My adventures in an unknown land – Oviedo, Spain


Hola, Buenos días.

I met my Spanish mother at the bus station when all we could understand each other were “Hola” to me and “Hello” to her. And that’s how my adventures in Oviedo began…


Oviedo is the capital city of the Principality of  Asturias in northern Spain. I got a chance to explore this city during the whole of August, I fell in the love with this small but neat and charming city.


It’s a historical city that founded more than a thousand years ago. And from those ancient buildings, we read history.

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Or, catch a glimpse of their wisdom in those statues…

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After class, drinking a cup of Sidra (Cider, alcoholic beverage made from apple ) may be a good idea.

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Or, seeing around just a few kilometres away from this lovely city…

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Or, how about dance?


By Xiuhua Wang, SIPs, Oviedo, Spain, 2016

7 Things I Dare You To Do While Studying Abroad

My classmate and I are in class playing a board game to help us practice our Spanish.  We are holding our list of items we needed to get, such as 1 kg of jamón and 1.5 kg of azucar.

No entiendo is a Spanish phrase I often say when I do not understand what the other person is saying to me while I am here in Spain as part of Centennial’s SIPs.  It is also the same phrase I hear from the other person as well.  In Oviedo, where I am doing my SIPs, I gain more Spanish because the majority of the people you interact with are locals.  One day, my homestay mom wanted to accompany me to places to help with translation.  But I kindly refused and thinking I could do it on my own.  Well, after being laughed at numerous times, receiving all kinds of facial expressions from the other person, and even one person stared at me blankly and walked away.  These are the kinds of reactions I received from the locals when we are not interacting with the same language, me with Spanglish, a word derived from English and Spanish, and the other person with Spanish.  But it is when you get out there to self improve on learning Spanish that these attitudes from people will result.  Its actual vale, okay in Spanish!  So, I hope to help you put your newly learn-ing language to functionality by daring you what I had dared myself to do.  I present to you 7 things I dare you to do while studying abroad in Oviedo.

  1. Sign up for a library card at the local library:  I am thankful that it is accessible to sign up for a library card in Oviedo, so I could borrow books to read on my break time at school and bus rides on school trips.  But, it was definitely a challenge when I tried this.  How will this help with your Spanish?  It will help you by giving the experience in signing forms and speaking…attempting Spanish.  There are common words that you can learn as well, such as nombre, apellidarse, and dirección: name, family name, and address.
  2. Ask 2o people in the first week of school, their name and where they are Spanish:  ¿Como te llama? y ¿De donde eres? (You are asking for their name and the country they are from)  Encantado/a means nice to meet you. This will help you practice the basic introduction to others in Spanish and also making new friends 🙂
  3. Order tarrón helado:  I dare you to order something or this typical flavour known in Oviedo at the local ice cream shop. It is an almond ice cream and during the winter holiday, the tarrón fruit dessert is popular as a gift.  In general, I dare you to order food, because my first time ordering croissants, I ended up with 6 croissants and costing me more then what I intend.  The experience will help you practice numbers and ordering.  Such as when you enter the shop it is polite and typical to greet the people with buenas or hola, bueno días.  To order you could use me gusta… or necesito (I like and I need).
  4. Attend the festival de Verano:  During the summer month, the province will have summer festivals.  In Oviedo, the festival of summer offers free concerts in historical monuments, and discounted tickets to theatrical performances.  I had the chance to attend several musicals.  So, how will this help you?   I had to find the location of the place, so I practice my Spanish by asking for directions.  You could use hola, señor/a, donde es.  As well as, everyone I heard when I was in line or seated were speaking Spanish.  That way, I am immersing myself in listening to Spanish.
  5. Watch television:  The local channels offers news and local tv shows.  I found this helpful in learning Spanish because I start hearing repeated words and phrases, such as tambien, entonces, pero, and mañana. (also, so, but, and tomorrow).
  6. Wonder the streets:  I dare you to wander the local streets, read the street names, names of shops, and listen to people’s conversations.  This will help you be acquainted with some words and activate your hearing and seeing cues.
  7. Go out on a group trip 

!Hasta luego!

Sherry Ing

Massage Therapy student studying at the Universidad de Oviedo intensive Spanish classes as part of Centennial College’s SIPs this summer.

Rosy walls, Wedding Bells, Mountain Peaks, Cowbells, Vibrant Hues…Buen Días!

I went on a school field trip to Picos de Europa, a national park in northern Spain.  There were never-ending peaks of mountains and cows roaming the hills.

