Congratulations to the
recipient of the
Episcopal Day School - Augusta, GA
Report from Salamanca, Spain July 2017:
As a young teenage student growing up in Colombia, I had the idea of “Why take English as a second language?
I’m never going to use it or need it.” So I just did the minimum efforts to pass the class and did not care much
about learning a second language. As life turns out, I came to the USA at the age of 19 to study English as a second
language for a year, and then go back to my home country. Well, along the way that year I became fascinated
with the language and lifestyle that I decided to apply for a student visa and stay to attend college here in the United States.
Being a goal setter from an early age, when
I made the decision to stay, I was starting to fulfill one of my goals, to graduate from college. The second goal was to obtain
a Master’s Degree in a foreign country, in an environment out of my comfort zone and culture.
My college career was extended, from its beginning in 1980 to its long awaited end in 2006, due
to marriage, parenthood, and life circumstances. I proudly accomplished my first goal in December 2006. Graduating with a
B.A. in Spanish with a minor in Education. After working as a Certified Spanish teacher for more than ten years, my second
goal has been coming up to the surface and reminding me that I still needed to accomplish it.
Along this path and through the years I have met some wonderful people who have guided and mentored
me, Dr. Jana Sandarg and colleagues, Di Johnson and Christy Presgrove. They have always encouraged me to step up and go to
University of Salamanca to do the Master’s program. My response has always been, “I’m too old for
it. I don’t think I can handle it.” Their response has been “Sonia, tu puedes. Te va a fascinar.”
As 2017 came along, my desire to accomplish my goal became stronger and so I applied to the master’s program, with the
idea that I would probably not be accepted. To my surprise, I was accepted to attend the University of Salamanca Master’s
Program for teachers of Spanish as a second language. I was accepted and that train and all the required paperwork was moving
fast. So fast that all I could think or say to myself was “I’m going, but how and with what money? No sé,
Dios proverá”, and He has provided, not only economically, but also spiritually, culturally, and in many other
This summer I spent the most
enlightening five weeks of my life in Salamanca, Spain, the country that as a child I learned to know as la Madre Patria as
we referred to it in Latin America. During these 5 weeks, I attended the first phase of Master en lengua y cultura españolas
de la Universidad de Salamanca. This program takes two summers to complete, I have now completed Phase I and I look forward
to completing Phase II in the summer of 2018.
How can I describe my experience? Oh wow, it was amazing, outstanding, and invigorating. This trip being my first trip to
Spain, it was fascinating. The adventure started in Madrid. I traveled to Madrid before the program started. I spent
a couple of days in Madrid, a fascinating, noisy, vibrant, and chaotic city. Full of life and full of restaurants, bars, and
shops, one in every corner or middle of the block, even in residential areas. But at the same time, it is full of history,
art, and culture. Unfortunately, I did not have enough time to be able to see all of it. However, I did have the opportunity
to visit El Palacio Real with its majesty and grandeur architecture that dates back to the 18th century, with its nearby Jardines
del Campo del Moro. I also visited the Museo Nacional del Prado with its unrivaled collection of Spanish paintings, considered
one of the world’s finest. The Prado many exhibitions represent the taste of the Spanish monarchs, with noticeable emphasis
on religious and courtly paintings. To see upclose paintings and works from Francisco Goya, Diego Velázquez such as
Las Meninas, El Cristo crucificado; the works from El Greco such as La Crucifixion, and many other works and artists, it is
almost unreal and incomprehensible. Too many to remember. This museum is also amazing because of its architecture, its size,
its organization, and the amount of people that it can hold. I also visited el Museo Nacional Reina Sofia with its many
exhibitions but most impressive Picasso’s Guernica, showing the entire development of it. Of course, I could not
leave Madrid without a visit to its beautiful Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol with their many restaurants, shops and interesting
yet entertaining street shows.
