Friday, July 31, 2009

Our summer here in Spain has finally come to an end and I cannot believe it. This summer has flown by and although it feels like so long ago that I arrived here, I can’t believe we’re already done. This has definitely been the best summer of my life! I stayed in an amazing home here in Salamanca, made a ton of great new friends, improved my Spanish, and fell in love with the Spanish culture. I love Spain and everything there is to do here. I am sad about having to leave this great place but I know I will return someday. I have had such an amazing experience here and I truly have grown as an individual. Although I am sad to have to say good bye, I am even more excited for the next 10 days when I will be traveling with three others to Paris, Venice, and Munich. I can’t wait! This is my first time in Europe so I can’t wait to see some of its greatest cities! I am also very excited to get home after my trip and see all of my family and friends that I have been missing so much while here in Spain. My feelings are definitely bittersweet, but I know the fact that I am sad about leaving means that I truly did have an amazing time this summer. Muchas gracias Espana para todo!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

What a Summer

As the final days come to a close I cannot help but reflect on what has been an incredible summer.  These past have far exceeded my expectations of what I thought Spain would be.  I did not come into this program knowing anyone and hoping to meet some nice people who go to school with me.  I accomplished that.  I wanted to travel around Spain, meeting the people and taking in their culture, I did that too.  Also, I wanted to become acquainted with my host family and share in all their customs, while teaching them a few things about Americans.  I think I did both of those as well.
Coming to a new place like this with merely a novice understanding of the language is a difficult thing to do.  I did not have any idea what to expect though, until I got to Madrid and became friends with everyone.  It was such a rewarding experience meeting new people in a foreign place, we all had at least one thing in common.  I will surely miss Spain and all the memories I have made here.

Salamanca's Almost Over :(

So I've just had a really great time in Salamanca, I loved living with my family and actually getting to experience Spanish culture. At first when we were all living in the hotel in Madrid I was afraid that I would only spend time pursuing touristy pursuits. And when I wrote my first post it was definitely my goal to live everyday life here, and after staying in Salamanca for five weeks, I think I can say that I've achieved it! However, looking back, one of my favorite events had to be when we went to go see Harry Potter. It was such a perfect mix of both home and Spain!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Where did the time go??

I can't believe I am leaving Salamanca in two days, and will be back home on Saturday. It seems like just yesterday that I was saying goodbye to my family at the airport to come here. This experience has been amazing. I have learned so much about the language, culture, and myself in such a short time. My time in Salamanca has been better than I could have imagined. My host family is so nice, and I will miss spending time with them during La Comida (lunch) and La Cena (dinner). Although I loved to travel on the weekends, it was always nice to return to Salamanca, and it started to feel like home. Speaking of travelling, I cannot believe all the places I was able to visit. Besides Madrid and Salamanca, I visited Porto (in Portugal), Pamplona, San Sebastian, and Barcelona. Each city was so unique and different, it's hard to pick a favorite! Living in Salamanca and visiting other cities has really made me feel like I am a part of the Spanish culture. Last night, my friend Kelly and I went out for tapas before seeing a movie. We were discussing how when we first got to Spain we had no idea what we were ordering (or eating) for the most part. It seemed like we just kept getting served eggs and ham in different forms! Now, we are accustomed to not only the food, but the style of eating here as well. Eating our first American meal on Saturday will be the weird thing! I hope to spend my last two days here taking in the city with all the wonderful friends I have met. Oh, and of course I will try to consume as much helado (ice cream) as possible. ¡Hasta Luego!

One week left...


I can't believe our trip is finally coming to an end. In some ways I feel like it has flown by but in other ways I feel like I have been here forever. I am really excited to go home and eat American food and see my friends and family. After the program ends, I will be traveling to Barcelona for 3 days. I can't wait to see all of the great sights in Barcelona, especially after hearing the stories from the kids who went on the excursion last weekend.

Last weekend, three friends and I went on the excursion to Lisboa, Barcelona. I LOVED IT! The poeple in Portugal were so nice to us and very willing to help us. We mostly spoke English in Portugal (one cab driver even warned us not to speak Spanish). The city of Lisboa was very pretty because it is on the water and it is very hilly (although it was quite difficult to walk). I had a great time!

Monday, July 27, 2009

last excursion in spain---que triste.


