Monday, July 1
The long flight back to the States was a little strange because since we traveled with Iberia again, it didn’t feel like we were actually going back to America! All of the announcements were still in Spanish and the flight attendants spoke Spanish. Besides sleeping, I had a lot of time to think about the trip and what had happened in the past month! Even though we had only been in Salamanca for four weeks, I still felt as if I got a complete study abroad experience. I had definitely seen and learned enough to be satisfied with the short time I was there. I was a little nervous signing up because of the price, but all of the money I saved for the experience was definitely worth what I gained. I think the key to my happiness with the program was keeping an open mind, having a positive attitude, and always staying thankful.
I am looking forward to traveling to other Spanish speaking countries in the future because I feel a lot more confident in my speaking abilities. I think before this trip I also underestimated the value of traveling as a lifelong hobby. I am glad I took the time to improve my Spanish because it is the 2nd most spoken language in the world and may very well pass English in my lifetime.
I was sometimes a bit closed off in high school. I have become a lot more self-assured throughout college, so I was ready to have new experiences in Salamanca and begin a new page of my life. After meeting people from all over the world and speaking a second language, the remaining insecurities from my past disappeared. I used to be overcautious when speaking and trying new things. Being on such a short study abroad trip has made me realize that too many opportunities are thrown away with hesitation. You have to take chances right as they come, and if you wait till “the time is right” it will usually be too late. Embracing discomfort is a good thing. I am incredibly blessed at this point in my life and can’t wait to see what new adventures lie around the corner:)
Sunday, June 30th
The next morning, I showed Holly the wonders of automatic espresso machines in the hotel room lobby and we walked to the metro station. This time we were taking the AVE to Toledo, a medieval city south of Madrid with a lot of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic history. These three groups existed peacefully together for so many years, passing power back and forth over time. We visited one of the most intricate cathedrals I had seen in Spain so far, and that’s saying something!
I had a blast showing my family around Madrid later that day. I finally got to see the museum of Prado, which I never imagined to be so large! There were 5 floors and a basement. We walked around a garden next to the museum and later found a tapas place to eat. I was glad to find a place that had some more “Americanized” dishes that my family could enjoy.
That night, my mom and I went to The Corral de Moreia, a famous flamenco venue. This was definitely the best way to end my time in Spain. The footwork and passion of the flamenco dancers gave me chills!! I was so glad to enjoy this art form in such an authentic setting. They did a lot of skirt flipping with their foot tapping, it kind of reminded me of tap dancing combined with castanets and guitar. The performance completely blew me away, and I really want to learn how to dance Flamenco now!
Saturday, June 29th
The next morning I quickly gathered my things and caught the bus for the last time, this time we were really going back. It was still dark when I rolled my suitcase out of the apartment. We ended up seeing the sun rise on the fields over Salamanca and it reminded us of when we had witnessed it at the beach just a week prior. At the airport we all parted ways. Waiting at the airport was me, Sol, Serpas, Jenna, Ruby, Erika, Michael, Kyle, and Alison. Patrick and Brenton had left to take a tour of the Real Madrid stadium (lucky them!). My family was due to arrive in Madrid about the same time the others were departing the country, so I waited along with them. I ended up running into Valerie, who was one of Cherry’s friends who had gone to the restaurant with us that one night. She was on her way to Barcelona and was waiting for a bus. She was only 19 and was traveling all by herself. Her knowledge of Spanish was impressive for just picking it up. She was so sweet and I am glad that I got a chance to see her again before she left.
The airport day was long, but we had a good time talking about memories from our trip before we got on our respective flights. We were looking through people’s pictures and laughing about all the good times we had. I said goodbye to my friends when it was time for them to go through security but I knew I would be seeing them again in Flagstaff. I went and sat downstairs in the place Maria had picked us up on the first day. I couldn’t believe it had been four weeks since then and how much I had improved in my Spanish. It was exciting having the ability to translate and guide my family through Spain! That night we went to a restaurant/tapas place, but I don’t think my family had quite adjusted to the Spanish eating habits.
Friday, June 28th
We received our diplomas the next morning. I turned in my final essay and my Spanish minor was complete! Our English teacher was acting pretty silly in class today. Some people from our group were waiting outside in the courtyard before class. Ana asked where everyone was and I said, “en la calle”. She walked up to the window, and leaned straight out over the street where the rest of our group was. She was yelling, “Brentón, where is Brentón?”. When they got back, she pointed to the entire back row where our group was sitting and said, “Todos ustedes estaban en una fiesta”. We got a picture with the quirky lady and went on to Negocios for the last class of the day. I was really sad to leave Paz, she was such a great teacher.
