Sunday July 3rd:
First awkward encounter: For breakfast, Anna, Isabel’s older daughter, asked me if I would like toast, and I said yes please. She put bread, jelly, and butter on the table. I did not know where the toaster was or maybe I had mistaken “bread,” “el pan” for toast and they don’t even have a toaster. Maybe Spaniards don’t toast there bread in the morning, I don’t know. I would have asked about it, but I also did not know “toaster” in Spanish. So there I was, eating buttered and jellied bread for breakfast. Delish.
Around three o’clock I met up with one of the only people I knew going into the program, Becca! She brought another person, Maddie, and we adventured around Salamanca. It was absolutely beautiful. Eventually we sat on a bench chatting until it was time to meet up with our group.
The first group activity we did with each other was a scavenger hunt, or “ginkana,” with four other people. It was very fun to wander around the city and see the beautiful places that were assigned. We got lost sometimes, no one in our group was direction-savvy, but it was fun getting to know each other and being out and about.
After, we ate dinner at an Italian restaurant provided by the program. The pizza we had was sooooo delicious! I believe our entire group is about 30-40 people, so the atmosphere was a little chaotic but very exciting. After dinner we wanted to find a place to sit and drink a little bit, because Spain doesn’t have 21+ drinking laws! A large group of us went to Camelot. I tried a sangria for the first time and it was amazing. Our waiter, the infamous Pepe, found out it was our first night out in the town from America, so naturally we got free tequila shots. What a nice welcome gift haha. We danced inside for a little while and then decided to try and find another place to explore. You know that feeling where you just really stick out or don’t fit in? Well, that was us.. the obnoxious and slightly intoxicated Americans walking down the calm streets on a Sunday evening. But hey, no shame. Our first night together was an exciting time! We went to another place, the Irish Theater, supposedly where all of the Americans go during their stay. It was relaxed, as every place on a Sunday would be, and we just hung out and drank more, chatting and getting to know everyone. Interestingly enough, everywhere you go in Salamanca you will be more likely to hear American songs in English rather than Spanish songs. The third place we went to was O’hare’s, where everyone got to the point of wanting to go home and rest. I walked home with my new friends Kelsie and Liz, who had host families somewhat near me. As we all split off I had realized that I totally missed my turn. Great job, directionally-challenged Alyssa. Without WiFi I could not use my phone, so I thought to myself,”be independent! you can do it!” Let me tell you, I could not do it. I asked someone if they knew where my sweet “Santo Thomas de Villanueva” was, and they pointed out a few directions, but I still got lost. I eventually found an place that was still open around 1:30-2:00 AM and used their WiFi to download a map. I was about 3 blocks past and once I got home, I do not believe my host mom was very happy. I explained to her that I had gotten lost, and she was fairly understanding. I went to bed around 2:3o, dreading having to wake up at 7:45 AM the next morning.
Monday, July 4th:
Happy Independence day!…says no one in Spain, but guess who got toast for breakfast! A toaster is called a “tostadora” for all of those that don’t prefer buttered and jellied bread.
I started my day off with a placement exam to see what level of Spanish I was at for my classes. It was frustrating because I know the questions, but I had to rush to finish them all and I forgot some of the grammatical rules, as it has been a few months since I had taken Spanish. Oh well, at least I’ll be in a lower level class and maybe suck a little less than normal at Spanish. We had orientation and then a few of us went to Las Torres for tapas.
With tapas, its traditional to order a drink as well. So naturally we drank a bottle of this amazing white wine with our delicious tapas. Becca and I split the tapas “Queso Fresco, Anchoa, Tomate Cherry y Módena” (Fresh cheese, anchovy, cherry tomato and Modena) and “Farina, Confitura de Tomate y Cebolla Crujiente” (Farina, tomato jam and crunchy onion.) We split off and I went shopping with a few girls who had lost their luggage. As an impulsive shopper, it took all of my willpower not to go crazy with buying a bunch of unnecessary clothes the third day of being in Spain.
Later, a girl named Sylvana and I walked back up the street towards our host families’ homes , and it was really nice talking with just one person. Don’t get me wrong, all of the people I have talked to seem amazing and I am so excited to become closer with them, but with such a big group it is extremely difficult to establish connections with people and not forget their names after five minutes.