I just got back from my last excursion in Spain before I head to London. I absolutely loved it!!! I think Barcelona was a great city to end with. It was almost like a big summary of everything in Spain. The art museums we visited contained a lot of the art that we have been studying in my art history class. Previously, I thought the class was kind of boring, but after seeing the actual paintings, it completely changed my mind. We also visited a lot of work by Gaudi. I've decided that Gaudi's work basically defines Barcelona. You can visit one park, but the Parc Guell is better. You can see one cathedral, but the Sagrada Family is better. You get the point? The Parc Guell was beautiful and the Sagrada Familia was by far my favorite cathedral. I would love to return in 2030 to see the finished product when it is complete. On Friday night, we went to a tapas restaurant that we learned about in class while watching "On the Road Again" with Anthony Bourdain. It was called Inopia. On the show, Tony and Gwenth Paltrow went to the restaurant and tried pretty much all the different tapas...so we decided to do the same (well, not all of them). We actually saw Gwenth's picture on the wall from when she was there. Then, on Saturday night we went to a music and light show at the fountain outside of one of the museums. It was the perfect way to end our stay in Barcelona; the colorfully lit up fountain in the dark was beautiful.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Portugal


Four of my girlfriends and I just got back from a weekend in Portugal.  I had no expectations when we planned the trip; however, the country blew me away.  The culture is rich, the people are kind, and the scenery is breathtaking.  We spent one day in the city of Lisbon, one on the beach in Caiscus, and made 2 stops in little old pueblos on our drive back.  Our experience was filled with good times - we toured churches and monuments during the mornings and spent the afternoons and evenings shopping on the quaint streets and finding delicious restaurants.  It was the perfect last weekend to my summer excursions in Europe.  I truly cannot believe that I will be home in just one week, and although it is bitter-sweet, I am so excited to spend time with my family and friends before going back to U of M.  Words cannot describe everything I have learned - not only about the world and different cultures, but about myself as an individual.

This Past Week




On Wednesday, I got to see a flamenco performance, and I’m very glad I went. After learning some flamenco technique on the guitar, it was great to hear it live, along with the singer and dancers. The energy and fast passages were very impressive.

This weekend we traveled to Segovia and La Granja. In Segovia, we saw the Roman Aqueduct, which was built around 50 BC without any mortar and spans 813 meters. When it was in use (up until 60 years ago), it could transport 30 liters of water per second to the Alcázar. Now, it is primarily a tourist attraction, but a great one to see. The Alcázar was also incredibly beautiful and very distinct, compared to the other castles we’ve seen here.

Finally, we visited La Granja de San Ildefonso. We toured the palace and then went out to the gardens to see the fountains go off, something that apparently only occurs two times per year! It was quite the experience to be surrounded by tons of people, following a man waving the Spanish flag to signal when the next fountain would go off. In fact, so many people were there that some cars were blocking both exits out of the parking lot. A professor recommended that we wait in the park, and so we joined other tourists there, sitting on boxes and feeling very San Fermin-esque.

I was happy to return to Salamanca, and on Sunday I walked with a friend to El Rastro, the flea market. It was quite a long walk, anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour, but I had an espresso in the morning, so I was feeling good J. It was pretty similar to American flea markets; they sold a variety of things, including bootleg DVDs, fake designer purses, socks, jewelry, and scarves. I was able to find a few gifts for friends there.

This upcoming week, I have two final exams and one project. On Saturday, I will already be back in the United States!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tonight some other girls and I went bowling.  I was excited because unlike everything else in this city, the bowling alley is really close to my house.  We had a really good time even though we all did pretty terribly.  The winning score was a 78.  As much as I have enjoyed all the new things I've gotten to do here, it felt good to do something familiar and american.  
I'm excited to go to Barcelona this weekend.  There are so many interesting things to see there I'm sure it will be a busy weekend.  Since I am leaving thursday night that means I only have six days of class left here! Time has gone so fast, I can't believe it's been nearly five weeks already.  I have really enjoyed my time here in Spain and I definitely have mixed feelings about it coming to an end.  I am looking forward to being able to take a long shower and see my kitties but after all the things to do here, I think Brighton will get really boring within a few days.  
Time has absolutely been flying by here in Spain. Every day I thinking I am falling in love with this culture even more. I truly believe the reverse culture shock when I return to the US will be much greater than the culture shock I had upon arriving here in Spain. I have found myself very well adapted to the large, late lunches and smaller, late dinners here, I definitely think my eating habits will change in the US to reflect this Spanish style. I also love how the Spanish people spend so much time outside. All of the benches of Salamanca are filled with people meeting up with friends and family to socialize and enjoy the outdoors, it’s a really neat thing to see. I can’t believe that there is only one and a half weeks left of this program, I have loved my experience so far and am excited for the next week and a half to come.

