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On International Education: A Few Words From Gaye in Salamanca

by AIFS Abroad
AIFS students in Salamanca, Spain

This year for International Education Week, we asked our Resident Directors overseas about study abroad and their own thoughts and experiences.

Next up, our Resident Director from Salamanca, Gaye Michaels, talks about how she ended up in Salamanca, Spain.


Did you study abroad? What inspired you to go?

I was one of those students that entered college knowing that I wanted to study abroad. I wanted the challenge of having everything familiar yanked right out from under me. I found the idea so exhilarating! I originally wanted to go to China because it was the most exotic destination my study abroad office offered at the time. However, I needed to have two semesters of Chinese under my belt to go and I didn’t have time, so I came to Spain.  I originally came to Salamanca, Spain to study for the fall semester of my junior year of college. I soon found, however, that a semester wasn’t enough for me so I stayed for the full academic year. Then I arranged to come back and study abroad for my senior year as well. And so began my story. Spain fit me…or I fit in Spain, and I simply never left!

Intercambio Meetup

Why is language and cultural immersion important?

A people’s culture – their values, their interests, their priorities – is reflected by and transmitted through their language. That means that to fully comprehend another culture, it is essential that you speak their tongue. Learning a foreign language is, therefore, in a way, like learning a new way of thinking! Once you start to grasp the language of your host country, you will realize that you are not simply “translating” thoughts in your head, but actually thinking in a different way. And besides, learning any language is a fantastic mental exercise. It opens your mind to crack another code. It’s invigorating!

With our program, you can kick-start, improve or perfect your Spanish. Living in a homestay, walking the streets of Salamanca, or participating in the AIFS language intercambio activities with Spanish students. In our program you are not just “studying” Spanish, but living and breathing Spanish 24/7; it’s the only way to true and solid language acquisition!

The University of Salamanca

On that note, what are some of your favorite Spanish words? Unique, untranslatable or some that just sound so cool!

  • Duende: One of the most interesting words in the Spanish language is duende, which is literally “elf” or “magic” but is used popularly to mean a physical or emotional response to art. As an artistic or musical term it is often used in the Flamenco world to loosely mean a heightened state of emotion, a mystic feeling that possesses you and creates a sensation of awe; it is the power of art to deeply move you, charm you and/or give you chills. The term was first used to mean this by Federico García Lorca in 1933.
  • Sobremesa: There’s no real translation for this word as it’s the very Spanish concept of hanging out (literally around the table) to talk after a meal. In other words: food induced conversation!
  • Tranquilo: literally quiet, calm or laid-back but more popularly used to mean chill out, don’t worry. Often abbreviated to tranqui or tranki
  • Tiquismiquis: fun word for fussy, finicky or picky
  • Ojalá:  hopefully/ if only/I wish – Arabic in origin, it literally means “should God (Allah) will it” or “God (Allah) willing.”
  • Comerse el coco: a slang expression meaning to beat yourself up or drive yourself crazy thinking about something (coco means coconut … which means your head here!)
  • El de la vergüenza: the last piece of food on a plate or tray that no one wants to take so as to not appear rude.
  • Otorinolaringologo: ear, nose and throat specialist. It’s just a challenging and fun word to say!
  • Chincheta: a fun word for thumbtack

Ojalá you can go to Spain and find out for yourself how amazing Salamanca is! Read more on our website.

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