I spent the rest of the day by myself taking in the scenery. I ate lunch with Paco, who told me it is such a blessing for his family to host students. He thought the best part was getting to experience so many cultures into their home. I remember him saying that sometimes they feel bad that they can’t spend as much time with the students as much as the older families since they are so busy with work. I was incredibly thankful for his friendliness and loyalty to talking with me during my meals at the home. They could have just left me meals in the refrigerator when they were both gone at work, but one of them would always come home and have dinner with me during their break.
They gave me privacy during my stay in their flat and I never felt like I was intruding on their time. It was a nice balance. To be honest I was glad to have had a more independent living experience at the house; I wasn’t there much anyways because there were so many things to see outside. They gave me everything I needed and were always available to talk to when I needed something. I think they understood how exhausting and busy the life of an exchange student could be. After 5 hours of Spanish classes sometimes I just wanted to come home and sleep for two hours. They always had lunch prepared for me when I got back; this was a nice treat. After the meal though, they would give me some space to recharge.
I decided to spend the rest of my time at one of my favorite places in Salamanca- Casa Lis. I walked down to the bridge and took in the view for the last time. I went straight through to the café and ordered a frappe (a sort of frozen hot cocoa drink). It was really relaxing just listening to music and catching up on my travel journal in that beautiful place.
The program rented out a restaurant for our last dinner in Salamanca. It was called Vida and Comida. I had never been to a fancier dinner before. We arrived around 9:00 and the dinner lasted till 1:00!!
There was a lot of bread to be eaten with the wine. We were offered croquetas and octopus as appetizers. I unknowingly ordered merluza with squid ink for the entrée. I didn’t recognize the squid ink part in Spanish, but I had previously enjoyed Merluza, a popular white fish from the Basque region that Paco cooked for me a few times. I also tried part of a bull’s tail and it wasn’t too bad; it is a really popular delicacy in Spain that people pay a lot of money for at bullfights. At the beginning of the dinner there were Tumbas (traditional Spanish singers in tights and puffy sleeves), who entertained us with songs and dancing.
Thursday, June 27th
In business class we talked about tourism, one of the biggest industries in Spain. I learned about paredores, which are unique to Spain. There are many old castles and ruins around Spain, and these historical sites can be checked out like hotels, which are popular honeymoon destinations.
That afternoon I met my friend Sol in the Plaza to get ice cream. Supposedly, you can’t leave Salamanca without sitting on the ground in the middle of the plaza with ice cream, or if you so choose to support the American fast food chain, Mcdonalds. It was about 7 p.m., a great time for people watching. We had a good time relaxing in the sunshine.
All around Salamanca, bar owners were setting up large television screens outside of the cafés and putting up Spanish flags-it was game time! Almost every outdoor restaurant in the plaza had a tv up and people were already crawling into the bars to get a spot. We ended up going to Don Mauro’s again. We sat at a big table right in front of the tv and watched the game.
Spaniards take their fútbol seriously and that’s what I like about them. In an American sports bar, during a football game not everyone is as completely invested in watching the game. In Spain, it didn’t matter who was there, young or old, fútbol came first. And the bartenders were just as excited about it as the people.
When the win was official, Sol and I talked about how different our lives in Flagstaff were going to be when we got back. We both had really busy Senior years to go back to, and spending a month in the relaxing atmosphere of Spain was a welcome change. For always being on the go during the semester, I think I needed to be around the Spanish people who were always so laidback and fun. It was definitely different than the working environment in America.
Wednesday, June 26th
After our last final on Wednesday, we all went to Café Figaro to celebrate. That afternoon for lunch my host parents served me an interesting entrée. It looked like braised beef cut into little slices. It was a lot more tender than the other meat they had served me. I asked what it was and Paco started laughing. He said, “If I tell you what it is, you won’t eat it” I took a bite and it wasn’t too bad. After I finished the whole thing they told me it was cow tongue. They seemed very pleased that I was enjoying it and told me that they always serve it to their students in their last week.
Tuesday, June 25th
I woke up on my notes for Spanish Lit the next morning (should have known that it never works to study in bed). I had heard final exams for study abroad programs were a little bit of a joke, but my grades would still count for medical school applications, so there was still some pressure for me to do well. After the final, I was relieved to be mostly done with assignments and tests.
That night was Jane’s birthday, and some of us went out to celebrate with her. We met in the Plaza around 11:00. We found a place that was themed like a ship, so cool! We had a good time dancing and singing to 90’s music. Going out the night before another final, this is something I would have never done at NAU! :p