This past weekend I spent Friday and Saturday in Salamanca and I finally got to really explore the city. Salamanca is filled with great sites to see! There are many beautiful churches, two amazing cathedrals (which is strange in just one city, the new and the old), a roman bridge built in the 1st century, a crystal building (La Casa Lis), beautiful parks, and much more. I never knew how much there was to see until I finally took the long walk throughout the city that I have been studying in for the past three and a half weeks. It is a blessing to be able to study in a city with so much history. This year is the university’s 800th year of being a university, the history here really just makes the United States seem so young, which it is. I’m sure time will continue to fly by this next week and a half but I really do hope it goes slow.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

My hopes for the immediate future

Since I cannot sleep and my internet is deciding to work tonight I figure I can blog for a little.  This upcoming weekend marks the final one that our group is staying in Salamanca.  What a terrific 4.5 weeks its been so far, an experience I will never forget, though I cannot wait to get home and eat some Taco Bell.  Its difficult to say what has been my favorite part of the trip, but what immediately comes to mind are the week in Madrid with stops at the Prado, the trip to Toledo, running of the bulls, and my vacation to Lisbon.  All these have left lasting memories for me, but the most important thing has been the time I have spent making new friends who share a common appreciation for the Spanish language and culture.  Most 19 and 20 year old kids would not be able to enjoy this experience as much as we have.  Also, the ability to make friends with any local, we have all succeeded with our host families as well.  The trips have been nice, but without a doubt, meeting new people and going out in a foreign country has been extremely rewarding.
This weekend I am off to Sevilla and Granada to see some Muslim architecture and take in the beautiful southern Spain countryside.  This will certainly be one of those places that I enjoy, it looks amazing.  After the program, a few friends, that I have met here, and I plan on going to Barcelona for a few nights.  I would also like to make my way to Valencia, the last stop on my tour of major Spanish cities, and if there is time, southern France and the beach city of Montpellier.  That would be nice, but I will have to see on that one.  Finally its back to Madrid for a night or two.  I would like to see the park again, it was huge and absolutely beautiful.  I will be back in the United States in 2 weeks or so with a summer full of memories.

Excursion to Avila & The Escorial



This past Sunday a group of us took advantage of one of the Cursos Excursions to the city of Avila and the Escorial, a historical royal residence just outside of Madrid. It was a long 12 hour day, but I think everyone really enjoyed doing a little bit of sight seeing - especially since we have been learning about the art and architecture there in our Art History class.

The most interesting part of the Escorial was being able to see all of the tombs of past Spanish Royalty. Everything was made of either marble or gold, it was a shame that we couldn't take picutres inside!
It's hard to believe that we have less than 2 weeks left in Salamanca!

I went to Andulacia too! (And also loved it!)

I went to Andulacia this weekend as well and I absolutely loved it! The tapas in Granada were to die for and the Alhambra was soo cool. It includes an old Muslim palace, a castle and beautiful gardens. The castle was my favorite. You could climb all the way to the top and see a gorgeous view of Granada. However, overall Sevilla was my favorite. The color of the gardens and the buildings inside the Alcanzar was so bright and refreshing—possibly prettier than the buildings and gardens in the Alhambra.

My favorite part of Sevilla, though was definitely the flamenco. If you’re not familiar with flamenco, it’s a performance that always has a guitarist, singer and dancer. The performers use a special type of clapping, finger snapping and feet stomping to beat of the music. How all of the movements and sounds work together is ridiculously impressive. I have never seen flamenco before and it was one of the best performances I have ever seen. We were in a small venue, super close to the performers, and you could feel their passion and energy. If you ever get a chance to come to Spain, I would definitely recommend visiting Sevilla and checking out the flamenco! This show and my time in Sevilla have been some of my favorite memories in Spain!

Photo Slideshow

Several of our pre-paid excursions included Leon, Zamora and Toledo.
They were all beautiful, so I decided to upload a photo slideshow of the photos I took of each city onto youtube.

Enjoy!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sevilla

So I went to Andalucia this weekend with a group of friends and visited Granada and Sevilla. As others from my group have posted, we went to the Alhambra (amazing and so beautiful) in Granada and it was incredibly hot. I enjoyed my time in Granada, especially the free tapas when you order a drink when we went to dinner, but Sevilla is probably the coolest city that I have visited in Spain. It has so many different aspects that allows it to cater to many people; it has the bigger city feel in areas with its many public transit systems (buses and an above ground tram and taxis), small cobblestone streets and neat little alleys, and the most amazing cathedral (third biggest in the world!) and palace that I have ever seen. This alcazar is the coolest place that I have ever been in, and to make matters better, it was free for students! I agree with Christine because I liked this more than the Alhambra, though both are awesome. There was also a really pretty park (I think that it is called Parque María Lucia) that we walked around in and then we noticed these bicycle cart things, so we rented those for a half hour and saw more of the park than we would have otherwise. Connected to the park is the Plaza España, which is beautiful with its fountain, amazing buildings, and bridge.
And, I cannot forget the city´s many Flamenco shows, which my friends and I were able to see a professional one (called tablaos). Later that night, a few of us from the group went out to see the more orginal version of flamenco that is in certain bars in the city (called tabernas). I actually enjoyed the songs and dances in this bar a little bit more than the actual performence, even though the dancers were better and more professional, the small, intimate setting of the taberna showed the roots of flamenco more clearly than the professional version we saw earlier.

