Who knew that I could fall in love with one city in just a few weeks? In January of 2018, I traveled to – and fell in love with – the Spanish city of Salamanca. For three weeks I was able to study Spanish at a university, stay with a host family, go on cultural excursions and do so much more. This was my first time traveling abroad, so initially, I was both nervous and excited about going on this J-Term study tour. But now I no longer get nervous about the idea of going abroad because I can’t stop thinking about where I’ll go next! There were so many good memories I took away from Salamanca, but I created a top five list of the most memorable moments.
1. The Food
I’m a super picky eater, but hey, when in Rome (or Spain, technically). The host family I stayed with prepared three meals a day for both me and my roommate. Out of all of them, paella was my favorite. Paella is a Spanish dish that often consists of a mixture of rice, chicken, seafood, sausage and bell peppers. This may sound like a simple dish that can be recreated in America, but there was something about eating it in Spain that made it taste so much better!
2. Going Shopping
How coincidental is it that a shopaholic like myself arrives in Spain the week during the biggest sales of the year? Instead of a coincidence, I think it was destiny. When I arrived in Salamanca, every store was having a big sale. It turns out that January is pretty much the top discount month and one of the best times to shop. Some people even compare it to Black Friday. Naturally, I took advantage of these sales and bought lots of clothes, which made packing for my return home a nightmare. Nine months later and I still can’t figure out how I fit everything in my suitcase.
3. The University of Salamanca
Studying Spanish at the University of Salamanca was a little stressful, but absolutely worth it. I liked the teaching style of my professors – they really care about their students and they want you to walk out of their class a confident Spanish speaker. Participating in discussions affected your grade the most, but you were never judged if you mispronounced something or used incorrect grammar. Instead, the professors would correct you so you could move on and learn from your mistakes. But one of the most rewarding things about it was the certificate of completion I earned from the university, which is definitely going on my résumé!
4. Cultural Excursions
Going on cultural excursions to learn about Spain’s history, architecture and literature was very interesting. My favorite trip was when we got to visit the statue of Lazarillo de Tormes. La vida de Lazarillo de Tormes is a novel about a blind beggar and a little boy who, while working for the beggar, develops his cunning and learns to take on his father’s practices. The special name in Spanish for people like the little boy who takes advantage of others is “picaresca.” So, if you ever find someone trying to take advantage of you, picaresca is the best way to describe them.
Salamanca is a city that never sleeps. They’ll party from sunset until sunrise, and they know how to have a good time. Surprisingly, they played a lot of music in English at the clubs and bars. So, I go to party to songs by Beyoncé, Kesha and even Tupac. Everyone was always friendly and many of the other students from the university went out to these clubs as well, so I knew a lot of people. My most memorable moment was going to karaoke night and singing High School Musical. Not on stage, of course, but in the crowd. However, I was very excited to sing HSM that night.
I’ve made a vow to myself to return to Salamanca someday because of the great experience I had on my J-Term trip. I came back a better Spanish speaker and more culturally aware. I recommend that every Carthage student takes at least one J-Term trip because it’ll honestly change your life and create memories that you’ll never forget.