Alexandra Mokbul Gazi case study
I don't think I anticipated quite how much fun I would have on the trip prior to my arrival in Salamanca, Spain. Even just writing this case study now is bringing back a huge flood of memories from that exciting week - what I wouldn't give to be back there again!
My placement was at a nursery and that in itself was hardly "work" - playing with the children, reading to them (and picking up a great deal of vocabulary along the way!) and taking them to see local children's performers was by far the most enjoyable work I have ever undertaken. In the afternoons it doubled as an English-teaching after-school club of sorts, which was incidentally a brilliant way for me to learn Spanish while the pupils picked up some English. I worked six hours a day along with another girl placed at the nursery, but the staff were so pleasant and eager for us to visit the churches and university that have made Salamanca famous, that they frequently allowed us to leave slightly earlier than usual with helpful suggestions of the best places to see and things to do.
On Monday during the customary siesta, I went with friends - both new and old - to an amazing (and very affordable) restaurant for lunch, where we enjoyed delicious Spanish food and drink. In the evening, the entire group proceeded to visit local restaurants and cafes and have a brilliant time! This was a pattern that I tended to follow throughout the week but of course on the very first day, it never crossed my mind to nap during my siesta! However, by the end of the week it was a different story as the evening activities had prompted me to start using my siestas in the way that they were intended.
Besides the social activities, I also made good use of my camera and used it to capture the stunning beauty of many of Salamanca's buildings - including the picturesque cathedral and university. By the end of the trip, we were all sporting "University of Salamanca" hoodies and sweatshirts.
The trip was definitely an invaluable experience - the large amount of independence that we were given taught me to be more responsible, and the few people that were initially homesick got over it almost immediately. Having now visited Spain, I can honestly say it is by far the best way to learn a language as you are immersing yourself in it by being in a situation where you are effectively being forced to speak the language, thus improving your speaking skills.
The week-long trip benefited me linguistically as my speaking and also listening skills improved considerably as a result of everyone's positively speedy talking. Culturally, as I learnt a great deal more about the Spanish culture, not to mention socially as I made plenty of friends - we have all vowed to return next year!
In a sentence, the trip was brilliant because I was not just learning the language - I was also learning about the people and culture behind the language and even better, I made lots of new friends along the way!