La Última Vez

With the completion of my six weeks in Spain, I have learned more about Spanish language and culture than I have during years of classes. Looking back on my time abroad, I was able to meet many of the goals I set out for myself from the beginning. I have an incredibly better understanding of the culture and history, having had many opportunities to experience it firsthand. I have much more confidence when speaking the language, and speaking with native speakers allowed me to learn many of the colloquialisms. While I am still translating back to English in my head, there are many times where I was able to respond to others without thinking through what I was going to say first.

This opportunity has allowed me to experience a different country, its traditions, and its people in a way I have never been able to previously. Not only was I immersed in a Spanish perspective, but taking classes with peers from across the globe exposed me to an entire spectrum of ideas, cultures, and beliefs in a more unaltered way.

For other students planning on participating in this program, I simply suggest taking advantage of any and every opportunity. Just going out for a bite to eat or a walk around the block allows you to hear the language, speak with locals, and take in the surrounding culture. It is a unique and valuable opportunity in that each moment you are learning and practicing, even though it might not seem that way

After this program, I hope to continue to practice communicating in Spanish, so I don’t lose what I’ve done while abroad. Whether that is in class or through a volunteer program or with other Spanish speakers, I hope to continue talking in the language as much as possible. Having this language ability is extremely important, as I hope to practice international law, and would love to travel and work with individuals from different countries.



I’m staring my last week in Spain in the face, and am already feeling nostalgic although I haven’t left yet. My classes are wrapping up with exams and presentations this week, but for some reason it feels like I was just arriving in Salamanca. The last week has had temperatures in the 100s every day, so I am looking forward to returning to air conditioning, something my apartment here lacks.

The last two weekends I have been lucky enough to do some exploring near Salamanca and where I’m staying. My roommates and I visited Los Batuecas, in the Sierra de Francia, and hiked the Camino de Los Rodales. The views of the mountains and surrounding pueblos were beautiful. The “road” we took to get into the mountains is an extremely loose definition of the word. After hiking, we drove a little farther, and visited una piscina natural. The water was extremely cold, but refreshing after two hours of hiking.


This past weekend, we drove to the cities of Segovia and Avila. Segovia is famous for its Roman Aqueduct, city wall, and castle which influenced Disney’s well-known Cinderella castle. The city was beautiful many historical cathedrals and interesting architecture. After leaving Segovia, we traveled to Avila, which is known for the historic walls that surround the city, along with having the most churches per capita in Spain. In both cities we walked around and took in the sights, checked out some of the local shops and art, and drank more cafe.


I’ve enjoyed visiting larger cities like Madrid, along with these smaller, historically-rich towns, and hiking in the Spanish countryside. The variation has allowed me to have many different experiences of Spain without having to travel far.




Spain is well-known for its gastronomía and unique dining schedule, with most restaurants serving lunch around 2 pm, and dinner after 8:30 pm. Most kitchens close in-between and food is not served. This initially was hard to adjust to, as I was used to eating much earlier, and found myself starving and snacking before dinner. At this point I have completely shifted my eating habits; eating dinner at 7 would feel unnaturally early. However, I’m sure I will switch back once arriving home!

While Spain is famous for many dishes, including paella, gazpacho, and cerdo iberico, tapas and tapas hour is one of Spain’s most prevalent traditions. Tapas are small plates or portions of food, that are accompanied by drinks. The word tapa comes from tapar, which means to place something on top of something else. This comes from original tapas, which were generally a piece of bread or toast with some kind of meat or cheese on top. Tapas are often eaten before lunch or before dinner, and bars will participate in tapas hour, with deals when purchasing drinks and tapas, before restaurants officially open for meal time. People often hop from bar to bar drinking and trying food at each place.  They are often eaten standing up or outside on the terrace, in a more casual setting. Tapas are not only a traditional aspect of Spanish cuisine, but they are an integral part of the social life in the country. Tapas allow for friends to spend time together and catch up, and provide engagement with the local community.

I have eaten many tapas since arriving in Spain, ranging from more modern plates like smoked salmon, or duck with goat cheese, to the more traditional Spanish tortilla, which consists of eggs, potatoes, and onions. I enjoy tapas because it allows me to spend time with friends, visit unique parts of the city, and try numerous types of food that I would not otherwise, if they were only served as large plates. Tapas have also helped ensure I am no longer starving throughout the day as I wait for proper dinner time!

A few pictures of tapas I have tried during the last month:






¡Vamos al Capital!

I have finished my third week in Spain and am officially halfway done with the program here. Which means midterms! But at week three I am feeling much more comfortable living in a foreign country where I need half of what is being said to me repeated three times. ¡No pasa nada! I feel less nervous about asking for help or having someone slow down to talk to me. Instead of slightly dreading difficult conversations, I have started looking forward to the challenge and the learning experience they provide. When I tell people I am a student here for the summer to learn Spanish they are often sympathetic and I have finally “perfected” how to order food and drinks, although gaining the attention of the waiter with a well-placed “PERDON” remains a bit of a mystery.