It’s my third week studying Spanish at the University of Oviedo as part of Centennial College’s SIPs, and I just finished the weekend off with a school trip to Covadonga, Picos de Europa, and Congas de Onís.  These trips show the history of Asturias according to my professor and locals.  Our first stop was the Congas de Onís, which had the Puente Romano.  It is a bridge built in the medieval times from the reign of Alfonso XI of Castille and Leon.  In the middle of the reconstructed bridge, hangs the Victoria Cross, which relates to the battle of Covadonga.  On our way to Picos de Europa, a national park on the Northern coast of Spain, we had to stop for passing cows, that lived in these mountains.  The cowbells rang in the background, as I hiked up and down the paved path along these mountain peaks.  Beyond these islands were lakes, Ercina and Enol, that glowed with a deep blue hue.  It was quite a magnificent view!  What I also saw and learn was that it was a site for mining.

Lucky day for my school, we witnessed part of a wedding ceremony.  In the picture, you can see the four musicians, the bagpipe is a traditional instrument you will hear in Asturias.

Covadonga was our next location, and it has a history that relates to religions; Christianity and Muslim.  I am not versed in history, but before choosing the SIPs, I researched Oviedo and found this part interesting.  On train and bus rides in Spain, each region and city I pass by, I start noticing geographical, cultural and religious influences.  On another note, I had a chance to see the elegantly dressed guests of a wedding in the rosie wall, Basilica of Santa María la Real of Covadonga.  The traditional bagpipe was played.  According to my professor, it is custom for Spanish wedding guests to gift about 150€ each when they do accept their invites.  I guess I will be sending my best wishes to any future Spanish weddings.

¡Hasta luego!

Sherry Ing, currently enjoying the Spanish course in Centennial College’s SIPs at the University of Oviedo this summer.

Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Choose Homestay


Its the second week that I am studying at the University of Oviedo intensive spanish course as part of Centennial College’s SIPs in Spain.  It is important to know the living choices when studying abroad, you have the option of staying in homestay or student resident, etc.  These living choices has some benefits and advantages when learning a new language.  Here is my top 5 reasons why you should choose homestay.



I get to live with a homestay family who is based in Oviedo.  They know the Catalan Romance language, and also Spanish. They know the city well and  I can ask many questions, such as locations of monuments, the hours of operation of stores, etc.


Did I mention about food?  My homestay family makes what they usually eat here in Oviedo.  I get to live the way they do through their culinary.  Though my stomach protested in the first week to have some vegetables, I made progress to negotiate with my homestay that VERDE is a must for me. For dessert, I enjoy the fresh local cherries that they have here, its very delicious.  I have lunch very late in the afternoon, that I am not used to, which is around 2pm.  Negotiation with my homestay family is in process to have an earlier breakfast…so I can leave early to school because I still get lost on my way to school.


When living in a homestay, I can focus more on my studies, so I can be one step closer to my goals of fluency in Spanish.  I do not have to worry about random weeknights parties from roommates.  Hilariously, my upstair neighbours likes to walk in their heels, I think its time for them to invest in carpets, no?


I get a chance to do what my family do and learn their way of living.  In the afternoon,  I enjoy my siesta, cat nap, which I find helps me reenergize.

1.SPANISH 24/7.

My homestay family makes an effort to speak to me, despite the communication challenges of not fully understanding each others native language.  In this way, I am in an immersive environment that allows me to  listen and try my best to communicate verbally in Spanish, so I can practice my Spanish.

¡Hasta luego!

Sherry Ing

Centennial College Massage Therapy student, currently studying Spanish at the University of Oviedo in Spain for the summer.


What am I up to this summer break?  I am excited to say that I am doing a Centennial College summer international program at the University of Oviedo in the province of Asturias in Spain.  It is where I will be spending the next three weeks learning Spanish.  Often, the first week can be nerve-racking, not knowing anyone yet, the new time shift, and unfamiliar customs.  That’s why it’s important to try these 3 things in the first week of your summer international program in Spain that can help you transition smoothly to the new setting.

A cage of the pan, it displayed their bread that was sliced evenly and served with our pinchos.
A cage of the pan, it displayed their bread that was sliced evenly and served with our pinchos.


In the first week, I had my first epic welcoming party and sipped Sidra from an interesting technique.  This is an event you do not want to miss out on your first week in the Universidad de Oviedo intensive Spanish course.  This is where you can meet some of your classmates in a social setting and also try something new. What is an espicha?  It is a festive, social event in Asturia and Sidra is usually consumed at the local sidrería, such as Tierra Astur, in which you would not have a difficult time finding in Oviedo.  Sidra is a cider and is a popular alcoholic beverage in Asturias, that is made from fermented apple juices.  The person usually pours it from a height so the Sidra becomes foamy and sparkling.  As well as, it is drunk in a short amount of time, as it will get warm.  A 1/2 inch residue of the Sidra is left at the bottom of the drinking glass, so to rinse and clean it out.