Overall, I would recommend anyone to visit this region of Spain, despite the heat (my host mom calls this region horroroso, or horrible, because of the heat, which was above 100 degrees while we were there). Sevilla was fantastic and everyone should visit it. Also, I hope to visit another city of Andalucia called Cordoba sometime in my life because I hear that it is equally as amazing as Sevilla.

An update (finally!)


Everything in Salamanca is going really well. My host family and roommates are very amiable, and we have a lot of fun conversing at meal times. This picture on the right was taken a little while back, when I cooked an "American" meal (i.e., hamburgers, chips, and salad) for my Spanish family as a class assignment. Classes are going well, and I'm absorbing some interesting information about the culture and history of Spain. I am even learning classical and flamenco guitar!

After traveling to Portugal and San Fermin the past two weekends, I was happy to spend this weekend in Salamanca. Laura and I attended "Jazz en la Calle", a festival of open-air jazz performances in Salamanca. We heard Blue Harlem, a group from the UK. They had a very eclectic style; we even heard some Elvis Presley that night!

On Sunday, we traveled by bus to El Escorial. My favorite parts were the library and pantheon. We also visited Ávila and saw some of the architecture we discussed in our art history class. It was overall a good, relaxing weekend. Only two more weeks in Spain!


Andalucia

This past weekend I went to Andalucia with some of my classmates. My first impression was that it was very hot. Despite the heat, I had a great time and absolutely loved it! We went to the Alhambra in Granada and encountered the absolute best ice cream place on our walk home. The Alhambra was goregous. It is huge; therefore, required a lot of walking, but it was definitely worth it. My favorite part was the gardens and the big fountain/pond inside the Palacios Navaries. After Granada, we went to Sevilla. Sevilla was definitely my favorite city. The old streets and colorful buildings were very unique and I didn't feel like I was actually walking in such a big city. On Saturday night, we went to a flamenco show. It was the second flamenco show I've seen and I really enjoyed it. The male dancer was amazing! His feet moved so fast! On Saturday, we also went to the Plaza de Espana and rode bikes in a park. Then on Sunday we visited the Alcazar Palace and gardens, the torre del oro, cathedral, and la giralda. I actually liked the Alcazar Palace more than la Alhambra. It was smaller, but I thought it had more color to it and the fountain in the garden that came from the roof of the building was very impressive considering it was built way before indoor plumbing! The Giralda and the torre del oro had the best views of the city and were the perfect spot to take pictures of the city (and to rest after the long climb to the top). Overall, the weekend was a lot of fun and definitely worth the long bus ride!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Andalucia!

Our group just returned from a phenomenal flamenco performance in beautiful Sevilla. It was at an intimate venue really close to our hostel and only cost 13 euro- totally worth it! The performers were very passionate and it was obvious that they love what they´re doing, making the dance that much more enjoyable for the audience.

Yesterday, we were in Granada and toured the Alhambra. Despite a slight ticket mixup, it was a great visit. I had learned about the Alhambra in my Spanish 232 class, but it was really cool to see the actual site and tour the grounds. The view of the city was unreal and I cannot imagine how pretty it would be at night all lit up. For anyone debating visiting Andalucia, definitely go! We are having a great time :)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

San Fermin

I think everyone had a blast this weekend in Pamplona for San Fermin. However, I also had a lot of fun in San Sebastian and thought that it was BEAUTIFUL. I loved the beach there!

As for Salamanca, I feel like we are definitely getting into a routine here. I love my host family - my senora Maria Jose is amazing and always willing to talk or give us our space - whichever we prefer that day. I do feel like I am slowly turning into a piece of jamon, though. I really eat ham or eggs with every meal. I love ham so it's not a problem but after this trip I don't think I would be sad if I never ate another egg again!

Here is a little video of our San Fermin adventure.. enjoy!


video

This past weekend a majority of our classmates went to Pamplona for the running of the bulls. A group of us staked out a spot at four in the morning to watch the start of the run.

video

Monday, July 13, 2009

Viva España!


