If the “honeymoon phase” of adaptation to a new environment is real, this is it. From the moment our group met the IES Staff met our group in the Barajas airport, I was absolutely thrilled to be in Spain. Even the airport coffee seemed like an exciting treat (and while novelty was definitely a factor here, my soy cappuccino really was better than just about anything I’ve found in US airports). After a bus ride through beautiful farmland to Salamanca, the group, which had been excitedly chatting about the adventure we were just beginning, parted ways. My host mother greeted my housemate and me warmly, brought us to our apartment in a comfortable taxi (the house was well within walking distance of the meeting point but we had all of our luggage with us) and immediately made us feel at home, giving us time to get settled in to our respective bedrooms while she prepared a delicious lunch of typical Spanish dishes: a soup of lentils and carrots accompanied by cabbage, chorizo, and a tortilla Española and followed by fresh fruit for dessert. Each meal in our homestay has been different and every dish delectable. On Friday we were treated to our first real paella, which was even tastier than I had imagined it would be, the heaps of saffron-scented rice overflowing with calamari, clams, shrimp, and crayfish, which our host mother taught us how to take apart and eat with our hands. Orientation began the day after we arrived and many of the sessions were held at the Universidad Pontificia, in classrooms with walls that are 9 feet thick. The first night of orientation we participated in a scavenger hunt which brought us to some of the most famous and picturesque sites in Salamanca, helping us learn our way around. During free time we students have been visiting various shops and cafes around the city, many of which are quite reasonably priced and all of which are easily accessible on foot. Orientation continued for the rest of the week with sessions covering all aspects of life in the program from selecting classes to integrating into local families. We were treated to a concert of a Tuna band on Thursday night at a charming underground bar called Camelot (decorated with medieval-style banners and, of course, a sword lodged deep in a stone) after a feast of the eternal comfort food: pizza. This traditional performance had us all delighted and the skill of the musicians (as well as their sense of humor) was exceptional. Saturday we took the first excursion of the program, to Segovia. Leaving early in the morning in order to have sufficient time to explore the city, we enjoyed another bus ride through fog over rolling hills and broad vistas of countryside. Approaching the city I found myself immediately in awe of the aqueduct, which is the best-preserved in Spain. A knowledgeable and personable guide led us through the city, showing us Segovia’s most important monuments, including a cathedral, the plaza where Isabel’s coronation took place, and a breathtakingly beautiful castle which was part of the inspiration for Walt Disney’s design of Cinderella’s palace. Looking at the view from the castle windows I felt more deeply than I had in any other moment that I was in Europe. After a fantastic meal of traditional dishes (croquetas, pan tomaca, pollo asado, and ponche segoviana) we returned to our new home.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">I am a junior at Bowdoin College, where I am majoring in Spanish and minoring in Art History and Teaching. I'm outgoing and inquisitive, and getting to know other people is how I make sense of this mixed-up and beautiful world. My favorite hobbies are baking bread, playing ukulele, and camping. I love exploring new places and am looking forward to getting to know Salamanca as well as the fun and challenges I'll encounter in my travels around Europe.</span></p>