2. SIDRA:  

The video above shows me making my first attempt at pouring the Sidra from the large wooden barrel.  This is a must-try when in your first week in Oviedo, Spain.  I and others had the same feelings when we hesitate to try this technique.  We were worried about it getting all over ourselves, spill it everywhere or it might pour the wrong way. To my surprise, it was not what I thought, I only had some Sidra on my hands, but was easy to clean up.  The night finished off with traditional music, usually, the bagpipe musical instrument is played, along with singing, and dancing.  They also served a tasting of a walnut dessert.


Ayuntamiento de Oviedo is the city hall of Oviedo, where the municipality decisions are made.  It’s one of the places you can go inside with your school group.  The meeting table is where the council communicates with each other in order to make important decisions on the municipal level.

Hasta luego!

Sherry Ing

Centennial College Massage Therapy Student

Summer International Program 2016 Oviedo, Spain

El Camino de Santiago; Pamplona, Navarra, Spain

“You know the value of every article of merchandise, but if you don’t know the value of your own soul, it’s all foolishness.”  This is a quote from a 13th-century Persian poet named Rumi.  One defining moment for me when I arrived back to Canada from Pamplona, Spain back in June 2014 that I can resonate with this quote is getting rid of material things that I had accumulated but never let go of.  Are they (material items) valuable then myself?  Does it (material items) define who I am?  There were so many questions going through my head and I would like to conclude one part of my personal experiences taking part in Centennial College GEO Language and Culture exchange in Pamplona, Spain on the Centennial College’s Global Experience blog.

Even my time in Pamplona, Spain translate well with this quote on my weekend back-packing trips.  Having relied on whats in my back-pack was all I really needed to survive and live.  What I bring out of these mini-trips were lessons and good memories and a great appreciation for my self-worth.  While the majority of people were just waking up from their slumber or getting much needed sleep, I was ready and wide awake to start my day.  What gave me a jot of energy to go outdoors, live in the moment, and discover more of Spain and ultimately some of myself are the pilgrims that carry their back-pack and hiking sticks early in the mornings while taking the path of the Camino de Santiago nearby the University of Navarra.  The Camino de Santiago is a network of ancient pilgrims pathway that leads to St. James tomb that I had the opportunity to walk part of it.

Soon enough, I discovered the biggest reason to walk the path in the early mornings when the blazing scorching sun in the afternoons made walking the path slightly unbearable.  It helps that the sights of olive groves, grape vineyards, and community gardens filled my eyes during the walk.  To quench my thirst, each town had drinking fountains, with the spout pouring water out of a bronze lion’s mouth or some other creatures.  Carrying my Camino de Santiago “passport”  I entered each town searching for an Albergue, hostel in English, a bar, or a church to get a town’s stamp to officiate that I had been there (the town or the actual place). This was a great gem that I discovered of Spain after the coordinator mention it during my tour of the University of Navarra that I will one day come back to Spain and walk the whole path.

Photo courtesy of Jack Yin

 I am stoked and  ready to walk the el Camino de Santiago on a beautiful Sunday morning, the walk to the mountain was an interesting one. There were towering straw bales along the path, sunflower seedlings sprouting and waiting for the hot summer sun of July, and small trinkets of tokens left by other pilgrims on sea shell markers. The blue and yellow depicts a seashell motif. The rays on the shell symbolizes different pathways that reflect to one single point, St. James tomb. I am holding the passport to collect stamps along the 500 mile path.

Photo courtesy of University of Navarra

The countdown to the San Fermín festival!  Me and my classmates are also standing in front of the shop called Kukuxumusu, flea kiss in Basque language, Pamplona-based clothing and product stores, selling many San Fermín items. 

Photo courtesy of University of Navarra

 My classmates and I are standing in front of the town hall building in Pamplona.

Sin título
Photo courtesy of University of Navarra

First day of school, me and my classmates are standing in front of the entrance to University of Navarra, where I spend three weeks studying Spanish.

So, coming back to Canada, I donated three bags full of quality but slightly worn clothes, recycled magazines and paper clippings of quotes and typography that were my source of inspiration at that time, and utilize my letting go of attachment to items to devote my focus on my academic journey in Massage Therapy at Centennial College and getting more involved with Centennial College extracurricular activities.

September is right around the corner and Centennial College will soon have many school fairs, one of them are school services and what is offered to students.  I made the right decision of taking a moment one day to talk to Pearl Vas, advisor of GEO International Mobility, at the GEO Language and Culture Program booth.  The partnership of Centennial College and the University of Navarra have designed an unparalleled experience for students to discover Spain while studying Spanish in an immersive environment.  This balance between academic and global experience defined me in many ways and taken my thinking to a worldwide view and learning outside the classroom then a one-dimensional view.  With this said, if you are interested I encourage you to take a moment to talk to someone from the GEO booth, read about it on the global experience blog, or talk to past participants.   The opportunities are endless at Centennial College and if something catches your eyes don’t hesitate, take that leap!