I’m finally getting to post something new! The Internet is hard to come by over here…my house had it the first couple of days, then it just disappeared, the university is in and out, and the cafes with Internet aren’t too reliable. But, anyway... Life has been good. Spain is a whole different world – lots of things I’m enjoying and of course those few things I miss about home. Last weekend, two girlfriends and I went to Valencia and spent a gorgeous weekend on the beach. Sunday went to a fabulous aquarium and watched the best dolphin show I have ever seen – I decided I am changing careers and becoming a dolphin trainer. This past weekend was insane! Three of us spent Thursday and Friday nights in Pamplona for San Fermin – definitely one of the best and most unique experiences of my life. We watched the running of the bulls the day the man was gored and died – there was nothing actually said at the festival, just whispers about a possible death, I found that very interesting. We watched in the end arena, where all 8 bulls enter after they run through the streets. It was crazy – a young bull is let out after the other 8 are closed behind a door. This young bull then proceeds to run after and buck everyone that is on the arena floor. Not only was Pamplona just one big party, I also got to see a close girlfriend from home! Spending some time with her was great and it made the experience even more memorable. I loved that San Fermin was a mix of wild party and long standing tradition – everyone dressed in their red and white, chanted the same cheers, and knew specific dances. Saturday we headed to San Sebastian and spent a beautiful day on the beach, using our dirty, Sangria covered Pamplona clothes as towels. We arrived back in Salamanca at 5 am Sunday. These experiences are truly once in a lifetime, and I am grateful for everything I am able to do. After being in Europe since May, it is hard to believe these are my last 3 weeks over here. I am enjoying every minute and trying to learn and grow as I go along.

Movie Night!

Last Wednesday, me and a group of girls decided to have a chill night and go to the movies! After doing a little bit of research, we decided to see a movie called LOL (or full title: Bienvenido al mundo de LOL). I'd say it was under the romantic comedy/drama category, which are my favorite types of movies. It was originally a French film, then it was dubbed over in Spanish, which is perfect for us English speaking students, right? But surprisingly, I understood most of the movie, and even when I couldn't understand a word or phrase, it was easy to figure out in the context of the scene and by the actions of the actors. Also, I heard random phrases that we've learned in class here, and I was really excited because I knew what they meant! 

Overall, I loved the movie, mostly because there was a love story involved, and it was also very humorous at times. It was also funny because the students in the film went to England for a few weeks or so to do a "study abroad" and learn English, and when they got off the bus to meet their host families, it reminded us of what we did just a couple weeks before here in
 Salamanca! I would definitely recommend this movie to any Spanish speaking students and think they would really enjoy it, and I would also be interested in seeing the movie in English to see if I missed anything in it. 

I think we're going to try to make Wednesday nights our "movie night" because we all had a lot of fun, and it was a nice change of pace from going out, plus it is a great learning tool in my opinion! 

This past weekend


This past weekend a few friends and I made the trek to Pamplona for the annual San Fermin festivities.  As we arrived late, we got a late start on what was already a booming party.  Thousands of people crowded the streets in search of a place to sit and a moment to relax.  We walked around for a while and just took in everything that was happening, it was quite a sight.  We stayed up to see el encierro which took place at 8 a.m. on Saturday, as it does everyday during the festival.  It was a sight, hundreds of people running from a pack of bulls, something one must see in their life.
Saturday afternoon we hopped on a bus to San Sebastian to sit by the beach and enjoy a new city.  The ride took only an hour and a half, and was filled with beautiful views of the Spanish countryside.  Upon arriving we headed toward the beach and sat as the tides changed all afternoon.  I got a little burned and am feeling the effects now, but it was all worth it.  Both cities were amazing, the people were ecstatic about the fiesta in Pamplona, and those in San Sebastian were extremely relaxed as they sat by the beach.  Two weeks from now I will be off to Sevilla and Granada, then Barcelona the following weekend, hopefully they can live up to the fun that I had in every other city thus far.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Our classroom

The window of our classroom overlooks one of the most picturesque courtyards in any university setting: the Patio de Escuelas. The building of the Escuelas Mayores, almost six hundred years old, is the highlight of the patio. The belief among students in Salamanca is, if you find the frog on the façade, you will pass your exams. Check out the video of where we meet every day for class.



video

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

an american dinner...

