Honestly, during my exhausting journey here, there were moments I doubted I would make it to Spain...but here I am! My first week is over; it is hard to believe! There are times I laugh out loud when I consider what I am doing-living in Spain, studying at one of the oldest European universities, spending time in buildings Christopher Columbus visited, praying in churches where kings and queens worshiped, or crossing a bridge built by the Romans near the time of Christ! Really, it is rather unbelievable, isn't it?
In case some of you are not aware, let me fill you in: I am spending this semester in Salamanca, Spain. The city is about 2.5 hours northwest of Madrid and boasts the oldest Spanish university. I arrived late on Saturday, January 9 and will be here until the end of June!
I am taking part in an immersion program for two weeks before classes begin for the semester. I am staying with a host family until the semester starts. For now, my days begin around 7:45, when I pull myself out of bed to get dressed and ready for the day. My "mother" (Augustina) has coffee (con leche-with milk) ready for me each morning at 8:00. I leave the apartment around 8:35; the walk to the university takes about 20 minutes. I have five hours of class each day, which end around 2:15. I walk home for lunch and siesta at 2:30. I usually spend the afternoons resting or walking around the city. I love to wander, taking new streets, not knowing what I will find. Sometimes, I get a little confused or lost, but I generally have a sense of the direction I should take and I end up finding something I recognize. I've wandered into many beautiful old churches, which are always comforting. Dinner is at 9:30; the different schedule is difficult for me to become accustomed to, but I do enjoy the siesta!
My host family does not speak English, and therefore communication is challenging. I get frustrated when I am unable to express myself easily, and I have to remind myself of the reason I am here-to learn to speak well! There is another tenant who is a student from Spain and he is usually able to understand what I am trying to convey in my broken Spanish. He has been very helpful. My language proficiency is improving, though slowly. I am very nervous about my semester classes, but my motto for this trip is: Be calm, carry on. And that is what I intend to do.
I will move into the dormitory on Saturday and will live there for the semester. I have a wonderful opportunity to serve as a teaching assistant in the English department here. I do not yet know what that will require, exactly, but I am expecting a rewarding experience! I am planning on taking three classes at the university: Teaching Spanish as a Foreign Language, Introduction to Spanish Short Story, and Iconography. I am also taking a class online through my home institution, Bellarmine University.
Well, hopefully I have brought you up to date on my experiences. I am working on creating a Picassa account to share my pictures, and I will post that information as soon as possible.