Monthly Archives: October 2011

Tidbits of Interesting

My classes are going okay. I’m able to understand a lot of what my teachers say (even though it’s in Spanish) because they speak slowly, enunciate, and repeat themselves often. We also review a lot. This means, happily, that I don’t have much homework and have been able to travel and have fun this semester. It also means that I don’t always feel like I’m learning very much, and class can be a bit boring.

However, every once in a while, I’ll learn something super interesting. Here are a few of my favorites…

1. Near a town named Almeria (part of Andalucia, in southern Spain), there is an area that grows almost all of the tomatoes consumed in Europe. In fact, this area grows so many vegetables, that the greenhouses can be seen from space. (Feel free to look for yourself on Google Maps)

2. The “New Cathedral” (La Catedral Nueva, which is connected to La Catedral Vieja) was built beginning in 1513. Why then, on one of the walls, is there this….

No, the builder wasn’t a time traveler. In 1992, some restoration was done to the cathedral and modern figures such as this one were added in empty spots.

3. There is a town in the most western edge of Galicia (a province in northern Spain) called Finisterre. The name was derived from Latin finis terrae, or “fin del tierra” (the end of the land). This is because before Christopher Columbus discovered America, this was thought to be the western-most area before the world/sea ended.

4. In 1492, Queen Isabel of Castilla and Ferdinand of Aragon married. This united their lands and created the country Spain as we know it today – beginning the golden age of Spanish power. Their new coat of arms looked like this:Archivo:Estandarte real de 1492-1508.svg

When Franco won the Civil War and took over in the 1930’s, he chose a coat of arms for Spain that was essentially the same as that of Los Reyes Catolicos.

Archivo:Coat of arms of Spain under Franco.svgThis is (partially) because Franco wanted to emphasize both unity in Spain, as well as the fact that Spain had a monarchy – while there was no king or queen under his leadership, he always intended for Spain to become one again in the future, instead of a republic.

I am excited for this weekend – it is several of my friends’ birthdays here, so we are going to celebrate on Saturday evening. I am also trying to plan a short day trip for either Saturday or Sunday 🙂


Bucket List

One of the first things I did after moving in to my room at the residencia was make a “Bucket List” to put on my bulletin board. Since I’ve been here in Salamanca almost a month (on September 23rd I was in Madrid), it would be fun to show you what I’ve done on the list so far.

My "Bucket List" is up on my bulletin board to remind me what I want to do here!

1. Visit Portugal: I went to Lisbon with ISA a few weeks ago, read more about that in this post.

Andie and me at the castle

2. Go to at least one cultural exhibit/museum in Salamanca

3. Get a library card and read a book in Spanish: I’ve obtained the library card, but am still working on the book part.

My library card!

4. Do some sort of volunteering/community work: this has been much more difficult than I anticipated; I think it has something to do with the bureaucracy and paperwork system in Spain. However, I’m working with the staff at ISA right now and will possibly start volunteering at the Red Cross soon.

5. Find the yarn store: I saw an awesome yarn store one day, but couldn’t find it again. Riley did one day though, and I’m seriously considering taking up knitting again. However, the yarn store only sells yarn, not needles. Where’s a good Hobby Lobby when you need one?

6. Visit Amsterdam

7. Take a tour of Salamanca

8. Eat seafood paella

9. Try a food that sounds/looks disgusting: since I eat whatever the residencia is serving, and that sometimes includes things like squid or pig ribs, I think I can consider this one crossed off. However, I am trying to be much more adventurous with food here.

10. Buy souvenirs: let me know if you want something!

11. Go to the National Park (or hiking elsewhere):  I haven’t quite worked out transportation there. Sometimes I definitely miss having a car.

12. Go dancing/take a dance lesson

13. Take at least 2 or 3 day trips: We were going to go to La Alberca one Sunday, but missed the bus. So instead… I went paddle boating with a bunch of friends. It was a ton of fun, and we definitely can’t wait to do it again.

Bianca and I were on a boat together

Andie, Josh and Riley were on the "slow boat" (we beat them in several paddle boat races)

14. Watch an entire soccer game

15. Follow the Spanish Elections: there will be elections for the new President of Spain on November 20th, I’m super excited to be here while it happens. Believe it or not, they haven’t started campaigning yet (and everyone is already pretty sure who will win) – so different from the US! If you have any interest, this website has a good summary of the politics of the election.

16. Do something fun with the Residencia people

17. Have a successful intercambio meeting

18. Stay out as late as the Spainairds do: that would be 6 or 7am

19. Update blog at least every week: this whole blog thing is a lot harder than I thought it would be, but I’m doing my best guys!

20. Visit the Reina Sofia

21. Go to a movie in Spanish

22. Go to the Lion King with people

23. Speak only Spanish for one whole day

24. Read the entire newspaper

There are newspaper stands like this one all over Salamanca that I buy the newspaper from sometimes

25. Visit a walled town in each country I go to: So far I’ve been to walled towns in Italy, Germany, and Portugual – that leaves Spain and France!

26. Go to Cortes Ingles: The Spanish version of Macy’s, it is one of only department type stores here in Spain.


Two weekends ago, I went with ISA (my program) to Lisbon, Portugal. When I found out that I would be studying in Salamanca, one of the things I was most excited about was how close it was to Portugal. I thought it would be a great opportunity to experience both another city and culture.