One of our recent homework assignments was to cook an American dish for our family or help them prepare a meal. I decided to attempt cooking something for my family. My family only has a stove with two burners. No oven. No microwave. No microwave oven. It was definitely an interesting task. My senora had to help a little with using the stove, but other than that it was a great experience! From shopping in the market and trying to figure out how to ask for ground beef in spanish to learning that they measure everything in kilograms and 2 kilograms is a lot of meat, I was able to learn a lot and have a lot of fun. My senora actually taught me a few tricks in the kitchen as well. (They really don't like to waste any food!) I made meat loaf, mashed potatoes, green beans, and a fruit salad. I had to cook each dish separately on the stove, but it worked out fine. It was kind of like cooking hamburgers because each piece had to be cooked separately. Needless to say, the dinner turned out to be a success and my family and the two other girls who live in the house enjoyed it!
My weekends of travel have finally begun! I am staying very busy during my stay in Spain and every weekend for the rest of the trip I have travel plans! This past weekend I traveled to Oporto, Portugal with 5 other girls. We had an awesome time! We stayed very busy whether it be soaking up rays at the beach, sightseeing around the town on a mini turist train, eating amazing food at some great restaurants, shopping at a flea market, or wine tasting. As some of you may know, Oporto is the home of Port wine. We traveled to the wine cellars or "caves" and had a tour of the cellars which was very neat and had a very spunky tour guide who kept us laughing the majority of the time. We were able to try both their white and red wine. Here is a video I attached from our presentation in class of us trying the red wine.

video

Primera Semana en Salamanca

So I’ve been in Salamanca for a little over a week now, and I really like it here. It’s a really cool town, and it’s big enough to get the city feel, but not quite as big as Madrid so I feel more like I actually live here. I also know it’s not too big because I’ll see people I know or have met just walking around a lot.  I like how there are parks all over and everything is pretty much in walking distance. Also, there are a lot more young people here it seems like, probably due to the University.

 We’ve done a lot so far here, from taking classes at the University, to going to the pool on really hot days, to shopping and seeing the night life here. I love walking around the Plaza Mayor area at night, because it is lit up so well and there are always people eating, chatting, walking around, or just hanging out. I wish there was some type of plaza in my town, because it’s an easy place to meet and hang out with friends.

I have also gotten a little experience with the transportation here. Last weekend, two of my girlfriends and I went to Valencia and we took the train. It was pretty easy to do, and now I know my way around the station for future travels. Valencia was beautiful too! We went to the beach all day Saturday, and the water was so warm it felt like a bath! We also rented lounge chairs with cushions for the day, so we could totally relax and not worry about getting all sandy (which I hate!).

Overall, I’ve had a great time so far. I think living with a family has helped me to use my Spanish even if it’s just during our meals or during passing. We also have another exchange student living in the house, and she is 16 and from New York. I think it will be nice to have another student here because we can relate to each other, and also help each other with our Spanish.

Monday, July 6, 2009

a trip to Cascais...

This past weekend a few of us went to Cascais, Portugal. It is about thirty minutes from Lisbon and has some of the most beautiful beaches in Portugal! We celebrated the fourth of July on the beach with some traditional hot dogs and fireworks that were actually being set off near by. We also spent one day in Lisbon and visited the Castelo de Sao Jorge.

El Castelo de Sao Jorge


Cascais


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Treat After Class

As we finished meeting today, the sounds of a classical guitar filled the streets. A mere 200 meters from our classroom, outside of the Casa de las Conchas, this musician was playing for the crowd as they walked by.

video

Arrival to Salamanca

We are all here and classes are going full speed ahead.


video

Pintxos (tapas) in Toledo

Eating in Spain is one of the best parts of living in the country. During our day in Toledo, we were treated to baby eels, ham, croquetas, and chistorra all for under 8 euros! This week, the class will be venturing out to local tapas bars to try one of the local delicacies: cochinillo.

video

Students' perspective: Toledo

On Thursday, the entire group took an excursion to Toledo and spent the day walking its narrow streets and visiting the historic synagogues, mosques and churches. Angie and Meredith offer their first impression of the historic city in this short clip.

video

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Madrid: New city, new food

A recent homework assignment required students to try a dish they had never tasted before. Some of the responses were truly adventurous (and tasty): chopitos (fried baby Cuttlefish), patatas bravas (spicy potatoes) and gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp cooked in olive oil). One group recorded their adventure, a staple in Madrid: churros y chocolate. Here's what they had to say. video

What I Hope to Gain from Spain!

I would love to improve my language skills and actually begin to sound like a native speaker. It would be nice to learn how true hispanohablantes speak in real daily life situations instead of just learning Spanish via a text book. Also, I want to absorb the culture of Spain, eat their foods and talk to the people, to learn how life here differs from back home. I've never been to a country that doesn't speak English, so I expect to make a fool out of myself, but I'd still like to take advantage of this situation even I feel uncomfortable. Probably my favorite aspect so far has been the amazing architecture. Learning about the people who built these buildings and what inspired them is on the top of my list. And, of course, I'd love to create close relationships with my host family and meet new people!