When I got home I was surprised to find someone other than my host mother her. Her name is Alba, and she is Isabella’s niece. AND THANK GOD SHE COULD SPEAK ENGLISH. She will be here to make me food (my nanny?) when my mother is gone to work, which I found out that Isabella works as a cook for a preschool. She was so friendly and I was excited to establish a connection with her. She learned all of her English from watching movies and the walking dead, which I find amazing! I would not have been able to do that.
SIESTA TIME! For those of you that don’t know, when it gets really hot in the middle of the day, many people come inside and take a nap and eat lunch, AKA my favorite part of the day. After, I went and met up with my new friend Taylor and Becca, we got ice-cream and met up with more people in the group. We all had to meet up with our program advisor to get our group assignments within our classes, which were dependent upon the placement exam. That took forever, but we all chatted and played an awful game of telephone.
For dinner, me and seven others went to Allium. It was this beautiful restaurant, and the food was delicious. We ended up talking in English the entire time, which I hope that we get out of the habit of doing, but it was so fun talking with everyone and trying these foods that no-one knew about. Afterwards we met up with the rest of the group, for a night out in celebration of fourth of July. Becca and I won the game of beer pong that we played at the first bar, Gatsby, that we went to. We returned to Camelot and then went to other places throughout the night. The party was wherever we were! It was such a great time, even after when we were all just sitting and playing the infamous “Never have I ever” game, getting to know everyone a little bit more.
Going home, I was excited to be so quiet and impress my host mom that I am responsible and am not some obnoxious American girl with no respect. It was about 2 AM, and instead of turning on the light switch, I rang the door bell. Cheers to being that obnoxious American girl. She woke up and I explained to her the mistake and then we went to bed, so I am glad she didn’t seem too mad.
Tuesday, July 5th:
After breakfast (toast again…this may get old) I had my first day of class. First was Children’s Literature, a class about children’s books, children, and the times that they were written in. It is a class with only students from U of M and the professor was amazing. I was really excited for these next few weeks, as I would get to learn more about Spain from many different aspects. The next class was Spanish Culture. I was the only person from Michigan, which I appreciated because then I could make friends from other locations as well. I met a girl, Jenna, from Washington and, Ki, New Jersey and in the class there were also a lot of people from Brazil. The last class that I had for the day was the History of Art in Spain. I love drawing and painting and I find the art throughout Salamanca to be magnificent. I couldn’t wait to go out and draw one day. The class seemed to be interesting, learning about different artists and their work.
After my friend Charles and I walked back to our families for siesta time! My lunch was really good; it almost tasted like chicken fried rice and then chicken. I had asked Alba if in Spain people eat food from other cultures, like Chinese food, and she said yes. Maybe I will get to try the Spanish version of Chinese food! My nap was glorious, and when I woke up Alba had gone and my host mom returned. We both sat in the living room, where I began working on my homework (Yuck, I forgot that was part of it all.) She eventually left to go and paint and I still sat there, good translating every other word in my readings. I forgot how much I struggle with Spanish readings sometimes and I was just hoping that I would drastically improve throughout these next few weeks.
This evening we decided to just meet up and hang out. We drank wine and got ice-cream and it was fun just to talk with each other. It was raining and storming on and off, which apparently is uncommon, so everyone was like “THE STORM OH NOO”…. but it only rained very casually, so that was kind of funny.
We talked about the running of the bulls (San Fermin). Apparently there are bunch of protests throughout Spain trying to stop it. Now, this may not be quite right, but it makes sense with PETA and the bulls. I understand the reasoning but I still found this very surprising, because Spain has so many traditions and San Fermin is an enormous one. The bulls are seen as such respectful and intelligent creatures, and this celebration has so much meaning for Spaniards.
Wednesday, July 6th:
Toast, class, siesta!
During lunch with Alba, we had a very interesting conversation. She would speak to me in broken English and I would speak to her in broken Spanish, it was very entertaining. But anyways, we shared a lot about the societies we live in. I had assumed that Spain was a pretty relaxed country, but Alba explained to me that their not in many ways. For example, it is frowned upon to have divorced parents, whereas in America it is actually common. We also talked about how they are provided wth free healthcare and how the USA is (definitely) not. I was interested in learning about these things that I had never considered before, as it made me think about the world in more than just a singular, American way.
