At my secondary school the first language that everyone is taught is Spanish, a subject that I continued on to GCSE level, at which I gained an A, and then onto A Level, at which I got a C. As part of the first year of the A Level Spanish course my classmates and I had the opportunity to spend two weeks in Salamanca, Spain to attend an intensive course in the Spanish language.
Without a doubt, Salamanca is one of the most beautiful cities I have visited in my short lifetime. I instantly fell in love with the place (with a little help from the weather!) – its buildings, the plaza mayor, the cathedral and the garden of Calixto and Melibea (the Spanish Romeo and Juliet, if you will). We stayed in groups of two or three with a Spanish family who lived in the city, with whom we ate breakfast and lunch. Because of this I became much more aware of the Spanish way of life, concerning meals anyhow, and learnt that lunch is the largest meal of the day – people return home from work, schools and shops close for around three hours, and everyone eats together. Following the meal, Spanish people often take a siesta, a short nap to re-energise, and then return to work or school for another two or three hours. Because of the large break in the middle of the day, the evening meal is often taken very late, around 10pm, meaning shops, restaurants, bars and cafés are all open much later into the night. My friend and I would return home after clubbing and the couple we stayed with would often still be sat up watching television!
Attending the intensive course at the Colegio de España did wonders for my Spanish. I became much more confident in speaking the language, revised the simplest of tenses (including the present, believe it or not) and came away feeling as though I could communicate myself in the language despite not being fluent. I believe that had it not been for this trip I may not have chosen to continue Spanish after A Level and thus would not be studying Spanish at university right now.
This trip was my first trip away from home with no supervision whatsoever. Well, our Spanish teacher flew out to Spain with us and spent a day or two with us in the city, but after that we 11 students were left to fend for ourselves. We went for meals by ourselves, went sightseeing by ourselves and generally had a good time…unsupervised! Needless to say, if our teacher had stayed with us for the whole two weeks we would never have gotten away with cerveza with our tapas, no would we have been able to go clubbing – we were only sixteen and seventeen!
The trip ended in us having to make our own arrangements to get back to Madrid by ourselves and board the plane without adult help. A scary experience, I can tell you that! But rewarding, very rewarding.
Two photos from El Jardin de Calixto y Melibea. There was a wishing well in the centre of the beautiful garden on which couple lock padlocks, essentially fixing their love together forever. The writing on the lock in the second photo translates to “Happiness has 9 letters, but for me it only has 3 – you.”
A few more photos of the city. Photo 1: The cathedral of Saint Esteban. Beautiful architecture. Photo 2: The street that the Colegio de España sits on. Photo 3: The plaza mayor, the main sqaure of the city. Where I would spend breaks from school in the sun, hours after school in the sun and the rest of my time…in the sun.
I would highly recommend a trip to Salamanca to anyone who loves Spain, anyone who loves cities, anyone who loves travelling or just anyone! One of my first travelling loves.
My friend/roommate, Alicja and I.