First days of Spanish class in Salamanca

Learning a lot while getting to know Spain’s culture

Classes have begun, and while 3 and a half hours a day is a challenge for the students, it seems to be going well. They have grammar followed by conversation, and during conversation they can ask their teachers about Salamanca. For example, one student already knows where to find the best ice cream. Marya and I concur that the teacher knows what she’s talking about, because the ice cream was delicious and just 2 minutes away from the dorms in Salamanca’s main square, Plaza Mayor.

Getting “Spanish” haircuts

After the first day of class, we gave the students free time to discover Salamanca. During this time 2 of the boys, Joe and Felix, decided to get “Spanish” haircuts. I wasn’t sure if it was due to a desire to experience Spanish culture by looking the part or to be noticed by Spanish girls, but there are photos below. During the free time, many of the girls went shopping. Now is a great time because it is the first week of “Rebajas.” For 4-5 weeks during the summer, there are huge sales in Spain. Almost every store is marked with 30-70% off signs. Also during free time, some students worked on their homework.

Meeting our Language Partners

Later in the evening we split up the students into groups of 3 and paired each group with a language partner. Language partners are usually local university students who speak to them in Spanish as well as show them around the city. Charlotte said it was one of her favorite experiences here in Spain, and Joe said he enjoyed being able to practice his Spanish. We’ve included a few more photos from the student’s last day in Madrid at Hotel Senator. Hasta mañana!

– Kerry Tiedeman, Assistant US Leader

Enjoying Exploring Madrid

Fun first days studying abroad in Spain

At the end of our first day in Madrid, with the exception of some minor hiccups like lost luggage and flight delays, we all arrived safe and sound. We began our morning with showers, naps, lunch, and exploring. In the afternoon, Patricia, our local trip leader, took us on a tour of downtown Madrid. She pointed out the main sights like Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor, and a fantastic gastronomic market where we had free time to try typical Spanish foods like “croquetas” and octopus.

Getting on a Spanish schedule

We enjoyed our dinner a little later than usual (9:00pm) after our busy day. Late dinners are just one of many differences for the students to get used to here in Spain. They will be challenged to communicate in a foreign language and adapt to many cultural differences. The group has been open-minded so far, and we look forward to helping them enjoy their authentic Spanish experience.

Museum Day in Madrid

At the end of our second day we all have museum fatigue. With back to back visits of the Prado and Reina Sofia, we have seen works of all the great Spanish painters: Goya, Valezquez, Picasso, Miro, and Dali. Unfortunately, due to strict museum rules, we don’t have any pictures of the artwork, but if there were, we would be sure to post the 2 favorites, Valezquez’s Las Meninas and Picasso’s Guernica. I’m proud to say that our museum guides spoke almost entirely in Spanish and some students even asked questions, which is incredible for Day 2.

After a long day of walking we rested before dinner. Some students enjoyed the hotel’s rooftop pool with the spectacular view, and others relaxed in their rooms. Walking to dinner we passed festivities for Madrid’s Gay Pride weekend. One of the students asked if we could stay to find out who would be crowned “La Reina” (best drag queen) of the parade.

Enjoying churros and chocolate

Dinner was followed by churros and chocolate. First-timers couldn’t believe the richness of the chocolate. One student said “it’s like a melted chocolate bar.”

When we returned to the hotel our local leader had her friend come by and show off some card tricks because she knew that the boys are very interested in playing cards. Everyone went to bed early because we had another busy day planned in Madrid.

The Royal Palace and Real Madrid stadium

We gave the students an opportunity to sleep in and left at 11:00 for a guided tour of the Royal Palace. Although the royal family doesn’t live there anymore, the rooms are still used for signing important documents like Spain’s entrance into the European Union, as well as banquets for over 140 people. Heather concluded, “I wouldn’t want to live in this palace. It’s too big.”

Our tour on the history and decoration of the palace was a little longer than expected so we rushed to eat lunch before getting on the metro to go to Real Madrid football club’s Santiago de Bernabeu Stadium. The highlights of The self-guided tour were the VIP seats and the stadium’s museum. Not sure if the VIP seats were popular because the students were tired and the seats were very comfortable or because they liked the view of the field. In the museum we took pictures of the students with photos of the current Real Madrid Team. Many of the girls wanted pictures next to the fake Cristiano Renaldo.

After the stadium we took the metro to Retiro Park. The students were given free time to walk around and see the pond, the Crystal Palace, and of course eat ice cream since they all wanted to know “Will the park have ice cream?”

From the park we could hear music from the Gay Pride Parade, and we walked by the crowd on our way to dinner. There were thousands of people in the street, and we were lucky that our restaurant faced the parade so we were able to watch some of the celebrations. Then it was time to say goodbye to Madrid because we were leaving for Salamanca.

Are we there yet?

The students had some free in Madrid in the morning, and a couple of the girls went to the Sunday market in Plaza Mayor to buy clothes, jewelry, and hopefully gifts for their wonderful families. After lunch we checked out of our hotel and set off for Salamanca. An hour into the bus ride, we stopped in Avila, a UNESCO World Heritage site, famous for its medieval wall and apparently its deserts. Chocolate covered whip cream on a mini ice cream cone was described by one of the girls as the best ice cream she has ever had.

Back on the bus heading towards Salamanca the students were curious to know more about the city in which they would be living for 2 weeks. “Are there a lot of young people in Salamanca?” asked one of the students. My response, “Yes, Salamanca is a University town” seemed to satisfy them. We also played a trivia on the bus, whoever answered a question about Guernica correctly would win a little notebook with “Las Meninas” on the cover. Congratulations, Max!!

Spain wins the 2012 Eurocup!

We arrived in the dorms in Salamanca about 7:30pm and had a quick dinner before running off to watch Spain win the Eurocup 4-1 over Italy! There were hundreds of people in Plaza Mayor to watch the game on flat screens set up out outside. There were flags, face paint, and horns. The students said that they had never seen anything like that. “Not even the Super Bowl is this big” said one of the students. As always, the life in Spain happens on the street. We got to bed early, because language classes began on Monday.

– Kerry Tiedeman, Assistant US Leader

Ready to travel to Salamanca!

Greetings from US Leader, Marya

Hello ECI parents and participants!

My name is Marya Kahan and I will be your trip leader for your upcoming trip to Spain.  Most recently I worked for ECI as a tour director for a large group of Austrian students coming to the Bay Area to visit and practice their English. I loved getting to know the students and being able to see San Francisco through their eyes and experiences. Although relatively new to the ECI family, I have been involved in the international educational field for over 10 years. I have worked with a study abroad organization, an international educational travel company, and have lead trips to Ecuador and the Galapagos. I look forward to contributing my experience to the Salamanca program this summer.

An amazing experience ahead!

I am very excited to have this opportunity to go back to Spain. I traveled to Spain for the first time when I was 16 on a 3 week exchange program very similar to the program you will be going on. I loved Spain, the people, culture and most of all speaking Spanish and being able to communicate with the Spaniards in their language. Before I left I was nervous that my language would not be good enough to communicate but my family was so patient and not only did they help me my Spanish improved so much! This summer, I will have an opportunity to visit my host family sister while we are in San Sebastian, I have not seen her in many years and I am very excited about that.

A passion for travel

This first exchange experience really initiated my love for traveling and experiencing other cultures. Since then I have been to over 35 countries and can’t wait to get to the next 35. I have been living in San Francisco for 13 years and love it. I am eager to get to know all of you and experience Spain through your eyes. If you have any questions for me pre-trip, please feel free to contact me at

¡Gracias y hasta pronto!
– Marya Kahan, Trip Leader, Salamanca 1 2012