After starting Spanish ab-initio in my first year here at York, I decided to spend three weeks last August at the Academia Iria Flavia in Santiago de Compostela, in the region of Galicia, north-west Spain, doing an intensive Spanish-language course to give my Spanish the extra boost that it needed!
Arriving in Santiago was extremely nerve-wracking, especially when I realised that I would now actually have to speak Spanish in context, in real life, to real Spanish people who wouldn’t necessarily speak English. The residencia that I stayed in was very similar to a university hall, except that all our meals were cooked for by two ladies – Esther and Lidia. Most of us staying there were taking part in courses at the Academia, so it was very reassuring to have some familiar faces as the days went on.
The course I chose was called intensivo, and that was definitely true! Six hours of only Spanish every day Monday to Friday meant that by the time I got back in the afternoon I was exhausted! Even though it was difficult at times to stay focussed for so much time, it was certainly worth it as my Spanish started to improve by leaps and bounds within a couple of days of arriving. Our class consisted of five people plus the teacher, which when we spent six hours a day together meant that we got to know each other incredibly well. People came to the school from all across the world, not only European countries but also the US, Brazil, Russia and even Japan! This meant that the only common language in the school between everyone was Spanish, so we were forced to speak Spanish to communicate – it sounds daunting, but very quickly you get used to it. Everyone got on extremely well and we would often go into the city in the evenings to go to a bar and try the huge selections of tapas on offer. At the weekends we would go on excursions out of the city, to places such as the Costa de la Muerte (Coast of Death), to the port city of A Coruña, and even to the beach.
The city of Santiago de Compostela is a beautiful, old city (much like York) filled with many things to do. During the time I was there it was the arrival of pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago, in which people walk to Santiago and on to the coastal town of Finisterre. Outside of the lessons the Academia offered extra activities, such as a tour around the city learning about the various ghosts, stories and legends of Santiago, a trip to the City of Culture of Galicia and a card games evening. One of the main features of the city is the cathedral; completed in 1211 it dominates the city skyline. As well as being a focal point in the city, the cathedral is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The summer course was a fantastic way not only to improve my Spanish before starting the second year but also a way of meeting people from all across the world, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested.