My Goals for Studying Abroad in Salamanca, Spain

Hello everyone! My name is Woohyun and I am thrilled to share my study abroad experience with all of you throughout the semester. I will be studying in Salamanca, Spain through the IES Psychology program where I will be taking a variety of courses in the Spanish language, education, and psychology. I am looking forward to taking courses in education and psychology through a unique lens while I am abroad, along with immersing myself in the local culture. 

One of my significant motives for choosing to study in Salamanca instead of more popular destinations like Madrid and Barcelona was to immerse myself in the Spanish language. While I’ve been learning Spanish every year since the second grade, I didn’t have many opportunities to practice the language outside of the classroom. I hope to enhance my language skills by taking advantage of Salamanca’s rich culture and long-standing history of hosting international students. I am particularly looking forward to taking an education course that will look at the impact of Socio-Educational Factors on Human Development in Spain. While taking this course all in Spanish will be a personal challenge, I am very excited to learn more about this topic in a Spanish cultural context. 

In addition to learning Spanish, another goal of mine is to get a closer look at immigration in Spain and compare it to what immigration looks like in the US. Being an immigrant myself, moving to the US from South Korea has made a big impact on my life. My identity as an Asian immigrant in the US has always been a significant part of who I am as an individual. I want to compare and contrast the history and policies behind immigration in Spain and the US to better understand what immigration looks like around the world outside of the US. I would also like to specifically look at Asian immigration in Spain because I am curious to explore what an immigrant’s experience in Spain looks like and learn how it may be similar or different from my own experience.

Throughout my preparations for studying abroad, I have experienced a combination of emotions. While I am absolutely thrilled to live in a country I’ve never been to before, I am also nervous about being so far away from home and campus in a country I am not familiar with. To prepare myself for this experience, I’ve been working on my Spanish by watching some La Casa de Papel (Money Heist) and reading Largo Pétalo de Mar (A Long Petal of the Sea) by Isabelle Allende with help from the dictionary. I hope to really go out of my comfort zone to immerse myself in the local community, so I’m working on improving my Spanish before my arrival. 

I have also been learning more about the Spanish customs and lifestyle to better understand the local culture. As someone who grew up living a relatively fast-paced lifestyle on the East Coast, I was shocked to learn that everyone in Salamanca pauses their day to go for lunch at 2 PM sharp. Lunch has always been a very brief and small meal for me, so learning that lunch in Spain was the biggest, longest meal of the day was definitely a surprise. Then after a brief siesta (nap) until around 4 PM, everyone resumes their day until dinner at 9 PM. In addition, I learned about the custom of sombresa where people relax at the restaurant table after their meal for as long as they wish, which I thought was very interesting! The relaxed culture of Spain is definitely something I will have to get used to throughout the semester. My days at Amherst have always started around 9 AM for classes and ended by the early afternoon, so having classes from 3 PM to 7 PM is definitely going to be a major change. 

Once I arrive in Salamanca, I am looking forward to jumping right into exploring the city. I have heard that a great advantage of being in a smaller city like Salamanca is that the entire city is walkable. I plan on going on long walks every day to see every corner of the city and get myself familiarized. I am most excited to explore the endless streets of beautiful, sandstone architecture that gave Salamanca its name of the “Golden City”, along with walking along the banks of the Tormes River. I also look forward to enjoying the amazing Spanish cuisine in local restaurants and interacting with students from my program and local students who will be living in the student dormitories with me.

As I am less than a week away from arriving in Spain, I am thrilled to continue my preparations and embark on my study abroad adventure. I can’t wait to keep you updated about my experience in Salamanca and until then, ¡hasta pronto!

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