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.

Arrival to Salamanca

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

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.

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.

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.

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!

Mis Esperanzas

Hola! I have been anticipating this trip all summer and am so happy to finally be here! This is my first time to Spain and Europe and I am loving my experience so far. It is really great to finally be able to use my Spanish outside of the classroom. I am most looking forward to my homestay. One of my main goals of this trip is to increase my Spanish conversational skills and hopefully they will by speaking with my host family. I am also very excited to experience the Spanish culture by eating the food, seeing the sites, and talking with the natives. I have seen a lot in the past few days and can't wait for what is to come!

Hopes for my time in Spain!

I am so happy to finally be here in Spain. I have always loved traveling, but this is the first time I will be in a completely new place for an extended period of time. I hope to improve in all areas of my Spanish skills, but mainly my speaking and listening. I am going to try very hard to engage in conversation with all different people. I am very interested in learning about the culture as well, and look forward to all the classes I will be taking. While Madrid has been amazing so far, I am excited to go to Salamanca and be a part of the everyday life there, rather than a tourist.  I  want to see all the sights in Madrid and Salamanca, and also throughout the entire country! Hopefully I will be able to travel on most weekends to different cities such as Barcelona, Pamplona, Sevilla, and possibly even Portugal. I know that to make the most of this experience I am going to have to branch out of my comfort zone, but I am so excited for this once in a lifetime experience!

hopes for my summer in Spain

I am so excited to finally be here! This is my first time to Spain, and Europe, and I am truly enjoying learning all about the culture and ways of life here. Like most of us, my main goal for this program is to greatly improve my speaking skills. I have used a substantial amount of Spanish here in Madrid, but I hope that I will be forced to use it on a more regular basis once we get to Salamanca. Also, I hope to have a lot of interaction with the people that live in Salamanca, including those I will be living with. I am getting a little nervous for the homestay, but am overall very excited for the experience!

Is this heaven? posiblemente...

I cannot believe I am finally here! AHHHH WE'RE IN SPAAAAAIN :)
Here we are - our first week in Madrid - and I am already having the time of my life! I have been looking forward to my trip to Spain with many high hopes. I'm more than excited to soak up as much of the culture and language as I can throughout the next 6 weeks. Some of the things that I will keep in mind this summer are:
1)Try as many different foods as possible - Spain is famous for it's cuisine and I need to find out what the hype is all about! Good thing I am not a picky-eater..

2) Have a completely open-mind, at all times (good for soaking).
3) Form a good relationship with my host family. If I had to pick one thing, this is what I am most concerned about for sure. Will they speak ANY english??
Despite my minor worries, I know this experience will be unbelievable. Madrid is a beatuiful, outstanding city, and Salamanca will be here before we know it :)

What I Hope to Gain

I am very excited to finally be in Spain and experiencing the language and culture firsthand! It's very different from home, but I am beginning to enjoy the differences more and more each day. Studying abroad provides endless possibilities for learning and personal growth, and I don't want to miss out on anything. Like everybody else, I hope to further my language skills. While I'm here, I plan on becoming as fully immersed as possible in the culture and language, because that is how fluency and proficiency really develop. I will admit that I'm a bit nervous about living with a family, but I plan on going in with a good attitude and an open mind. It will be eye-opening and a lot of fun. By the end of the program, I hope to be able to switch easily between thinking in English and thinking in Spanish, which will in turn help to improve my speaking skills. Another thing I truly hope for this summer is to meet and connect with as many new people as possible. Madrid is an amazing place, and I can't wait to arrive in Salamanca and see other parts of the country.

Summer Abroad

I just finished a month studying and living in Florence, Italy.  It was the first time I traveled completely solo and I feel as though my language skills improved and I became of part of the culture.  However, my brain is now working in Italian so it has been a little frustrating switching to Spanish, but over the last couple of days I have started to more clearly separate the two languages.  It is a unique experience to be traveling in a different country with a group of old and new friends from America.  Spain is beautiful and rich with culture - one that is completely different from Italy's.  Although this experience is a true opportunity, I feel like I am speaking too much English; I am eager to get to Salamanca and be forced to speak Spanish.  The one advantage of traveling without a group is the that you must rely on only yourself to communicate, yet at time that can also cause a very lonely existence.

