a great friendship from this experience.
I think I covered the majority of what has been going on in my life these past few weeks. I will try to post at least once every two weeks, but when I have time I will do it once a week. I hope you enjoy reading about my experience in Spain! I hope all is well back home in the good ole USA!
¡Hasta el proximo vez!
Until next time!