What I Hope to Gain

To start off, my name is Steven Kellner and I am going to be a sophomore at the University of Michigan.  I have been studying the spanish language since I was in seventh grade and have always taken a liking to it.  I have traveled to places like Spain, Mexico, and Belize before, all of which speak spanish to some degree.  However, when I visited these places, I was too young in my study of spanish that I was unable to really communicate with the native population in their tongue.  Now, I wish to increase my knowledge and grasp of the language by speaking, listening, and taking note of how the people actually comprehend their language.


This will no doubt be a learning experience for me, I want to take advantage of all the opportunities that this program provides.  I know there are trips and other things to do, and I would like to do them all.  At least, my main goal is to go to Portugal once.  Also, the time I will spend living with a host family will be very interesting.  I enjoy meeting new people and this will be a great way to do so.  I think that I am good with kids and this is an opportunity for me to meet new children and introduce them to things that I like to do like sports and music.


I do not get nervous too often, and I am more excited about this opportunity than scared.  I am really looking forward to meeting many new friends and people from Spain who may not have ever seen some of the things I have.  My time in Salamanca will be both new and fun for me because I like to try new things.  I look forward to this trip and having fun.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What I hope to gain

I am already having a great time here in España and learning a lot.  So far this has been an interesting experience learning more about the Spanish culture through things like shopping and going out to eat and just exploring.  One of my main goals, obviously, is to improve my Spanish language skills.  In order to do this I know that I need to start speaking more Spanish with people outside of class.  Other than that I just hope to try a lot of new things and meet new people.  
So far this trip is off to a good start and I am loving Madrid, so I'm excited to see how it goes and move to Salamanca.

Spain for the Summer!

First of all, I can't believe I'm already in Spain! I feel like I've been planning this trip for so long, and it is finally here! So, I have a lot of things I'd like to gain and accomplish this summer. I definitely want my Spanish (all forms, but especially speaking) to improve. Along with improvement, I also want to feel more comfortable using it and not always have to translate in my head or think about how to say something before I speak. Without a doubt being in Spain forces me to speak it, and there will be (and already have been) difficult/awkward situations where there is a lack of ability to communicate, but it is all part of learning!

So besides the overall goal of improving my Spanish, I am so excited about meeting new people and being in Spain with them! It is an incredible country, from its architecture to the food to the history, and I'm so glad to be with a group of students to enjoy the trip with! I want to try all different kinds of foods and drinks and see things I've never seen before, and I'm pretty much open to anything because I think it will all enhance this experience as a whole. 

Not to write a novel, but another thing I am looking forward to is staying with a host family. I've never done this before, so I'm a little bit nervous and it will all be new to me, but I am excited to live in their house and eat meals with them and communicate as if I were actually living there. 

Overall, I want to have fun, and make sure this is a trip I will always remember! Adios:)

Madrid so far

Because of spring term papers I have only recently been able to relax and enjoy my time here in Madrid. Madrid is a beautiful city with an atmosphere unlike anything I have experienced before. It is my first time outside North America and I am soaking in every second of it. One thing that has surprised me here in Europe is how expensive everything is. I thought that since the euro is so much stronger than the dollar that everything would only cost fewer euros, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. A bottle of water in the US costs about $1 and here in Madrid it costs 1 euro. Besides the ridiculous exchange rate, Madrid is a beautiful place and I am thrilled to be here. From my experiences in spain I hope to improve my proficiency in the spanish language and culture.

Hope. Worry. Excitement.

This is my first time in Spain and also in Europe, so I’m not sure if I was more worried/nervous/stressed or excited. One of my friends asked me the night before leaving Michigan if I was really pumped, and I’m not sure that I truly was. I applied for this program knowing that it would take me out of my comfort zone, out of my routine of doing research and studying in Ann Arbor. I was aware that it would be somewhat challenging, especially because I’m generally soft-spoken, but what better way to practice a language? I really enjoy being at the University of Michigan, and I’m very excited about my post-graduate plans, but this study abroad experience is kind of a once in a lifetime opportunity for me. I’m glad that my research advisor, family, and friends supported me in this decision as well.
Anyways, the reason that I think this experience is so great is because you not only are told about and read about the culture, but experience it first hand. I hope to catch and learn all the little things, like how Madrileños say “Dame” (i.e., “Give me” - very direct) instead of “Quisiera” (i.e., “I would like”). I also hope to experience more of the music and art here. Already, I’m grateful that I was able to see the Annie Leibovitz exhibition and the Stradivarius instruments in the Palacio Real, and I’m very excited to go to the Prado tomorrow. Additionally, I hope to improve my speaking skills, and it’ll be interesting to see how much more comfortable I become speaking in Spanish. One of my old Spanish professors said that he hopes that when I am in Spain, I will open my mouth and roar, and I hope that is the case, haha. I also hope to make a lot of new friends along the way, including all of the U of M students here with me and also my host family in Salamanca. So yes, lots of hopes, but Madrid is definitely living up to all of them. I’m looking forward to the rest of my stay here and also in Salamanca!

