Tips from former study abroad students
My study abroad experience may be different from others since I ventured on my own. I flew into Dublin (RT ORD-DUB is usually pretty cheap). Anyway, I stayed in Dublin for a day and then flew to Madrid, Spain. The airport was very difficult to get around in. I did not know where anything was and had complete culture shock right away. If I would have done anything differently, I would have studied the Barajas Airport more and learned where everything was. In addition, I ended up taking a taxi from Madrid to Salamanca because I had two children that were so upset, so we did not want to wait for the bus or the train. Don’t do this unless there is absolute reason to because it is very, very expensive! Also, we got to Spain on a Sunday and everyone told us that we could not take the bus or train because the ticket counter was closed…about three different people told us this. So…if you get to Spain on a Sunday, you might want to think about purchasing a ticket online ahead of time, so you can actually take the bus/train… something my husband actually did when he met up with my sister, my kids and me later. We stayed at an apartment right in the Plaza Mayor because we wanted to make sure it would be very easy for me to get to classes. Literally, it took me about five minutes to walk to class. I did not show up for school the first day because I could not find my classes. The buildings were difficult to find and also the names of the streets. Once you are there, however, it becomes much more simpler. Obviously, if you go on a study abroad trip with your class, it is much easier. My classes were outstanding! If anyone goes and has Marta or Loli you will have a blast. They are just so much fun and you will learn a lot! Make sure to immerse yourself with the locals as the Spanish is very difficult, so the more you talk, the more you will learn. If you like coffee, there are countless Cafes that I encourage you to try...I really liked a place called “VALOR” which is right near the school. If you are not open to trying new foods there is a McDonalds and a Burger King nearby. Everything you need is very close to the Plaza Mayor…boutiques, coffee, farmacias, supermercados…etc. You should definitely venture past this point though for a better experience. You can see may parks, gardens, and, especially the Rio Tormes (which I thought was very pretty.) We went to the Centro Comercial Tormes and found a large grocery store within. It was much cheaper than stores near the Plaza Mayor, so I encourage you to do that. There is also a grocery store called “Dia” which is great. We took a taxi to the mall and it was about 5 Euros each way, but walking everywhere is what I did…it helped me to learn the city much better. Each night at the Plaza Mayor, the band “Tuna” plays for the locals. They are so much fun to watch. Free entertainment every night! You cannot beat it. One of my most favorite things was getting out of class and any street you walk down, there is someone playing some sort of instrument. It almost feels like you are in a dream. The weather was gorgeous…the architecture is outstanding…and just the whole experience for me was awesome. It has much improved my Spanish because I did not surround myself near English-speaking people. Trust me, it was very, very difficult at first, but once you cross that bridge (took me about two weeks), you will feel so good about your Spanish-speaking abilities. I would highly recommend this experience, and would go again if I had the money and could take my children! Please feel free to contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions regarding how to pack, what to see, where to go, anything! I am here to help and would love to talk about any part of my trip to Salamanca. If you are nervous at all, that is completely normal…but do not let it stop you. If you want this experience, you can have it!! Good luck and please go for it! You won’t regret it!! ¿Vale?
It has been a great 4 ½ years in college and as I am approaching graduation in a couple of weeks the only regret I have is not to have studied abroad more. I meet the most amazing people while studying abroad, had the best experiences and am sad that I will never have such an amazing opportunity again. Sure I will travel to Europe many more times in my life but living there and studying there was unforgettable and one of the best learning experiences ever. I have been looking at my pictures about every other day. Since we have left the people that are in Oshkosh from the group have meet up a few times. It has been weird going from seeing these people almost everyday to once a week or not at all. We communicate on facebook but it is not the same by any means. Many members in the group are thinking about doing another trip in January 2009. I would love to go so maybe I will see where I am at with my job. One thing is for sure, I will be recommending the travel abroad program to all of my friends still in school.
Now that I have been here for a over a month, I just wanted to let you know how things are going with Spanish Learning in case you need a reference for the company for future students studying abroad here. I am sooo thankful that I decided to go through Spanish Learning! Paco (Javier) has been a tremendous help and he has eliminated any doubts that I could possibly have about studying here. He stays in contact with me every week (at first every day) to make sure that my living arrangements, food, and academic needs are being met. He really wants us to have the best possible experience here. If I have a problem, I have his cell phone number and I can call him at any time for help. He also has really gone further than I could've expected from him...He also makes sure that I make the excursions with Cursos Internacionales and informs me of all the other events within Salamanca that I have the ability to visit. The first couple of days that I was here he made sure that I was familiar with the city and gave me helpful advice about the different locations that are good for me to go to as well as those that could be potentially dangerous for me. He always looks out for our best interests. Also, my parents decided to come and visit me and he is helping me make all the arrangements for them which isn't really part of the program-but a huge help to my family. I would definitely recommend this company for any future students who want to study in Salamanca. It is very trustworthy and like having family here in Salamanca with you.
Dana Blado, Fall Semester 2006 through Spring Semester 2007
I...definitely encourage [students] to talk in Spanish as much as possible. A month is a significant amount of time if they apply themselves. There are a lot of big groups here from U. S. schools on the east and west coast….and all they do is talk English to each other. Even during some excursions, they go off in their own corners and talk English…even while the guide is explaining things. As a result, they don't represent their university in a very positive way. I would encourage students from Oshkosh to be different. Also, have an open mind. The food is good here….but different. The people here eat a lot….but walk a lot as well. The people in the stores are not that friendly or helpful. And I'm not the first person to say that! I've talked with my professors here, etc., and they all agree with me. So should the students go shopping, they shouldn't be surprised. And in general, try not to bring too much on the plane as carry-on luggage! Europe is really cracking down on hand baggage….especially London. Holly and I had quite the ordeal on the way over here. All we had were backpacks….and they made us check them as luggage because British Airways thought they were too big. Literally, the backpacks weren't the exact dimensions they wanted! As a result, we missed our connecting flight, arrived in Madrid late….and I didn't have my luggage for a week! So I don't know if the students are traveling through London. Whether they are or aren't, I’m sure that things will quiet down by January, but it's better to be safe than sorry.