A Month on the Iberian Peninsula

Graham Youngs ’11 – At the end of September I will have lived in Salamanca, Spain for one month, certainly a month that I wouldn’t soon forget.

The city of Salamanca, with a population around 150,000, is good sized and caters particularly well to a Spanish and International student demographic. During the day Salamanca is alive with tourists and inquisitive students who come from all over the world to see the incredible Renaissance architecture of the Cathedrals, Fachada, and the world renowned Plaza Mayor.

Despite the breathtaking architecture, the city of Salamanca truly comes alive around midnight, when the streets and bars fill with students and partygoers. From Sept. 8-14 Salamanca undergoes a series of parties that even outdo the city’s normal fiestas. I think it was during this week that my Spanish mom actually apologized to me for the excessive night and day parties; apparently she felt slightly embarrassed by the duration of the fiestas. I quickly settled her fears, by telling her that celebrating this week with the Spanish people stands as one of the greatest experiences of my life.

Each night during the week of fiestas a different free concert could be seen on a huge stage in the Plaza Mayor. Everything from traditional Spanish Flamenco to what sounded to me like Flogging Molly could be seen and heard all while sipping on a fine Spanish wine or beer.

On Thursday during the week of fiestas I bought a ticket for 20 euros ($30.00) to see a bull fight in the Corrida de Toros, just north of the Plaza Mayor. I sat in the nosebleeds, but that did not preclude me from fully experiencing one of the greatest, yet most obscure sporting events of my life. I was left in amazement from the beginning ceremony and it took me nearly 3 rounds to pick up on the subtleties of the sport culminating in the tercio de muerte, or the final kill. I was fortunate enough to see the best matador of the week quickly dispatch no less than six toros to the wild applause of a packed stadium.
In between concerts, bullfighting, and other fiesta activities, I have still found time for studies at the University of Salamanca. During the month of September I am in class from 9:00am-1:00pm taking an assortment of intensive Spanish language and grammar classes as well as a class in practical conversational skills.

From October to December I will begin the bulk of my coursework in Spanish grammar, conversation, culture, and art history. Thus far I have enjoyed taking the skills I have learned in the classroom and putting them to use in conversation with my family and with people on the street.

I feel blessed to be given this fantastic opportunity to study a language at its source while simultaneously immersing myself in a truly unique culture.

In Photos, from Graham: The photo of me was taken in a small pueblo near Salamanca called el Ciudad Rodrigo. The wall is called the fechada and it is basically the entrance to the University.  Finally the picture of the people was taken in the Plaza Mayor and it is basically the celebration of a Spanish parade in progress.