Alex Samuely - 2013 Program Participant

Hanging out with my roommate Christine in our favorite spot in Salamanca- el Rio Tormes!
Hanging out with my roommate Christine in our favorite spot in Salamanca- el Rio Tormes! Photo by Katie West

Why did you choose ISA over other study abroad programs?

ISA immediately stood out to me because of its all-inclusive package. It includes housing, food, any school fees- basically every large cost except for the plane ticket. That immediately makes things easier when relocating to a foreign country for a few months. The other large draw for me was its excursions to other cities, which were also included in the price. While studying abroad in Salamanca, I visited Segovia and Seville in Spain and Lisbon in Portugal. They were fun-filled weekends with plenty of sightseeing and top-notch accommodations. Furthermore, everyone in the ISA program went on these excursions, so I was guaranteed to have all of my friends there.

I liked that while ISA promoted befriending locals and frequently made programs for us with Spanish citizens, it also focused on cultivating friendships between the American students. Coming from a state school in New Jersey, most of my college friends are from the same state as I am. However, on this trip, I befriended people from across America, and we frequently compared lifestyles and little cultural varieties.

Lastly, ISA was always present at any study abroad fair that I went to, and had great, eye-catching marketing materials with extensive information available. Because I was able to speak with ISA representatives and knew of other TCNJ students who had successfully gone abroad with the organization, I felt comfortable in signing up with them.

You’re from the College of New Jersey, what advice would you give to other TCNJ students going to study abroad in Salamanca?

My advice to other TCNJ students would be to save all of your Liberal Learning requirements until study abroad time, and then fulfill them at your location of choice. Also, if you plan to minor or major in Spanish, many of the classes that you will take in Salamanca will transfer over. Be wise in choosing your classes. Your classes in Salamanca will likely not be bigger than your TCNJ classes, so you have nothing to worry about there!

Befriend the other international students in your classes and bond over your Spanish experiences. You will learn a lot about other cultures this way!

Lastly, there is a placement test that everyone must take prior to beginning classes, but it is not horrifyingly difficult, and is only meant to determine your skill level so that you will be comfortable in your classes. Brush up on Spanish before the trip, but know that the majority of your language learning will be undertaken via real-life experiences.

Also, one last quick bit of advice: the best dessert waffles (gofres) in Salamanca are at Rua Mayor restaurant. Un gofre con chocolate is an experience that everyone should have.

Why was Salamanca the best place to study abroad in Spain?

Salamanca was the best place to study abroad in Spain for me because of its size, primarily. While not overwhelmingly large or cosmopolitan, Salamanca was a quintessential small European city that had the best of both worlds. It had streets that I visited multiple times a day and knew like the back of my hand, and streets that I had just stumbled upon during my last week there. As someone coming from a medium-sized university with 5,000 students, I didn't want to be overwhelmed.

Also, Salamanca is known for having the purest Spanish spoken in all of Spain. I found this to be true while I was there. While Barcelona boasts a large population of Catalan speakers and Andalusians are known for having thicker accents, Salamancan Spanish was closest to what I was used to studying in school. Salamanca is a college town for sure, and has a large population of international students staying there at all times. I would frequently run into classmates while out for a walk in town, and the nightlife is quite extensive and certainly caters to its young population!

What was your favorite class and why?

My favorite class was Spanish Literature. I'm a literature buff at heart anyway, but my class was fortunate enough to have had the sweetest teacher who was big on informal learning. We would often read famous Spanish works out loud, and then discuss their meaning or compare them to works in English.

Our teacher promoted a comfortable atmosphere where everyone felt at ease asking even the most menial question, and she didn't mind going off on tangents about Spanish life, since she knew that we were also there to learn the culture. We also did many fun activities, like take personality tests in Spanish, that helped us learn local slang and allowed us to learn Spanish in a non-conventional way.

How has study abroad impacted your life?

Study abroad has further cemented my belief that everyone should take the opportunity to travel, at any age. It teaches you not only about foreign cultures and languages, but about your own as well. I was able to visit beautiful countries that I had not had the opportunity to visit before, and absorbed more from real life than in the classroom.

As an International Studies major, I would love to work abroad for a few years in the future, and Spain is certainly on my list of possibilities. It gave me the chance to live like a local, and see the Spain that Spaniards see. The memories and lessons that I took away from my study abroad experience are ones that will stay with me for the rest of my life.