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After the completion of the incredible first semester of my Year Abroad in France, the mood ‘anxious-nervous/anxious-excited’ comes to mind at the thought that I fly to Spain in three weeks to start my semester at La Universidad de Salamanca.
Firstly, I am just going to take a moment to express my gratitude for having six weeks in the UK between France and Spain; eating crumpets, spending time with family, not studying for a change… there is without a doubt a large part of me that wishes it could just stay like this. This break has been much needed indeed after doing a lot of travelling in 2014, and 2015 looks no different!
Despite challenging myself with a long bucket list of things to see and do during my time in Perpignan, I managed to explore many previously uncharted lands of the south of France and some part of Spain. My bucket list may still be unfinished but I feel that this is actually a good thing, it gives me more than an excuse to go back in the future. And whenever my friends do anything in Perpi from now on, I expect them to have a nice cardboard cut-out of me in all their pictures.
As for my time in Salamanca, many of my goals for the semester are similar to their French-counterparts, especially regarding language learning and travel. After managing to accomplish them in France, I should be able to do the same here. So here we go:
1. Find the frog on the university façade. The original University of Salamanca building, among the intricate detailing, there is one small frog sitting on a skull; if you spot him without help, it is supposed to bring you good luck! I am sure to be gawking at this building for it, as I could do with all the luck I can get. The university is the oldest in Spain (founded in 1218) and also is very beautiful; or so I have acknowledged as I looked in admiration at all the pictures Google Images had to offer. It will be a very different learning environment to that of what I had in France, for sure!
2. Speak as much Spanish as possible! French and Portuguese are accepted but try to avoid English.
Like in France, I went there to improve my French, here I am trying to improve my Spanish. My Spanish is not on par with my French and I find it much more difficult to express myself in this language, especially as I only just picked up Spanish from scratch at university. It is so much easier to speak English all the time but I know it is worthwhile to make the effort. Luckily I have found a flat with two Spanish girls who don’t speak English, so hopefully this will be a good first step to helping me on my way to Spanish-speaking perfection. Okay, maybe not perfection, but hopefully I will be able to speak without getting tongue-tied, that would be just perfect.
3. Be a tourist in my own city
Salamanca is home to many places of interest: cathedrals, markets, museums, shopping, cafés etc. the university so there is much to do on a budget without even leaving the city. I didn’t really appreciate Perpignan for what it had to offer until quite late on, as I focused so much on travelling to other places every weekend.
4. Go further afield.
Like in France, I hope to visit other cities and places of interest, as this is also a region I have never travelled to before. Top picks: Madrid (as it is only 2 hours away), Santiago de Compostela, Porto and Lisbon (Portugal), Valencia for Las Fallas and hopefully Granada. Hopefully many more.
5. Read a book in Spanish (for fun)
I have got myself into the habit of reading for pleasure in French. The next challenge is to do the same in Spanish! (Recommendations welcome in the comments section!)
6. Go to the cinema and see Hispanic films
I loved going to the cinema in France and as a result, now I am confident I can watch films without subtitles and actually understand them. It feels good to click the ‘subtitles off’ button when I play a French DVD at home, now to do the same, Spanish style.
7. El Rastro
A ‘flea market’ held on Sunday mornings in Salamanca. I did intend to do the same thing in Perpignan, but despite my good intentions it never happened. Maybe I can reedeem myself here?
8. Tapas. All the tapas. Except jamón and mariscos please.
The culinary delights of Spain must be appreciated.