I think it’s fair enough to say that it’s been a full-on first week since I moved to Salamanca, but I have enjoyed every moment of it (so far). I’m still waiting for something to go wrong, but I am enjoying the bliss of things going smoothly for now, even if it is for a short while.
There is just something about Spain that I love. Every time I visit, I get this feeling which makes me think that it feels so right to be in this country. It’s weird, but I have not experienced this anywhere else. Maybe it’s telling me I made a good decision to come here.
The city is only compact, I have a straight 15-minute walk to get to university or a mere 10-minutes to the Plaza Mayor en route. My house in Perpignan was a handy 2-minute stroll around the corner from the university and I hardly ever needed to walk anywhere. It was half great as it was so close, half not so great as I never was able to stretch my legs outside the torture of gym classes; I ended up walking to campus and back whenever I had a gap in my timetable, even if it were only 30 minutes, which is quite funny when I think about it. Already this week, I have done so much walking, it reminds me of uni life in Sheffield, minus the horrible hills (excellent)!
Most of the city is pedestrianised and easy to navigate. However, it is unbearably cold outside and every conversion starts with the compulsory ¡Que frío! I am looking forward to the weather warming up in the coming months. Although it has rained and there has been sleet, we have been blessed with several sunny days which, although freezing, made it a lot easier to cope with.
My boyfriend James came out with me from the UK to help me settle in for the first week. It has been lovely having him here as I imagine I would be been so much more stressed and nervous about moving here if I were on my own. We were able to explore the shops, cafés, restaurants, etc. I probably wouldn’t have gone to these places if I had been on my own and now I have a solid list of places to go to in future and if I have friends visiting. He left earlier this morning and now I am left alone here to my own devices in this new place. Which is all rather exciting yet daunting at the same time.
Last Tuesday evening, I went to an intercambio de idiomas (language tandem) which is organised every week. We ended up staying four hours and although James doesn’t speak Spanish, he made some serious effort into speaking some of the lingo with the locals which I was quite impressed with. I spoke a lot of Spanish (and some French, which was quite a relief) and was a great way to meet people. Spanish is my weaker language to French, but after a week here, I feel my comprehension has improved and I am getting into the swing of speaking it. The people are friendly here and encourage you to speak the language even if you are struggling and get tongue-twisted. It may sound like a small thing but it helps so much with gaining the confidence to speak when you don’t feel pressured to speak perfectly.
The accent here is beautiful, it is so clear and easy to understand compared to my experiences in other parts of Spain, which means I can actually respond to someone if they speak to me (useful).
I also did two Zumba classes that I am hoping to continue with next week because it is so much cheaper than the classes I used to do back in the UK and try to get in shape for the warmer weather! I also signed myself up for a free beginner’s Flamenco class next Friday night, which will be interesting, although I don’t really know what we are expected to wear.
I am amazed by how many Erasmus trips are available here from different but reputable organisations. Perpignan was a fantastic location to travel and we had so many choices when it came to what we wanted to do during the weekends, being so close to Barcelona, Girona, Montpellier, Nimes, Collioure, Carcassonne… I was spoiled for choice! However, all these trips we organised ourselves via public transport as there wasn’t an Erasmus society. I don’t really feel that we missed out too much though as we still got to do all the things we wanted to, and I explored a good chunk out of the region! Here however, there are organised trips to Morocco, Lisbon, Porto, Madrid, Seville and Grenada, for example. It is easier as all you have to do is get a ticket and turn up, and you don’t really have to worry about train tickets and itinerary on your own and still without spending more than you would independently.
Tomorrow, the ESN has organised a trip to Segovia and Ávila. Segovia looks magical and I am so excited to visit the alcázar (palace). However, it is meant to be EVEN COLDER than Salamanca, so I am wearing my warmest clothes and praying for sunny weather.
The weekend after, I am going to nearby Ciudad Rodrigo for the annual Festival de toros. Although I do not support bullfighting for animal rights reasons, I am going because this is something well-known to be deeply-rooting in Spanish tradition and culture. It will possibly be an upsetting spectacle but it’s difficult to have a strong understanding or opinion about something without being well informed. This was particularly relevant when I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau in July 2014 and I learnt more about the Holocaust, and then to Mt. Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem during August 2014, where I saw the gravestones of young soldiers, who were my age but some even younger, which really hit home to the atrocity of the conflict.
Classes at the university start this Monday, so I have been trawling through the online timetables for la Faculdad de Traducción and la Faculdad de Filología, to write down any classes which interest me that I can try out this coming week. -YES, the information is all online which is a revelation compared to the paper-only system I had last semester. We also have two Erasmus welcome meetings to go to on Monday. I feel that the university seems to have some idea in what they are doing and are on the ball for the Erasmus students arriving this semester, which feels reassuring. It’s almost too good to be true. Also the fact that the university is so beautiful is something I cannot get over either.
Cue pretty pictures of the university! (Inc. Translation and Language buildings where I will be studying)
So far, I am looking at: Spanish-English translation, French language, Portuguese language, French literature and cinema, History and culture of Brazil, Brazilian Portuguese and Portuguese culture. As the credits for these classes are quite big (6 ECTs), I won’t have to take all of them but it’s worth going to more classes than needed in the first weeks to see which classes are better and speak with teachers whether they are okay with Erasmus students taking their class (please accept me, I am a poor Erasmus student). There are more Portuguese classes than what there were in France, so I am taking advantage of that, especially as I am hoping to take a summer course in Portugal this summer!
On top of these classes, I have to take an Intensive Spanish Language Erasmus Programme with the International Office. These classes are two hours, every day for three weeks which start on the 16th February. I have to take a language levelling exam at some point before the course starts, although this has not been indicated anywhere. This is the only issue I have encountered so far but I hope I just hope haven’t missed a deadline for it.