Today I got to call my mom and talk with her. It was so nice because she is my best friend. I tell her everything. I told her about everything I’ve gotten to do and how much I miss her! I’m glad I can still talk to my friends and family back home, but I wondered if it’d be a better experience without that crutch. No need for Wi-Fi or social media, just completely immersing myself into this experience. I think that would be very difficult but interesting.
For dinner was this amazing fish and watermelon. After, a few of us met up at the plaza and drank wine over the soccer game. Tonight was karaoke night! And it was a blast. A lot of us came and over drinks (provided by hot bartender Danny), we danced and sang the night away! And score one point for Alyssa, because she met a cute Spanish local that night.
Thursday, July 7th:
Breakfast, class, siesta, the usual. I was starting to miss working out (yes, I can’t believe I just said that either.) After, a few of us went shopping, although we ran out of time before I could buy anything I really liked. We had to go meet up with one of our program advisors, Caroline, to talk about how things were going and make sure that there were no issues with our host families. Beforehand, we stopped by McDonalds, which is very different from the USA. The fries were way less salty, the burgers were actual burgers, and the chicken Mcnugs actually had chicken in them. Talking with Caroline was really nice. We were at Serendipity cafe and sharing our stories and experiences. After a few of us adventured around the city and took photos. I hadn’t taken many photos yet and it was a really calm evening just to walk around and chat.
For dinner was empanaditas (mini empanadas!) They were delicious. The perks of having a host mom that is a cook are great. We watched the news and conversed. I like that she has the TV on, because listening to Spanish helps and with the news I get to learn about what is happening throughout Europe. (Alba and I also watch the Spanish version of The Closure everyday during lunch) I did my homework and went to sleep. Today was pretty relaxed after the crazy night that we had.
Friday, July 8th:
After class, we all met up to plan out on of our side trips! This weekend I had an excursion to El Escorial, the next we would be going to San Sebastian, Spain, then the next Lizben, Portugal, and during the last weekend Andalusia, Granada, and Sevilla, Spain. But of course we hadn’t planned anything yet. It took forever to book the train to Portugal because of website errors, but it was only $123 round trip, and then we had planned an Airbnb for 15 people, $23 each. Go us for being bargain shoppers! Because the website was acting up, we had to go to the train station. Let me tell you what, that was a train wreck (hahaha I am so funny.) The google maps did not lead us to the right direction, and the we met this group of 3 Spanish teenagers who ended up helping us find our way. A 20 minute walk turned out to be 45. After we all did HW and went to bed, because we had to be up early for excursions.
Saturday, July 9th:
RISE AND SHINE IT’S 5:00 AM!
After a ~3.5 hour bus ride we arrived at the beautiful Toledo. It was magnificent. Our tour guide (who conveniently looked just like Robert Carlyle at 30 yrs old) lead us around two cathedrals and a synagogue, and then we got free time to explore ourselves. It was breathtaking! Such intricate architecture and beauty, I was amazed. It was so hot, almost 100 degrees, so we were constantly searching for water, which is NOT free.
When we got back, the others who went on excursions to other places met up with us and we all met up and got drinks. I went home early because I was exhausted! But that was the first time almost everyone in our group came, so it was nice having everyone around.
Sunday, July 10th:
Vamos a la playa!
After waking up at 11 AM (much needed) we all met up for the beach! The water was cold and the sun was shining. It was perfect. Back home my family and I love going to the water and laying out, so it felt so comforting. After lunch, I met up with Becca and we adventured around until all of us met up for the Eurocup! We walked around the Cathedral, which was amazing because the tour takes you all the was to the top, with the most beautiful view. During the game, we drank wine and I tried Paella for the first time, a dish that Spain is famous for (I am determined to get a recipe from my host mom.) Portugal won! After, some of us went out for drinks and dancing. We tried a new place, La chupeteria (“chupito” means shots) and then went dancing and retired to our homes for the night
To learn more about the (Language and Culture in Salamanca) program, please visit: M-Compass