I know I wasn’t terribly consistent with my posts this past year, but I figured you might get sick of hearing about my traveling and that you should learn on your own those sorts of things when you come. So in this last post, written back in the US after a year spent abroad, I will put my final thoughts and suggestions about the Cantabria program.
If you do this exchange program, you will not only have the change to run with the bulls, watch a Flamenco show in a gypsy cave in Granada, see the Semana Santa processions in Seville, and sunbathe on the black sand beaches of the Canary Islands. You will also have the opportunity to drink beer and eat chocolate in Belgium, go skiing in the Alps, attend midnight mass at the Vatican, see the Eiffel Tower light up on New Years, go to a costume party in Tours, and so many other things. When you do the program you learn a lot about Spain and Spanish culture, but you also learn about other cultures too. With the Erasmus students from all over Europe, you have the opportunity to hang out, eat, and have parties with different people and learn about their cultures too. Then you make friend and visit them in their native cities and meet their friends.
After 11 months in Spain and traveling about Europe, I do not regret my decision to do this program. I do admit it was difficult in the beginning, but challenges make you think and make you a more experienced and in the end, I think, stronger person. I met so many wonderful people and did so many things that this for sure will be a year that I will never forget.
Good things to know or things I wish I knew before coming:
- Get there more than a day before your Spanish classes start, you will need a day or two to adjust and it gives you time for if things don’t work out as planned.
- You may want to buy a calling card to call your parents in the first few days; the school’s internet supposedly doesn’t support Skype.
- Use the International Relations office, they are there to help and they do a fantastic job of it.
- Listen to as much Spanish as possible, T.V., radio, movies, it really helps to improve your Spanish and learn new phrases.
- You should do both the summer Spanish courses; even if you don’t think you need them. The teachers are fantastic and you are there the best time to go to the beaches. We were the only 10 during the August class, but we got to know each other and the city very well. In September all the Erasmus students come and there are a lot more people in the classes, but that’s really when you make your friends. There are organized activities for you in August and September that are good chances to meet people and get to know the city.
- When you get there your host family will most likely not have internet, but the International Relations Office has computers that you can use and so does the language center.
- You should live with other Erasmus students because then you are forced to speak Spanish and get to know new people and cultures.
- When you first start classes, the Spanish students may seem a little cold and keep to themselves, but it’s not how they really are. In the beginning the Americans don’t really speak Spanish well and the Spanish assume that you don’t speak Spanish but they don’t speak English very well, but approach them and start up a conversation, between English and Spanish you will basically understand each other.
- Do a language exchange with someone! This is very important if you want to improve your Spanish. Find someone to spend an hour a day or so with, speak English one day and speak Spanish the next, it really works and you will get to know cool and interesting things about the person.
- Do the program for the entire year. I believe that if you don’t do the entire year you will not get the full effect of the program. A lot of Erasmus students left after the first semester and wished they could have done the whole year.
- There are companies that will ship your baggage for a reasonable price within Spain. I took a train to Madrid with all my stuff at the end of the year and it was miserable. If you have a lot of stuff you should consider shipping them ahead of you, it will relieve a lot of stress.
I think that’s about it. Good luck and enjoy the experience.