Thursday, June 11, 2015

Abi in Salamanca, Spain!

My trip to Salamanca, Spain has been absolutely crazy. It has collectively been one of the best experiences of my life. However, it did not start out like that. My first month here can only be described as confusion. I knew my Spanish was pretty good, but it was not SPAIN good. When I first arrived in the Madrid airport, I was completely alone. Not many people spoke English so right off the plane I had to go into Spanish mode. I had to now find how I was going to get to Salamanca from Madrid. I wandered around the airport for about 30 minutes until someone FINALLY told me my bus was in another terminal miles away. So I finally get on the bus and then I get to Salamanca and find a hostel. In the hostel I start to look for places to live and my Spanish adviser recommended a dorm next to my faculty. So I moved into the dorm. It took me a while to make friends but I eventually found a group of girls to hang with and eat with. They put me in their Spanish group message and everything so I really felt like a Spaniard at this point. 
In the dorm.
I took 4 classes and it honestly took me about a month and a half to get adjusted to the Spanish life. But I began to make friends with a family who has a farm down in southern Spain that I now visit every weekend.
On the farm.
Horses are probably my favorite thing in the whole world and they have so many that I get to ride and I could not be happier. 
With a new friend.

Look who is riding a horse!
I also began to travel with one of my friends from UNCG who was studying in Italy. We went to Barcelona and Rome and had a blast. I really enjoyed Barcelona! Except for all the high tourist prices :( But now I am currently taking my exams and they seem to be  pretty easy so far (fingers crossed). The classes are very oddly structured in the sense that they really have no assignments. Spanish people are very laid-back and frankly my professors just don't like grading, so they don't assign. But that means practically all of my grade is based off of my exam which has been STRESSING me out lately. 
Cooking at home
I come home in less than a month and I can already feel the tears coming on. I have fallen in love with Spain and am sincerely considering living here after UNCG and teaching English. Just a thought :) Well, I will see you all in a bit!!! 

Abi Triau
Universidad de Salamanca
Salamanca, Spain

Monday, June 8, 2015

Mary in Toledo, Spain!

Hey everyone!
Greetings from Toledo, Spain. I am at the tail-end of my semester, with just one exam left before I'm officially done with school here. There's so much that I could share about studying abroad, but the truth is that it is simply inexplicable – something you only truly understand once you experience it for yourself! I'm also learning how different studying abroad is for every single student – even here in Toledo where I am with two other UNCG students, it is safe to say we have each had remarkably different experiences. 
The Toledo skyline

These past four months have been incredible. To be sure, I have had my share of hiccups and issues, but looking back I can honestly say that for all the uncertainty, the knowledge I've gained and the places I've gotten to visit have made my time in Spain worth it! I arrived in Spain very unsure of myself, both in terms of my Spanish-speaking skills, and about living in another country in general. I'm happy to tell you that those feelings really do wear off, as I can now speak Spanish fairly confidently and feel at home here. Everyone has been remarkably patient with exchange students, and wherever you look you can find people ready to help you. I've also met a ton of great people here, exchange students and Spaniards alike. The people you meet abroad honestly add so much to the experience, and are a large part of the reason why I haven't felt very homesick at any point – there's always another adventure to be had!

Some fellow exchange students and me at a soccer game

What I love about being in Europe is how easy and relatively inexpensive it is to travel here. I've visited France, Switzerland, Portugal, many cities within Spain, and this weekend, Gibraltar and Morocco. It really appeals to your sense of adventure! Traveling has definitely been one of the highlights of studying abroad, and really helps you appreciate what makes every place unique. While every trip has been amazing, my trip to Portugal during the Semana Santa (spring break) holiday particularly stands out to me. This is partially because I was fortunate enough to share it with my sisters, who flew over from the U.S., and partially because it's truly a magical place. We started in Lisbon, the capital, which basically looks like it's from the future, as all the architecture has a modern, sleek design – with the exception of the Se Cathedral, and the Castle of Sao Jorge, which are obviously much older! We then took a day trip to the cities of Sintra and Cascais. Sintra looks like it's from a fairytale story. The buildings are painted with fun, bright colors, and it's home to Pena National Palace, the most incredible building I've ever seen. We didn't have very much time in Cascais, as there was a bus debacle (the next day there was a planned strike for the bus drivers, so we had to be sure to catch the last bus or else be stranded in Cascais), but the beach there is beautiful! 

Sunset from Saint Jorge's Castle, Lisbon

Pena Palace, Sintra

Another view of Pena Palace

This semester has just flown by for me; I know it will be bittersweet to leave in three weeks! Anyways, I don't have much more I can say to you other than this: Study abroad. You won't regret it.

Mary Saunders
Universidad de Castillo-La Mancha, Toledo