My first week of Spain has been a whirlwind! Last week I started my travels to Spain, and I arrived in Salamanca on January 18. That day was to relax, unpack, meet our host families, and rest up for the orientation that would start the next day. Then began the craziness that is orientation!
IES has done a wonderful job making sure that we meet other people on our trip and that we keep busy so we don’t get homesick. The experience of transitioning to time abroad is different than transitioning to college because I don’t just have to get used to a new school and new people, I have to get used to an entirely new culture and lifestyle. This makes homesickness possible (and more likely) for people who may not have gotten as homesick leaving home for college, like me, which is why we are kept so busy and why IES works so hard to help students adapt smoothly. This transition is made easier and more personal because I’m living with a host family, for which I am thankful! I’m living with a woman and her two daughters, one who is a few years older than me and one who is a few years younger. I’ve been having a lot of fun practicing and improving my Spanish by talking to them and getting to know them, which is an important aspect of the full cultural immersion experience.
So much has happened during the first week, but one of my favorite events that IES planned happened on Friday. We had a welcome party with all of the students, staff, and volunteers to give us a chance to meet each other and eat pizza. We were then surprised by a group of men in capes with instruments to burst into the room to sing to us! “La Tuna” was originally group of university students years ago that would dress up and sing to earn tips to earn their living. Now the tradition is continued with a group of men who will occasionally be seen throughout university cities in their traditional attire. They sang to the group and got everyone dancing and laughing. The best way to describe the experience is with a picture because it is so unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
Orientation continues through this week as we get to know the city and we take two trips to nearby cities and then class officially starts!