Portugal and Spain have been one country on and off, and they have a lot in common. It definitely was a bit different though. One thing I noticed in particular was that the Portuguese are much more outwardly friendly/pushy to everyone; people were always trying to sell you things as you walked down the street, or talking to you. Here in Spain, people are kind, but not necessarily to strangers – you have to get to know someone. The other major difference was the language factor, Portuguese is quite different from Spanish. Having traveled in September meant that not speaking the language wasn’t too different for me though.

Lisbon is a beautiful city. On the first afternoon, we went on a tour of the San Jorge Castle. It was a lot of fun running all around taking pictures and stuff. When I’m in medieval castles like that, I can’t help imagining what it would’ve been like in the Middle Ages when people actually lived there. It’s up on the top of a mountain, and so you could see the city of Lisbon, which was quite cool. That evening, I walked around near our hotel with a bunch of friends.

At the castle - it was really fun to explore.

a bunch of us walking around Lisbon Friday evening

On Saturday, we went to the other main sights in Lisbon – the Monastery of Los Jeronimos, as well as the Tower of Belem. The tower of Belem was lots of fun to see, as you had to walk over a bridge in the ocean/river to get to it. In the afternoon, I was able to go to one of the markets that they have in Portugal. It was essentially an antique/flea market, in which people set up tables and sold random things. It was really cool to walk up and down looking at the “junk”, I wanted lots of it, but as I couldn’t figure out what I’d do with any of it, didn’t buy anything.

It almost looks unreal!


On Sunday, we headed back to Salamanca via a beautiful walled town called Obidos, as well as a monastery in Batalha. Obidos was absolutely beautiful. I love walled towns – they are absolutely beautiful, and almost seems stuck in time which is always cool. One of my favorite activities is walking around the top of the wall, which I luckily got to do in Obidos. The weather was perfect – 80’s – and I wished we could’ve stayed much longer. The Monastery in Batlha, was cool, but at this point I have about reached my limit of churches and monasteries, so I didn’t find it too extraordinary or exciting. I would’ve preferred to skip it and spend more time in Obidos, but that’s the hazard of traveling with a group I suppose.

I am absolutely in love with all walled towns!

Obidos had tons of beautiful flowers, and the weather was perfect.

Overall, it was a great weekend! (Also – photos of Madrid, Toledo and Barcelona are up, Portugal to come soon.)

Christmas in October!

You may remember in one of my very first posts, that I had packed very lightly for the trip. This meant that I had very few clothes to wear here in Spain.

My mom mailed me a package before I arrived in Salamanca, about 3 weeks ago, that contained a bunch of clothes, jewelry, toiletries, etc. To make a long story short, it essentially got lost in customs, and for a while I was afraid I would never see it again.

So, imagine my excitement when I received an email on Monday telling me it was at the ISA office waiting for me! I thought it would be fun to share a few pictures I took as I opened the box.

I was so excited to open my box!

It was packed completely full with goodies.

Toothpaste!!! (I strongly prefer Arm & Hammer toothpaste, which they don't carry in Spain)

So many clothes - I can't wait to wear them all 🙂

In other news, I have been here for almost 3 weeks. I have gotten used to the eating schedule (little breakfast, big lunch at 2, little dinner at 9), and am finally starting to be on a more friendly/conversational basis with some of the kids I live with in the residencia.

Look forward to lots of new pictures soon, last weekend in Lisbon, Portugal I filled up my first memory card. (That means I’ve taken about 1800 pictures so far this trip.) And this weekend, I’m going to San Sebastian, Spain (where my roommate Emily studied last semester) which I am super excited about. Lots of fun adventures to be had here in ESPANA!

Cursos Internacionales

As promised, a little bit about the classes I’m taking!

I am attending the Cursos Internacionales program at the University of Salamanca. What that means is that my classes are taught by USal professors, but in a completely separate program than the normal students. The other students in my classes are primarily from the US, some with ISA (my program), other programs (like AFIS, USAC, etc.) or are here independently. A few students are also from other countries like Japan and Italy.

I have class Monday through Friday at various times throughout the day, and each class two hours long, with class meeting twice weekly. I am taking: History of Spain, Spanish Art History, Business Spanish, and the Economics of Current Spain. All of them except for Current Spain are taught entirely in Spanish. Thus far, my favorite class is probably History of Spain. My teacher is very interesting, and speaks slowly enough and ennunciates enough that I can easily follow and understand her. My Current Spain class is broken into two portions (with two professors) – some instruction regarding basic economics, as well as a discussion of the current politics and things going on in Spain from an economic/political science viewpoint. I loved the first class, which was focused on the second portion, but the basic economics is review for me, and not nearly as interesting.

I am hoping that taking classes in Spanish will slowly help me to further improve my Spanish – some of my professors don’t speak any English, which is quite an interesting experience. (It hasn’t really been a problem at all, as they do a good job explaining things in Spanish, it’s just something I’m not used to at all.)

We don’t have too much homework, especially compared to what I’m used to at home. Instead a very large portion of our grade is based on an end of semester final (between 40 and 60 percent, depending on the class). The other portion is based on attendance and participation, and a few classes have a midterm as well.

The program I'm in through the University of Salamanca is called "Cursos Internacionales" (Courses for International Students) and all my classes are in this building.

What a cool building! (This is where all my classes are)

Finally, on a completely unrelated note – I found this really cool website the other day, and have particularly enjoyed a lot of the Hans Rosling videos. By extention, many of them come from a website called “TED: Ideas Worth Spreading”, which I would also encourage 🙂