Hopes for Spain :)

Hola. Most importantly, I want my Spanish to improve LOTS while I am in Spain. I am really excited to have a home stay where we will be able to converse in Spanish on a daily basis. In particular, I would like my vocabulary to improve so that I am able to carry on conversations with fluent Spanish speakers. I would like to start speaking more Spanish with my friends outside of class. Besides the language, I really want to try new things and learn as much as I can about Spanish culture. I think Madrid is a beautiful city with a lot to offer but I can't wait to get settled into Salamanca, make new friends and try new things :)


I am loving Madrid so much! I was very nervous on the flight here because I was very sick, but I'm so happy to be here now because everything is going great. I am excited to meet my host family, and I know that living with them will cause me to expand my boundaries... I am excited for the classes at la Universidad as well. Trying new foods and visiting new streets everyday has been amazing here in Madrid, and I hope to continue this trend of seeing new things everyday in Salamanca. My biggest problem is speaking (and thinking!) in constant Spanish here. I hope that in Salamanca as I settle into a routine I will break through this and start to dream in Spanish, the ultimate goal.

What I want to learn in Madrid

Before I came I was soo nervous speaking Spanish to strangers and making any type of social faux pas. I've probably made a few mistakes already, but with each one I've learned something new about the culture here. I'm really eager for Madrid to be my stepping stone into spending 5 weeks in Salamanca interacting with my host family daily. I'm glad I've been able to get my feet wet here and now I feel like when Saturday rolls around I'll be more prepared and less nervous to meet my host family.

hopes for my experience in Spain...

I'm really excited to be in Spain and I've really enjoyed everything about Madrid so far! I've always wanted to study abroad in Spain and I'm hoping this will turn out to be a great experience. I'm most looking forward to living with a host family. When I was in third grade, we had an exchange student from Spain and ever since then I always thought it would be really fun to live with another family in another country. The only thing I'm worried about is saying something wrong in Spanish and embarassing myself infront of my family. However, that is part of the reason I chose to study abroad...so that I could improve my communication skills. :)

Monday, June 22, 2009

What I hope to gain from this experience this summer

I am super excited to be living and learning in the Spanish culture for the next 6 weeks. My main goal for this trip is to learn and soak in as much as I can of everything Spanish. I really hope that I use my Spanish language skills and improve them a tremendous deal before I head back to the US because I have such a fantastic opportunity to be really and truly immersed in the language. I want to be comfortable using the language with natives, but especially while ordering food, which I have found is somewhat difficult because I don't have that large of a vocabulary for these dishes. Speaking of food, the food in Spain is so amazingly different than the US. I have been to Spain before, so many of the dishes are familiar, but I want to try many of the other famous foods of the country, as well as eating my favorites that I have already (tortilla patata y el jamon)!

Sunday, June 21, 2009


All the participants are here and are struggling to shake off the effects of jet lag. Yesterday, my colleague Carla Iglesias and I spent the morning shopping at the Rastro Flea Market. Outside of the Plaza Mayor we came across this group playing music. One of the many reasons Madrid is such a wonderful city and a great place to start our adventure in Spain.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

What do I hope to gain from my experiences in Spain this summer?

Hmmm, tough question. One of my passions is studying abroad. As a teenager, I found the experience to be life-changing and therefore chose a profession that would allow me to always be connected to it. It has been 3 years since I last participated on a program and am looking forward to learning more about myself and the fellow members of our community. I hope to gain a greater insight on student interests and concerns so that I can become a better teacher. In the end, even though I might not be able to process it for some time, this experience will teach us all a great deal.

Also, on a less serious note, I want to eat mad amounts of jamón serrano....:-)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


We will use this blog to document our experiences in Spain during the summer term of 2009. Be sure to visit frequently for updates on the participants.

To start off, here's a picture from the last time I was in Spain with a small group of students hiking El Camino de Santiago in 2006.