A very relaxing and quiet train trip took
me to Salamanca. As we cross some of the Sierra de Guadarrama mountains, I was able to appreciate the beautiful landscapes
with windmills in the background, which reminded me of Don Quijote and his ferocious giant enemies.
Once in Salamanca, the program started and it was a very intense program which kept me very focussed
on my studies. The program offers 5 weeks of classes on Spanish Literature, Evolution of the language, History of Spain, Advance
Grammar, Teaching Methodology, Culture, Spanish Films, and Art History through tours. I attended classes from 8 am to 2:00
pm, then I went home for lunch and a siesta and by 4:30 pm I was back at school for afternoon/evening classes or tours that
sometimes lasted 3 hours or more. This schedule made it for a very long day Mondays through Thursdays. First of all,
the meals schedule is a little different from ours in the USA. Lunch is usually not served until after 1:30 pm and dinner
is usually served after 9:00 pm. This schedule was a little hard to get used to the first week, however, once I started enjoying
the much needed little afternoon naps; this made the schedule so much easier to handle. Another thing that I actually
enjoyed, was having to walk every where and not having to drive a car and be stressed out about traffic and other drivers.
This was great and also beneficial for the body and mind. As I walked around the city, I was able to enjoy the beautiful architecture
of the gold stone buildings found all throughout the city of Salamanca. I enjoyed visiting many catholic churches with
their beautiful stain glass windows, gold decorated altars, opulent side chapels, and magnificent architecture that made me
feel closer to God.
The program offered weekly
tours within the city of Salamanca where I was able to visit the Library at the University of Salamanca with its many very
old books kept behind glass cases to protect and preserve them. We also visited the Cathedral of Salamanca with its
old, built in the 12 century, and new sections that merge together to become a magnificent place of worship visited
by many people every day. Among some of the places we visited were La Plaza Mayor, el Palacio Monterrey, La Casa de
las Conchas, El Palacio Anaya, and el Palacio Fonseca. Salamanca has many touristic, historic, and cultural places that I
just did not have enough time to visit. Maybe next year I will be able to visit them.
We also toured places outside the city such as Campillo where we visited la iglesia visigoda San Pedro de la Nave,
which was built during the years 680 y 711. It is an amazing place that is still used to celebrate Sunday mass and sacraments.
Zamora with its cathedral built during the 12th century in gothic style, The city’s architecture makes you feel like
you are inside a very big castle with its brick walls surrounding it and brick streets throughout the town. In Toro, we also
visited La iglesia-colegiata de Toro. Its construction dates back to the year 1160, another amazing old church that still
stands and serves it parishioners. Avila with its magnificent murallas (walls) that date back to the 11th century.
It is also considered part of the Teresian trail, which relates to the life of St. Teresa of Avila. We visited the convent
where St. Teresa spent some of her time as a Carmelite sister. Segovia with its magnificent Roman Aqueduct and beutiful
town with the royal palace of the Alcazar of Segovia, built on a stone peninsula between the rivers Eresma and Clamores, its
architecture reflects from Romanesque architecture to Gothic and Mudéjar. The building is structured around two courtyards
and has two towers, and a keep. It was a favourite residence of Alfonso X the Wise and Henry IV, and Isabella the Catholic
was crowned Queen of Castile in Segovia's Plaza Mayor.
Another appealing or enlightening factor that added to my great experience, were the instructors at the University of Salamanca.
The team of professors and faculty that works with the Master’s program is a great group of professionals. They not
only share their knowledge, but also share their culture, and their caring to make you feel at home and comfortable within
the limitations of your stay.
As you can
see, I really enjoyed my adventure and my experience in Spain, my only regret is not having planned more time to be able to
visit many of the other interesting cities in Spain. I am already planning for a longer stay in Spain next summer, so I can
take more tours and learn more about the culture and history of la patria madre. I also have to admit that Dr. Sandarg, Di,
and Christy were correct and I thank them and my colleagues from AATSP and FLAIR for encouraging me to take this step.