Hannah, studying abroad at Universidad de Salamanca, Salamanca, Spain
¡Hola a tod@s!
For those of you that don’t know me, hey I’m Hannah and I’m reporting to you from sunny Spain at the Universidad de Salamanca! I imagine that most of you reading this are considering Salamanca or at least Spain as a possibility for your year abroad or maybe you’re doing what I did and panic-reading everything you can find hoping that it’ll give you the magic answer. To all of you who fall into the second category: relax, it’s going to be fine. Oh, and there’s no magic answer, trust me I spent a long time trying to find it. Because here’s the thing about going abroad: nothing prepares you for the confusion, homesickness and general lack of understanding that it brings. But equally, you’ve never felt so elated about managing to set up a phone contract, getting to the right classroom at the right time or even just having a conversation with the postman. It’s a wild roller-coaster ride but it’s also the most enormous fun and an experience not to be missed! So now that I’ve (hopefully) convinced you all to take the plunge I thought I’d spend a bit of time on what it’s like to live and study here in my new favourite city…
Salamanca is a tiny gem of a city with a population of just 150,000 but home to two universities, two cathedrals, a ridiculous number of tapas bars and some of the most beautiful architecture I’ve ever seen. A place for Spanish tourists rather than hordes of English sun-seekers, this is the place to be if you’re looking for the real Spain and it’s not hard to see how it earned its nickname la ciudad dorada (the golden city). Think Oxbridge but with the famous laidback Spanish attitude and you’ve basically got Salamanca. Also, the nightlife is better and wine is cheaper than water (no joke). A typical night out here will start around 1am, the clubs will get going about 3am and then you’ll stagger home (which will usually be in the next street over) at about 6/7am. This will mess up your sleep schedule no end but trust me it’s worth it!
If you talk to a Salmantino (Salamanca native) they’ll inevitably boast that here you’ll learn the ‘purest’ Spanish in the world because Salamanca is the capital of Castilla y León which is the origin of Castilian Spanish (surprise, surprise). What this means for those of us who aren’t too worried about Spanish accents, is that the Spanish here is clear and easy to understand. At least comparatively, I mean I went to Andalucía the other week and couldn’t understand anyone! Anyways, so Salamanca attracts Spanish language learners from all over the world which means that you’ll be part of a substantial Erasmus community and there are a vast number of companies organising Erasmus parties, day trips and weekends away. Plus the locals are very used to bad accents, noun/adjective disagreement and half-formed sentences. Not only that, but thank goodness most of them seem to possess infinite reserves of patience. Also if they find out you’re a native English speaker you’ll never have a shortage of tutoring opportunities – yay pocket money!
But Salamanca is not just a city for foreigners, the joy of living here is that there’s no clear distinction between the Erasmus students and the locals. With a little bit of effort you can crack that English-speaking habit and you’ll soon reap the rewards in terms of your language learning. Salsa classes twice a week mean I’ve mastered essential vocab like ‘turn’, ‘clap’ and ‘hips’. Living with two Spanish girls I’ve picked up key phrases like ‘whose turn is it to clean the bathroom?’ and ‘when is the water bill due?’ I’ve also found an exchange partner and with her I’m building up an impressive repertoire of Spanish swear words. Obviously I’m returning the favour… But ultimately the best thing for your Spanish is attending classes at the university and although the first week was pretty rough and I had to take two siestas a day, it’s amazing how quickly you adapt. Before long I was writing grammatically incorrect but passable essays on the Spanish constitution or Durkheim’s theory of social facts. Also most of the teachers are really nice and understanding. Some of them will keep you back after class to explain everything nice and slowly while others will treat you as something like a class pet and get you to pronounce the names of all the English authors. Either way it’s nice to be valued!
So I guess I’ll finish with a bit of advice: if you’re dithering about whether to do a year abroad then don’t hesitate – just go for it! It’s a terrifying but wonderful experience and you’ll learn things about other cultures but most importantly learn new skills, make new friends and discover things about yourself. People warn you about not expecting too much from your year abroad and yes it is hard work but it’s also full of travel and tapas and sangria and dancing and I’m having more fun than I ever dared to imagine! So if you’re considering Salamanca as your destination then I can’t rate it highly enough.
That’s all I’ve got space for here but if you’d like to know a bit more about day-to-day life in Salamanca (shameless promotion) you can check out my blog here: https://myyearinsalamanca.wordpress.com or just give me a shout.