Though it can be hard to say goodbye to the friends you’ve made at your home university before you leave for a semester abroad, social networks (and good old-fashioned postcards!) make it easy to keep in touch with them, and one of the most exciting parts of studying abroad is making new friends during your program. Once you arrive, it can be tempting to spend all of your free time with others from the program, especially when you find people you have a lot in common with, but I don’t advise that. The best way to practice your language skills and to learn about the culture of the place where you’re studying- and, of course, to have a ton of fun- is to meet Spaniards. In fact, it’s one of the biggest pieces of advice I’d offer to future IES Salamanca students: BRANCH OUT SOCIALLY. You will be so glad that you did!
Salamanca is a particularly conducive environment to meeting other students because there are so many of them here between the two large universities in the city. USAL offers a fantastic web service where one can sign up for language exchanges, and because there are so many international students here from all parts of the world, you can practice just about any language you could want to. These language exchange relationships often turn into friendships, as they have for me in several cases. (I’ve even heard of language exchanges that have turned into marriages, but that isn’t to say that it’s a dating service.) With my new friends I’ve found new cafés to do homework and experienced Salamanca’s nightlife in a new way.
There are a few bars that have weekly language exchanges as well, often with material to prepare and pre-organized groups. The only cost of these activities is the snack or beverage you buy while in the café, and it’s assured that there are equal numbers of Spanish speakers and English speakers, and you can RSVP week-to-week so there’s no pressure to stick to a specific routine, which is especially important during a busy semester abroad.
IES also organizes social events with a mixture of IES students and Spanish students. This Friday, for example, was the second IES intercambio. At this event I mentioned my vegetarian tendencies and a newly-formed group of friends and I visited what must be Salamanca’s only vegan restaurant for tapas. It’s small, cozy, and inexpensive, and the food is delicious. I probably would never have found El Rastrel without my new Spanish friends Álvaro, Marta, Paula, and Juan, and now I’ll surely become a habitual client!
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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>