Archives for July 2011

Two great weeks in Salamanca!

Sojourns in Salamanca

Excitement and joy filled the air today as the students celebrated finishing their two weeks of Spanish classes at Mester. A special congratulation goes out to Sarah Firth for passing the class and a very difficult exam for university credit! Our Salamanca sojourn has been filled with many adventures and it is hard to believe that we’ve already been here for two weeks! In hopes to share some of the amazing experiences we’ve had I’m going to highlight some of the main events.

Cooking Connoisseurs

The cooking class was designed to be small and intimate and therefore, we split the group in two. One group went on Tuesday and the other went on Wednesday. The students learned how to make sangria (without alcohol), gazpacho, tortilla espanola and paella. After learning how to make all of these wonderful dishes they also got to eat all of them. Emily Vokach-Brodsky a self taught wonder even found a way to make her crawfish sing “Ave Maria.” After this great experience the students should be cooking connoisseurs ready to prepare a Spanish meal for the whole family!

Our spectacular scavenger hunt

On Wednesday night the students went on an amazing race to discover the secrets of Salamanca. The group was split into two teams and they competed against each other as they ran like crazy throughout the city. Needless to say we wouldn’t let them have such an adventure without having a theme. Thus, they were given a costume contest for the night to dress up as if they were going to run with the bulls in San Fermines. The winner of the costume contest was chosen by peer votes and it went out to Diego Guerra. It was quite entertaining to watch the students in full costume run through the plaza. However, don’t think that this race was easy, the questions were hard and required a lot of interaction with the locals and finding important historical sites. One random question asked, “how many windows are there in the Plaza Mayor?”


– Kelli, U.S. chaperone, Salamanca 2

Bull “Fighting” in Salamanca

Salamanca 2 group learns about a Spanish tradition

Today is the first official day of the San Fermines festivities in Pamplona, Spain. To honor this cultural activity we went to the Plaza de Torros in Salamanca to get a taste of what bull fighting is really about. We were greeted by a true matador who has killed over 500 bulls the first of which he killed at age 15. He explained the sport to us as if it was a beautiful art (which he thinks is more beautiful than baseball or football).

The students were highly engaged and asked many questions such as “have you ever been hurt by a bull?” His answer was “yes.” Natalia asked if he knew the bull fighter that had a bull horn pierced through his throat. He replied “yes, he is a good friend of mine. I have his number and we talk all the time. He is doing a lot better now.”

After a demonstration on how to fight a bull he gave the students the chance to try as well. This was just practice so the bull was a special practice bull with wheels that the matador maneuvered as if it was a bull. Henry Guerra, Illana Greenberg and Nick Lvoff all tried. The rest of the students enjoyed watching this exciting event.


– Kelli, U.S. chaperone, Salamanca 2

Our first week living in Aix-en-Provence

Language learning and fun activities in France!

We arrived in our program town of Aix-en-Provence on Saturday afternoon. After settling into the Lycee St. Eloi dorms, we explored the old town center and had a Welcome Dinner on the Cours Mirabeau to celebrate our arrival. On Sunday, we toured an olive press and tasted artisanal olive oil made from trees that are over 300 years old! After that, we visited le Chateau des Baux, a well-preserved medieval fortress on a rocky mountainside, where we watched a trebuchet being fired as well as a bear training demonstration.

We also saw the beautiful countryside of the Luberon Valley as well as the lavender fields in full bloom. All in all, it was a busy weekend of amazing sights!

Classes begin!

On Monday, classes started at the Institute for American Universities. Students broke out into groups depending on their language level and worked on improving their French skills. Later, they attended a seminar on French culture and mannerisms and then went to see a French movie. Between the intensive classes and cultural activities, students were already making progress in their French comprehension and conversation!

Meeting our Language Partners

Tuesday was Dina’s birthday, and we had a special picninc in the park to celebrate. It was also the first meeting with the Language Partners, French students who lead conversation groups in French and who give students a native’s experience of the city. Everyone had a great time, even though the groups were conducted solely in French!

Wednesday marked the beginning of “les soldes” in France, one of two major sales periods in which many items are placed on clearance. Needless to say, the afternoon was spent shopping, but we also enjoyed some culture at Le Pavillon Noir, the first building in France built solely for dance performances, where we got a special backstage tour. We ended the day by getting a drink on the terrasse in a cafe to celebrate our first week in France.

This weekend we are off to Arles and Avignon. Check back next week for more updates and photos!

A bientot!

– Erin Simmeth, U.S. chaperone, Aix-en-Provence

Dancing and Eating the Spanish Way

Fun activities in Salamanca, Spain

Hola todos,

We have been very busy here in Salamanca.  Classes are going well. On Saturday we spent the afternoon in Segovia, and saw an aqueduct built by the Romans. It was incredible to see something that old. We also saw a palace that reminded us of a real life Disneyland! Some of us went horseback riding on Monday, while the rest of us relaxed or played laser tag.

Salsa, Flamenco, and a cooking class

We have had two really fun dance classes, salsa and flamenco. There is disagreement over which one was more fun, but the consensus is that they were both a great time! We have also been to a cooking demonstration, where we got to help make gazpacho, tortilla de patatas (nothing like a mexican tortilla, more like a fluffy potato omelette) and paella. We couldn’t finish everything, there was so much food, but it was all delicious! We have enjoyed Salamanca, and are ready for our next adventure. The students are really looking forward to meeting their host families on Sunday! Hasta luego from Salamanca.


– Jeanne & Sonia, U.S. chaperones, Salamanca 1

Our first day in France: Cassis

Aix-en-Provence group enjoys the coast

Bonjour! We all made it safely to France in the afternoon after a long day (or more!) of travel. The sights in Cassis were well worth the trip, though: the hotel was right on the water with a beautiful view of the cliffs and the bay. For dinner, we ate in a quaint local restaurant where the students ate typical local specialties such as tapenade, moules frites, and isle flottante. Our favorite delicacy, though; was probably still the “pommes frites”! After a short walk around the bay, we all collapsed for the night.

First day in Cassis

After a good night’s sleep, we were ready to explore. We took a boat tour of the amazing calanques, unique rock formations of bright white limestone all along the coast. Afterward, we got to relax at the beach under the sun. We are having perfect weather!

Then it was off to Aix-en-Provence, where the students are staying for the next two weeks. They met with their Language Partners tonight, and also got to meet some of the other students in the dormitories, who hail from all over the world!

Sunday was another day of exploration and culture, and classes started on Monday.

A bientot!

– Erin Simmeth, U.S. chaperone, Aix-en-Provence