Mis esperanzas

I have been having the greatest time the last few days here in Madrid. I am so overjoyed to finally be here after months of waiting. I surprisingly don’t really feel out of place here…I can’t for Spain to really feel like a real ‘home’. I have been to Europe before, but Spain is so unique and I hope to embrace that aspect and run with it. I want to learn as much as I can from the culture and country and try to live like a real Spaniard. As most everyone else, I am really hoping to build up confidence in my speaking skills. Also, I hope to gain a better understanding of vocabulary. It seems all the vocabulary tests in high school have failed me, as I have forgotten the most basic words….. I can’t wait to continue to learn and embrace life here in Spain. I am so excited for Salamanca! :)

While in Spain...

While I'm in Spain, I hope to get as much out of this experience as possible, which includes using the spanish language, interacting with the people who live here, trying all of the foods, experiencing the night life, and learning about some of the history. Coming to Spain and doing the whole tourist thing may be fun and all, but I would much rather do what the locals here would do just so I can get a feel of what a different culture is like; I feel that this trip would be so much more worth while if I can connect with the world of Spain. Today, I saw people playing instruments on the street for money, and it was some of the coolest things I've seen because it gives you much more of an idea of the way that some people here actually live, and I find that kind of thing so very interesting.

What I hope to gain...

Like many people in the program, this is my first time to Europe, so I am thoroughly enjoying the culture and way of life here, as it is completely different than anything I have ever experienced. I am continually learning different aspects of the Spanish lifestyle, and I found that I have grown surprisingly more comfortable in the last few days because I have had to speak the language. Besides improving my conversational skills, I hope to experience the Spanish culture by visiting different areas of the country, as well as meeting new people and sampling all the foods this wonderful country has to offer.

Hopes! And...my first impression of Madrid~


I'm definitely not new to the "study abroad" experience. I've been to Taiwan more times than I can count and stayed there for half a year studying Chinese. That being said, being in Taiwan and being in Spain are such radically different experiences.

If you were in Taipei and were lost, asking someone on the street for directions would more often than not just warrant you a strange look. Here, when I got lost (which was so, so, so many times), there was often someone who was willing to very rapidly (repite por favor?!???) tell me how to get to Sol, or at least the nearest Metro station.

Madrid has got so much to offer. The food is to DIE for, even though I'm not sure if my heart can handle eating such rich, luscious food day in and day out (that's a compliment!).
Although I have to admit that the bidet scared me a little/a lot when I first saw it in the hotel bathroom, I've gone from thinking it as strangely scary to being quirky and useful. For washing my feet.

By the way, I'm sure you guys all already know this, but siesta has to be the best thing that has ever happened to me. Why hasn't the States caught onto this?
And the architectures. The buildings. If they aren't the prettiest things ever...
We have none of those beautiful buildings in the States!!! Oh wait, sorry, forgot we had the Magic Kingdom. Just joking though, the States are pretty, just in a different way. I mean, have you ever seen gorgeous Rococo architecture on the sides of insurance company buildings in the States? Nope? Well they have that in Madrid. : -)



Okay, so Madrid is rightly awesome. But I'm not here just to sight-see and have fun and eat/sleep all day. I've also got things I have to do before I leave.

I've ALWAYS had issues with speaking with native speakers. In class, I had no problems with reading literature and doing workbooks, but when it comes to actively using it, more often then not it's the other person speaking while I'm gaping like a fish and scrambling to find at least one thing to say correctly "en español". So what I'm hoping to find in Spain is an opportunity to use Spanish and to gain confidence in speaking it.
I'm also hoping to get better circumlocution skills. There's no need for any explanation on that.
And you know the rolling 'r'? : -) I'm aiming to be able to make it at least once before I leave. I'm very serious. Dead serious. It's so ridiculous that others can't tell the difference between a dog and the conjuction 'but' when I'm speaking.
Wish me luck on that!