Study Abroad: Notes from Spain
Dani Meets Host Family, Begins International Study Abroad (ISA) Classes
by Dani Schneider '09
I was so nervous about meeting my new family that I slept most of the seven-hour bus ride from Toledo to Santander. It kind of reminded of how I felt two years ago anticipating my first year of college at Catawba — nervous, but very excited.
The bus dropped us off at our new school, University International Melendez Pelayo. When we arrived, all our new families were outside waiting for us. One by one, we were introduced to the families we would be living with for the next month.
About a foot shorter than me with bright red hair and matching gold-brushed shoes and purse, Angeles, my new madre, immediately greeted me with a kiss on each cheek. After I got my luggage off the bus, we caught the city bus to her apartment in the heart of the city. Orienting myself to another new city and meeting my new madre were a little overwhelming, especially since she doesn't speak any English.
When I arrived at the apartment, I met Angeles' son, who still lives at home, and then began to unpack my things (finally!). My roommate Sarah and I share a bedroom which is nice, but there is only 1 bathroom in the house for six people! There are two other students from California, studying at a different school, who also live with us.
That night, Angeles' son took us out into the city where we played pool and danced at a fiesta going on in one of the plazas nearby.
The next morning, my group took a bus tour of Santander. It's a relatively small city, and very easy to navigate. On our bus tour, we stopped at Farro de Cabo Mayor, a lighthouse, which gave us an incredible view of the city. We didn't have much time so some of us decided to run out to the edge of the cliff. While we were running, someone started playing the bagpipes; it felt like being in a scene from a movie.
After only one day, I already knew that the next month here was going to be amazing.
After traveling for three weeks, I almost forgot that I would be taking classes. Every day, I take bus 7 to school. It's about a 20-minute ride along Santander's beautiful coast. My first class is at 9:00, so I usually catch the bus around 8:30. After having to get ready so early for classes here, I imagine I'll really appreciate my two-minute commute between Barger Zartman Residence Hall and my classes at Catawba this year.
My first class of the day is grammar from 9:00-12. Three hours of grammar sounded a bit exhausting at first, but it goes by fast. My class has about 15 people in it, and my teacher Roberto is great. After grammar, I have a break until my culture class at 1:30. The combination of interesting material and an awesome teacher, Gema, makes this by far my favorite class. Of course it's not better than Spanish class with Dr. Peevy (Dr. Cheryl Peevy, one of Dani's Spanish professors at Catawba), but it's a close second.
The first day, I was shocked with how big my culture class was — about 80 people. My friends from ISA didn't believe me when I told them I had never had a class that big before because at their schools, they have lectures with hundreds of students in them. I try to sit in the front so that I don't feel lost in the crowd.
After class, I usually head home for lunch or if it's a nice day outside, my madre packs me a sandwich and I have lunch at the beach (only a five-minute walk from school!). After a few hours of soakin´up the sun, I head back to school for my literature class at 5:45. The best thing about studying here at UIMP, aside from taking classes in Spanish, has been studying Spanish with people from all over the world. I can communicate with my classmates from Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany, and more, through Spanish, which I think is incredible.
In addition to my first full week of classes, I also had an excursion with ISA to Santillana del Mar, Comillas, and Picos de Europa. Picos de Europa was my hands down favorite of the weekend. We took a bus to Fuente De and then rode a cable car up 2,600 feet to the top of a 6,000-foot mountain. It was a shame we didn't have nicer weather, but after we walked an hour downhill through the clouds we had a breathtaking view. Wildlife was everywhere and some of the horses even let us pet them. The three-hour walk downhill was definitely worth it.
I imagine with classes everyday, excursions every weekend, and a beach nearby that my time here in Santander will fly by. The city is beautiful and after traveling in most of Spain's larger cities, I'm glad I'm studying in a small one. Next week, in addition to classes, I'm signed up to take a surfing lesson with some friends, and looking forward to spending the weekend in Salamanca.
Dani welcomes e-mail correspondence from current and prospective members of Catawba's community and can be reached at email@example.com.