As a student at the University of Salamanca in the summer, there are not a lot of Spanish students in town. Instead, there are TONS of international students (the majority are from the United States, but there is a good variety). Pretty much everyone is enrolled with "Cursos Internacionales" (international classes), which is basically just learning Spanish.
Our group arrived to Salamanca a week before classes officially started in order to get acclimated to the city. We had three days of orientation classes just for our group of 21. After the orientation classes, we took the Cursos Internacionales placement test on July 1. I heard that over 900 students are currently studying with Cursos Internacionales, which means that many people all took the test on the same day. The test places everyone into 4 levels (beginning, intermediate, advanced, and superior) and into class groups within the levels. Most of the people in my study abroad group are Spanish minors back in the States, which means that they needed to get into Advanced in order to get credit for this summer. Thankfully, everyone got into the level that they needed and we started classes at 9am the next morning. Here is a photo of Lynzee and I on our first day of class:
We are living with a host family (older divorced lady) while in Salamanca. We live on the 5th floor in an apartment building across the street from Salamanca's train station, which is about a 25-30 minute walk from our classes. Our house is the farthest of anyone else in our group, but we are getting the best view of the city every day! It is really nice living with a host family because we don't have to worry about preparing food, doing laundry, or paying bills and we get the added bonus of practicing Spanish more. Plus, Vicenta (our host mom) is the cutest lady ever!
For the first two and a half weeks here in Salamanca, we also had another American student living with us. Duncan goes to the US Naval Academy in Maryland and was here with a group from his school studying Spanish for a few weeks. Lynzee and I hung out a few times with his group and even got to go paddle boating with them on the river in Salamanca.
He just left Salamanca today (July 13), but we will be getting another student in two weeks, this time from Germany. Vicenta told us that she hosts international students pretty much year-round, but more in the summer.
On a normal day, Lynzee and I wake up at around 7:45 and get ready to leave for school by 8:25. Vicenta sets out breakfast for us each night, so we help ourselves to cereal, fruit, packaged breakfast pastries, and coffee. We walk to the university and have 4 hours of class Monday-Friday. No matter what level you tested into, your first two hours of class are Spanish Language. In my group, there is one other girl from my study abroad program, 2 other US students, 2 from China, 2 from Taiwan, 1 from England, and 1 from Turkey. It is really nice having such small classes. The last two hours of class are electives (all taught in Spanish). I am taking Spanish Culture and Spanish Art History. So far, classes haven't been too bad and I feel like I understand almost everything that the professors say. Classes finish for the day at 1:15 and we either hang out around town for an hour or so to go shopping or get tapas or coffee, or head home to relax before lunch. Here are some typical meals cooked by Vicenta:
As you probably know, meals are served very late in Spain (according to US standards). Lunch is usually served between 2 and 4:30 pm or so, and dinner is around 8:30-11. It seemed weird at first, but I'm used to it now. After having lunch at home, its time for a siesta. This is pretty traditional in Spain, especially in the summer, since it is so hot. In fact, many businesses (especially small ones) close down from about 1:30-5 or so. Speaking of it being so hot, Salamanca is currently in a heat wave of historical levels. The highs each day are usually 95-99 degrees F, and it has been this way for almost three weeks straight. One of my professors told me that she has lived in Salamanca for over 20 years and has never seen it like this. Most houses don't have air conditioning, so you are pretty much always sweaty.
After a few hour siesta (usually not actually sleeping, just resting), we often meet up with some people from our API group to walk around or go do something. With the heat, though, you definitely have to get the motivation up to walk to Plaza Mayor (about 20 minutes from our house) to meet up. Like I said earlier, dinner time starts at about 8:30 pm, and we usually eat in the earlier part of that window. After dinner, we often meet up with friends in the plaza for ice cream or drinks. The plaza is illuminated at night and it is really pretty.
The Plaza Mayor is about 50 yards square, I would say. It is always bustling with people, but even more so after dark. The lights stay on until 1am, I believe. One of the more popular drinks in Spain is "tinto de verano" (red wine of the summer), which is red whine mixed with lemon/lime soda. It is basically a cheaper version of sangria, but is not just for tourists. We have already found our favorite place in the Plaza to get tinto de verano.
On school nights (except Thursdays, which are a big party night), I usually head home and go to bed a little after midnight.
I hope to write more soon about my trips to Porto, Portugal, and San Sebastian! Thanks for reading :)