Madeleine O’Haire - 2013 Program Participant

Madeleine and a group from ISA at the old Cathedral in Salamanca.
Madeleine and a group from ISA at the old Cathedral in Salamanca.

What attracted you about the ISA Program?

ISA offered a variety of programs, and the Business and Culture program in Salamanca really appealed to me. The classes were taken seriously, and I really wanted to learn while I was abroad. ISA also had excursions to Seville, Lisbon, Toledo, and even an optional trip to Morocco. I was considering other programs, but after talking to the ISA staff, I could tell that they really cared and took the program seriously.

What pointers do you have for other students taking a gap year in Salamanca?

I would advise students on a gap year in Salamanca to really get to know the city and the Spanish students there. Although you're going to want to see as much of Europe as you can, don't spend every weekend traveling to a different city or country. Salamanca is such a beautiful, fun city with a great history and culture. My favorite memories from my year abroad are those that took place in Salamanca with the local students. Don't just go out to American bars with your American friends. Take the time and make the effort to practice your Spanish with Spanish students! It's the best way to learn the language and the best way to get to know the city.

What makes Salamanca such a great place to take a gap year in Spain?

Salamanca was the best place to take a gap year in Spain because it is a true Spanish city. Salamanca Spanish is the purest in the country, and you will definitely have to use your Spanish. The city is not expensive or hard to get around. It is a very safe city, and it’s easy to walk to most places. There are so many students from all over Spain and around the world, so there is a great mix of people. The locals are patient and kind, and the city itself is beautiful with so many hidden treasures waiting for you to discover.

What was your favorite part about taking a gap year in Salamanca?

My favorite part of the experience was making friends with Spanish students and getting to see the non-touristy side of Salamanca. I got to practice my Spanish, make lifelong friends, and learn the ins and outs of Salamanca. The weekends I spent with friends by the Puente Romano laughing and playing music were the best times of my gap year.

How has your gap year in Salamanca changed you?

My gap year helped me realize that I want to major in International Affairs and Spanish and continue traveling to as many places as I can. Taking a gap year made me excited to go to college and focus on my studies because I knew what I was interested in. I grew so much as a student and as a person through my gap year, and it definitely helped me mature and become independent. I now am a lot less shy and have much more confidence. I also met many amazing people on my gap year that I am still in contact with.