A month in Salamanca learning Spanish8 September 2014
The best feeling was when I received an email congratulating me on my success in achieving a grant to study abroad. I had the option of choosing where to study as long as it was for at least a month and in a recognised institution. Salamanca seemed ideal for me as I had always wanted to learn Spanish and it was in a good location in the sunshine. I had also learnt from others that the summer course was very popular and that Salamanca was a student town so I was bound to meet loads of people.
During the application process, there were only two stages: stating the level of Spanish you have, as well as specifying the month in which you intend to go.
Salamanca is around 2 and a half hours away from Madrid by direct bus from the airport. Unfortunately, my flight was delayed which meant that I missed my bus. At the time this seemed like an absolute disaster to me as I did not speak any Spanish and I was not allowed to get on the next bus as my ticket was invalid ( it was only valid for the earlier bus). My parents had to buy one online because the ticket office was closed, so I would definitely recommend buying your ticket in advance and leaving plenty of time to find the bus.
After arriving in Salamanca relatively late, I was eager to find my accommodation in order to get a good night’s sleep. However, on Google there are two types of accommodation with the name of my institution therefore I ended up getting a taxi to the wrong one. Fortunately, I met some very nice Italian students who told me it was unlikely that I was staying there as it was full but that they would try and help me get to the right location. I finally arrived at Aula Magna residences… at 2 am!
I wasn’t really sure of what to expect when I sat the exam on the first day and I was really scared that I wouldn’t make any friends. This couldn’t be less true as most people come to study alone and so everyone is really friendly and keen to make friends. On the first day we ended up going out for drinks with 20 of us!
During my time in Salamanca
One thing I noticed about the teaching in Spain was that everything was taught in Spanish from the word go, and as a complete beginner I found it quite difficult to understand, so I would constantly be using a dictionary. However, this actually proved to be really beneficial for me and I think this helped me progress in Spanish. We also did a lot of group work which was really good as it helped me make friends with people in the class more easily. The teaching was done in lessons on a blackboard so this felt a bit strange and old fashioned but the teachers were so enthusiastic it made waking up to the 9am lectures completely worth it. One of our teachers was particularly enthusiastic and would constantly say ‘Muy muy muy bién!’ at literally everything we got right.
My favorite part of the trip was meeting people of different nationalities. I made friends with people from England, Germany, Belgium, Turkey, Italy, Hong Kong, Japan, America, Australia, Lebanon and Holland. At the beginning everyone tried to speak English as most people had studied English at some point in their life but as our Spanish progressed we were able to hold basic conversations in Spanish which was great. The Japanese girls in my class were honestly the nicest people I have ever met. They were so polite and once one of the girls accidentally walked into me and she apologised for about 5 minutes!
Salamanca is relatively small therefore we walked everywhere. We barely used public transport unless it was the weekend when we would go to other nearby cities. We went to Oporto in Portugal and Madrid in Spain. We had the best time in both places and it was so exciting to travel with people who you have only recently made friends with.
I think it is fair to say that I was fairly unlucky whilst travelling and this is true again when we got to Porto. There were no hostels with free beds spare when we arrived and we were even contemplating finding a beach to sleep on. Luckily, our friends who were staying there already said we could sleep in their hostel on the floor in their rooms so although this was not ideal it was better than nothing! So once again, if you intend to go off anywhere, try to book hostels in advance.
In regards to food, most days we would have tapas but as you can imagine, it got boring and so we tried many other things including Paella. The churros in Salamanca were AMAZING. They were probably not the healthiest choice of a snack but the yummiest things ever. The first time we had them, we ordered 6 each not realising how filling they actually were. I had to stay in bed for most of that evening due to being extremely bloated!
Sangria was the ultimate favourite drink, most nights we would all go for a drink of sangria (1.50 for a pint, absolute bargain!) and then spend the nights in the famous club Camelot.
The Spanish are known for their fiestas and this was certainly true for Salamanca! Most children did not go to bed until 2am and the whole city was lively and buzzing until around 3 am. Having dinner in the plaza was very enjoyable as it is a beautiful view and there are usually musicians who come and play whilst you are eating dinner.
The weather was absolutely gorgeous! Every day without fail it would be around 30 degrees which made me happy when I spoke to my friends who were complaining about British weather. Most afternoons were spent by the pool or by a lake, about 45 minutes walk away but worth it – as it was the perfect way to cool down without having to be inside.
One of the most random things about my month is Salamanca was that I actually managed to find a job whilst I was studying there at a nightclub we often went to called ‘Camelot’. The manager organised an interview ‘una entrevista’ for my friend and I and gave us a trial shift the following week. I was actually so proud of this bearing in mind I didn’t speak much Spanish. This was so much fun as I was behind the bar serving customers drinks and cocktails. Unfortunately, the hardest part of the job was taking drink orders from the Spanish customers, unsurprisingly as they spoke too fast and most of the time I could not understand a word of what they were asking for. Nevertheless it was fun and an experience I won’t forget.
Preparing to leave
I honestly had the best month of my life. Saying goodbye to my friends, teacher and class mates was so difficult as we all became so close by the end of it. I have made lifelong friends that I will continue to keep in touch with. After learning Spanish for a month I know I now want to continue learning it as an extra module over the next few years at university. Overall this experience has been life changing and I have grown a lot as a person by becoming more independent and meeting interesting people from so many different cultures.
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