Ian Starnes ’11 – When my plane arrived at Barajas International Airport in Madrid on Jan. 4, my stomach was cringing with anticipation. I had no idea what was in store for me during my study abroad adventures. I had heard several stories from past Wabash men saying it is a great experience and you learn and grow so much, but I am the kind of person that doesn’t believe everything people tell me. Well… I believe them now…
I am studying in Salamanca, Spain, which is a college town about two hours Northwest of Madrid. The city was a European Capital of Culture along with Bruges, Belgium in 2002. The city is absolutely breathtaking. The gothic architecture, cobblestone streets, and endless Tapas bars give the town an eclectic yet charming environment. In my mind it is a “city of contradiction” and by that I mean the first two words I think of to describe Salamanca are tranquil and bustling. It is tranquil in the way that it is a historic town with gorgeous cathedrals and academic buildings where great scholars like Miguel Cervantes and Hernan Cortes studied. Yet, at the same time the town houses over 60,000 students and has a vibrant nightlife scene that is unparalleled in Europe. The University is the oldest in Spain and the fourth oldest in the world and brings in a very international student body.
I am taking classes at the 800-year-old university and I am being immersed in the Spanish culture daily. Along with William Fulton 11’, I am engaged in intensive Spanish language and Culture classes Monday through Friday with other international students from around the world. It is interesting because the classroom is a melting pot of ethnicities and the Spanish language is the binding tool that brings the class together. I have taken Spanish language classes since my sophomore year in high school and have always seen pictures in the textbooks of Spanish life, yet I could never really grasp that concept.
Living here has allowed me to become aware of how different the Spanish culture is and I have grown intellectually as a result. I live with a host family and I am challenged everyday to learn more about their lifestyle and I am given the opportunity to interact with them. They do not speak any English and we enjoy every meal together. I even splurged and purchased a Spanish guitar and we sometimes drink wine after dinner and play Flamenco music into the night.
My goal coming to Spain was to grow: Intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. I feel that I have accomplished that in my time here. I have not only grasped but also assimilated into Spanish society. I get asked for directions by tourists daily, and I am mistaken for being a Spaniard all the time. I love when both of those happen.
During my time here I have also had the privilege of traveling. These excursions have also allowed me to learn and grow as a result. I have traveled to Madrid, Toledo, Segovia, Bilbao, the northern coast of Spain, Valladolid, Burgos, Rome, Italy; and Marrakech, Morocco. When I was even shown around the eternal city of Rome by my fraternity brother and Wabash alum Kyle Trusgnich 08’, who is currently living and working in Rome and who so kindly shared his knowledge he had gained from his study abroad experience in Rome with me.
William Fulton 11’ and I even took the chance of running with the bulls in Ciudad Rodrigo during Carnival. (A frightening yet enlightening experience that my mom is still angry with me for partaking in). This upcoming weekend I will be traveling to Valencia, Spain for Las Fallas, which is a large Carnival like event on the Eastern Coast. I will have the opportunity to visit Derrick Yoder ’11, Adam Auter ’11, and Chris Beedie ’11.
It is great to see how Wabash connects all over the world. The bond we hold as Wabash men is unique and truly special and I have seen exemplified while here. After visiting Valencia, Spain I will be traveling Europe for my midsemester break, visiting Bishops Stortford, England; London, Engand; Dublin and Maynooth Ireland; Stockholm, Sweden; and Prague, Czech Republic. I am very excited and look forward to keeping everyone updated of my amazing experience in Spain, Ciao, Hasta Luego!