Seeing Salamanca through the eyes of an API Resident Director

By: María Fernández, Api Salamanca Resident Director

María

“Try not to feel overwhelmed. Salamanca is easier to handle and you will immediately feel at home”.

You will hear me say this several times during your on-site API orientation, along with what will seem like an overload of other information, but don’t worry. The following days will be a mixture of jet-lag, confusion and weariness, but it will all be worth it. You will adjust quickly to Spain and our schedule as well as meet new people and make lifelong friends. With that in mind, let me guide you on a journey through my wonderful home of Salamanca, Spain.

Plaza Mayor, Salamanca - Nick Welch

Let’s begin at a great place to meet up with friends and colleagues – the Plaza Mayor. In the heart of the city, Plaza Mayor is the central square. Golden, simple, and always full of people. One look at the baroque architecture will take your breath away. After a visit to the plaza you should definitely head south into the old quarter and visit La Casa de las Conchas, an old palace-turned-public library. This historical building’s facade is decorated with stone shells and the old family coat of arms. Once you walk inside, you encounter a beautiful courtyard with a well in the center, stone lions and lily flowers as decorations: old symbols of power and blood relation to the Royal family.

Exiting La Casa de las Conchas and turning right we find ourselves walking along Calle Libreros. Gift shops line the streets calling our attention with an overload of frogs of all shapes and sizes in the display windows. Remain calm; it seems strange, but it’s all for a reason! 😉 Continuing down the street we find a square with a large statue in the middle. That statue is of Fray Luis de León, a very important man in the history of the University of Salamanca. As we turn away from the statue, we are met with awe as we face one of the most impressive plateresque facades in Spain – that of the old University of Salamanca. It was almost eight hundred years ago, in 1218, when the University of Salamanca was founded. Along with the University of Bologna and Oxford University, Salamanca is one of the oldest universities in Europe. In medieval times there were 8,000 students in the city, originating from all over Spain, bringing with them 25 servants each! With the population booming, Salamanca became a very important cultural center. Today there are 40,000 students at the university, including 10,000 international students from everywhere in the world.

Returning to the facade, on our left hand side, we can find scenes documenting appropriate Christian behavior. On the right, just the opposite! This side shows the consequences of sin. As we search through each minute detail of this enormous work of art, we suddenly find it; a FROG, sitting inconspicuously on a skull, sending the message that lust leads to death. Students in medieval times did not like this message, so they changed its meaning to a symbol of good luck. Every day whether there’s rain, snow, or blazing heat, there are always tourists looking carefully at the facade in search of the tiny frog that will bring luck and good happenings to their lives.

 

Salamanca - Karla Saravia

Driving into the city from Madrid, we cross over the Tormes River on the Principe de Asturias Bridge. As we first glance at Salamanca from this bridge, we are delighted by a wonderful view of the cathedrals’ towers. Yes that’s right, cathedrals. Plural. The fact that Salamanca has two cathedrals is something special, considering the norm is to only have one. Back when the city was gaining quickly growing there was a Romanesque cathedral, but it was very small and officials declared a new one in a Gothic style was needed. It was decided that Salamanca would keep the old one until the new building was finished (church services had to be held somewhere!) The two cathedrals share a common wall and it took more than 200 years to finish the new one, so in the end, they just decided to keep them both. Great idea!!! Both are wonderful to visit, inside and out. One can also climb the towers for a small fee and see impressive views of the city.

The Roman Bridge is a marvelous spot as well. It was built by the Romans during the 1st century and used to be part of the ‘Silver Way’; a route that extended across Spain all the way from Asturias in the Northwest, to Cádiz in the Southwest. At the moment it is a pedestrian street that visitors can walk and enjoy.

Students feel right at home after 24 hours in Salamanca. The city is safe and you can explore it by yourself in the morning, afternoon and at night. I really encourage you to discover it, to walk it, to live it, to experience it, to feel it.

The Cursos Internacionales Department at the University has been teaching Spanish as a foreign language for 80 years now. This wonderful city provides the perfect atmosphere to work towards Spanish language fluency (this is what you are pursuing, isn’t it)? As the saying goes – Quot linguas calles, tot homines vales… or – “you are worth as many people as the languages that you speak.”

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Comments

  1. Jeramy Johnson says

    Because our blog is syndicated across different channels, I wanted to be sure to feature some great comments about Maria and API Salamanca (these left on our Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/APIstudyabroad):

    Michele Miller Hollar: “Love this – helps us see what our daughter is experiencing right now!!” … “Maria has been so helpful to our family!”

    Ron Patané: “I studied in Salamanca with API in 2008, and it is still one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had!! Salamanca is an incredible city–safe, beautiful, and full of life. I can’t wait to go back! I highly recommend this program to anyone considering studying abroad in Spain!!”

  2. Maria – this sounds amazing! Our students are lucky to have you! (=

  3. Reading this blog really made me miss Salamanca! I spent a semester there in spring 2010 and it was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had. The API staff was extremely helpful with anything that you needed and made sure you got the most out of any experience. Salamanca as a city was a perfect fit due to its large university population mixed into a smaller city with a hometown feel.

    If interested, check out my past blog at http://nicoenespana.blogspot.com/ or my photos from Spain and Europe at htt://www.flickr.com/photos/nickjwelch.

    Nick

  4. Thank you all for the nice comments!!!

  5. Karly McIntosh says

    Studying Abroad in Salamanca with API was one of the best times of my life. I got to travel, make tons of new friends, and study at the Universidad de Salamanca….Everyone I know that didn’t study abroad regrets it! GO API and Maria!

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