This past weekend I visited Madrid, the capitol of Spain. I managed the public transportation system much better this trip, than when coming from the airport the first time. I had a lot to pack into one weekend, and tried to fit in as many activities as possible. I started with a lot of art, and visited the Prado and the Reina Sofia. I saw Pablo Picasso’s famous “Guernica”; the painting was much bigger than I had been expecting, along with some interesting Dali creations, the Last Supper, and the Garden of Earthly Delights. I visited el Palacio, which is apparently bigger than Buckingham Palace, and the beautiful gardens next to it.

View of the Palace

We also visited Temple de Debod, an Egyptian temple that was brought from Egypt and reassembled in Madrid for its preservation.

My roommates and I walked around some of the neighborhoods within the city, including Malasaña and La Latina. We checked out different vintage shops and the markets and stands that took up every corner. We also made it a priority to eat a lot of incredible food. We ate outside at the Plaza in addition to an indoor market that had tapas ranging from olive kabobs to giant macaroons to burrata with fig and Iberian ham.


El Mercado San Miguel y un ejemplo de los tapas

I tried Paella, a traditional Spanish dish with rice, vegetables, and seafood, for the first time, and although I had not been expecting to like it that much, I thought it was delicious. I also ate a meal at Botin, which is known as the oldest operating restaurant in the world. It was an incredible building, with the tables on different levels down the stairs in small brick-laid rooms. We spent some time at a rooftop bar, Azotea del Circulo, which had amazing views overlooking the entire city.


Rooftop Bar

I loved Madrid, in the sense that there was so much to experience and observe. However, almost everyone spoke English, and when I would speak in Spanish they would almost always respond in English, even if I continued to use Spanish. I wasn’t exactly sure how to feel about that, but it made me think studying in Salamanca, which is much smaller than Madrid was a good decision, since less locals speak English or are inclined to do so.

San Fermin

Sanfermines, or the Running of the Bulls may be one of Spain’s most famous traditions, well-known throughout the world and hosted annually for a week each July. The celebrations take place in Pamplona, where over a million people gather each year to participate, watch, and party during the festival. The fiesta draws foreigners and locals alike, and other cities throughout Spain often host similar events during the year. Most famously, six bulls are released, while hundreds of people run in front of them through the narrow, old streets. Other traditions of the festival include “el chupinazo”, a rocket that is set off to signal the beginning of the week, and “Pobre de Mi”, a song sung at each closing ceremony. Each night to conclude the day there are fireworks and bullfights, in which the bulls that ran earlier are killed.

The 2018 San Fermin festival occurred last week, and was a topic of discussion in many of my classes. The natives I talked to were all of the same opinion regarding the festival; they believed it to be cruel and unnecessary, yet acknowledged the tradition and history behind it. This dichotomy is what creates some of the controversy related to the festival and its continuation. Some believe that the cultural and historical aspects of the fiesta do not justify or excuse the cruelty they see present, while others value the preservation of the tradition despite that.






¿Qué Tal Salamanca?

¡Hola de España!

I have officially been in Spain for one week, and it has already been an extremely exciting and incredible experience. My initial excitement upon arriving slowly transformed into nervousness, as I realized my Spanish was much worse than I had been expecting. However, over the short course of one week, I’ve become more and more confident and less worried about making mistakes. While reading signs, menus, and understanding what is being said to me comes easily, actually conversing and speaking out loud still remains somewhat difficult, yet the more opportunities I have to interact with native speakers the better I am becoming.

Although I had initially signed up to live with a host family, there was an unexpected issue with the family I was assigned, and I have been placed in an apartment with six other girls. We are all from different countries, and it has been interesting to engage with peers who have completely different perspectives and experiences than I do. Despite the unexpected, last minute change, this has given me a group of friends to hang out with.

Each morning I attend classes for four hours, which focus on grammar, conversation, writing, and culture. My professors are extremely passionate and personable. This provides a foundation of information I am then able to take with me as I explore the city. During the first week I have gone out for tapas, spent time at the Plaza Mayor, watched the World Cup, tried various forms of jamón ibérico, visited the cathedral, and drank an inordinate amount of cafe con leche.

I also went to an arena and saw traditional bull fighting, which was an entirely new experience for me. For some reason I did not think they would actually kill the bull (I’m not sure why), so it was quite shocking when not only was the bull killed, but it was then brought all around the arena for everyone to look at. I am grateful I was able to attend something so far out of my normal sphere of activities, and learn more about a culture and its history in a different way than I normally could. I’m excited for what the next weeks will hold, and am intending to continue to experience all that I can while I’m here!