It’s not a goodbye, but more of a “see you later.” These five weeks flew by too fast. I feel like I just stepped off the plane in Barajas, frantically trying to get my luggage, exchange my money, and look for Resident Director Carmen Cuz before the bus left. Now, I can easily navigate the many streets of Salamanca and tell the difference between the euro coins just by the way they feel.
Although I was only in Salamanca for five weeks, I did A LOT. I visited two countries, three of Spain’s autonomous communities, and eight cities. I did so much that it would be impossible to put all of it in one post, so I’ll just highlight some of my favorites:
Portugal – Our first ISA excursion was to Aveiro, Portugal, and I absolutely loved it! Back home in NJ, I live very close to the beach, and the lack of access to a beach in Salamanca was kind of depressing. It was nice to just lay there, relax, and take in the sun for a weekend. We even went on a gondola ride because Aveiro is considered the “Portuguese Venice.” It was SO pretty and definitely a must see if you can get there.
Segovia – This was our second ISA excursion. It was only a day trip, but it was still very cool. Segovia reminded me a lot of Toledo. The aqueduct was incredible, and I enjoyed the legend behind its construction. We also visited El Alcázar, the inspiration for Disney’s Cinderella Castle. It was breathtaking and one Spain’s oldest castles. We somehow climbed all 150+ steps to reach the castle’s top tower.
Guijuelo – Guijuelo is a small town right outside of Salamanca. We saw a Corrida do Redondo, which is a Portuguese style bull-fight. The toreros are actually cavaleiros because they ride horses instead of being on foot. It was definitely great to witness a bull-fight, even if it wasn’t a traditional bull-fight. I chose the Portuguese bull-fight because our group was having trouble organizing a trip to a traditional one.
Along the way I also learned a bunch of things that you should and shouldn’t do in Salamanca. For example, do not be late for class. Classes are only an hour, and your teachers will use EVERY minute of it. Even five minutes late, you could miss an entire section of a lesson. Here are some more tips:
- use “usted” with the people you meet who introduce themselves with their first names, even if they are your host mom or professors. You may want to use usted because it’s respectful, but in some cases, it’s actually disrespectful; usted makes them feel old, and they will tell you every time.
- wear flip-flops around town. It’s a huge target that you’re an outsider. The Spanish only wear flip-flops around the house or to the beach/pool/spa.
- miss a meal, especially la comida. Your host family spends a lot of time preparing food for you, and they expect you to eat it, a lot of it. If you have to miss meal because of travel plans or you just want to hang out with your friends, give your family at least one day’s notice.
- stay in the house on the computer or sleeping all day. It might be normal back in the states, but your host family will think something is wrong with you. Last weekend, I slept in for the first time and took most of the day to relax, my host sister thought I was sick or hated the town. I felt so bad, that I left the house for a few hours and ended up finding some cool places to visit.
- travel in a huge pack of friends; you will never meet anybody that way.
- try the local food – paella, chocolate con churros, gazpacho. A lot of times, people told me to just try things and not ask what was in it. Sometimes you try something great and others you try something, and you never want to eat it again. But you would never know unless you try!
- EXPLORE. There were days after la comida, I would just wander around town and purposely try to get lost. Those were really cool days because I would end up finding a free museum or art gallery. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the culture and architecture in my own way.
- dance the night away. Back home in the states, most clubs/bars close around 2 a.m., but here they don’t get popular until 3 or 4 a.m.! I only stayed out super late once, but it was definitely worth it. There’s just something about dancing all night long with your friends, new and old, that I would not trade for the world.
- MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE LOCAL AND INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS. This is something I regret not doing sooner. I recently started to hang out with my foreign classmates outside of school, and now it is almost time to leave. It is a great way to practice your Spanish because chances are they won’t know English, like we Americans like to assume everybody does. I am so grateful to have met all of my foreign friends. Now I can say I have friends in Germany, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Italy, United Kingdom, France, Holland, and Belgium. Almost all of them have offered me a place to stay if I ever decide to travel again.
Overall, I had a great experience here in Spain. The memories and friends I made are simply irreplaceable, and despite the fact that I am super broke, I would not trade this experience for all the money in the world. Salamanca will forever have a piece of my heart, and I plan to visit all of my new friends in the next few years.