Sherry Ing

Massage Therapy Student at Centennial College

GEO Language and Culture Exchange Summer 2014 in Pamplona, Navarra, Spain

28 days later; Pamplona, Navarra, Spain Summer 2014 GEO


Welcome to my blog entry, after spending 28 glorious days studying at University of Navarra in Pamplona, Navarra, Spain with three fellow Centennial College students.

Firstly, from the bottom of my heart I like to say thank you to Yana Avdyeyeva and Pearl Vas, the manager and the advisor of Centennial College GEO International Mobility, respectively.

My name is Sherry Ing and I am going into my 2nd year in the Massage Therapy Program at Centennial College.  I am working towards my goals in becoming a Registered Massage Therapist in Ontario, Canada.  Also I am building knowledge and skills to share it one day and become a better advocate for holistic health care for all.   Along this road, I would like to become an International Massage Therapist and practice worldwide.

Here are a few hints of Pamplona, Navarra, Spain: wine, ciudadella, pinxhos, old town, and running of the bull festival also known as San Fermín.

Before I stepped onto the plane from Toronto, Ontario, Canada to Pamplona, Spain, I had written a personal and a professional goal for this journey.  This is what I had written:

“I like to learn to speak and read Spanish with the long term goal of professional proficiency in Spanish. I like to immerse myself in a different culture and country and break my own limits and barriers, with the long term goal of being comfortable and confident with building stronger relationship with people.”

Twenty-eight days later and the results are wonderful:  I learned to pronounce Spanish words and read Spanish literatures.  I can greet people with a hello, hola; thank you, gracias; excuse me, pardon; how are you?  ¿Cómo estás? ¿Qué tal?; googbye, adiós.

This truly was an immersive cultural experience that I will never forget, from juevinxho nights, siestas, to learning the jai alai sport.  I felt very connected and comfortable with asking for help or directions from locals and trust others when I needed help, such as when I needed help in finding a hostel to stay for the night in Estella, Navarra, Spain when another hostel was full.  Note: For two Sundays, when I am not studying, I walk part of the path of el Camino de Santiago, one of the pilgrimage path to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great.

During the 5 hour taxi ride from Madrid to Pamplona on the first day, I had the opportunity to share a view of the landscapes with three fellow Centennial College students.  I had the chance to see wild orange-red poppies dotting the green hills, counting over 70 windmills spinning their fans, giant shape of the bull every now and then as we zoom by, and miles of miles rolling hills and pine trees.

For the next few weeks, I had the chance of taking the public transit, rented a bicycle and explored Pamplona before and after classes, bought grocery at some of the major food chain; Eroski, Días, BM, and Carrefour, and talked to some locals.  What I observed from these mini-trips were:

  • plenty of green space and bicycle paths
  • public transit is accessible, clean, and easy to use
  • there are car sharing program and bicycle sharing program
  • automobiles are smaller in size
  • there are many round-abouts
  • Zara, the popular retailer store is based in Spain, many people like shopping there
  • Red and pink Geraniums overflow beautifully on balconies
  • Spain is on a hill and there are many outdoor elevators and escalators….and long stair paths
  • at the old town, bars have dried-cured Jamón (ham) decorating the bar
  • there are stores with Ernest Hemingway name due to his contribution in San Fermín recognition after referencing the San Fermín festival in his journal entries and novels
  • on doors, windows, or somewhere closeby there is a cartoon picture of what the store or object you are entering, such as shoe store, pharmacy, and sometimes elevators

Classes were fun!  Muchas Gracias to my professors who were patient and provided encouragements.   The first three weeks were immersive Spanish, A1 (beginners) at the main school building.  From there on, classes were at the Amigos building, build by fund raised for the school by the public.  I had taken Hospitality, Tourism and Experience Management and Spanish Literature: Miguel de Cervantes for my electives.  Here is a small insert of a letter I had written on the first week of Spain, to a friend about my new school and country:

I am writing this email from the schools´student computer in a hallway
that anyone might mistaken for an art gallery.  Its really beautiful
here in Pamplona, Spain.  The university is incredible.

Almost everyone here likes to walk their tiny dogs and jog.  They are
very healthy people.  The senior population are healthy too.

They are big on recycling and composting.  There is less litter here
too and many bins, they are even attached to the poles.

We did a walking tour to the area where the bull run takes place for
the San Fermin festival…so incredible!!


At class, we watched films in Spanish (The Others starring Nicole Kidman), listen to music in Spanish (Libre by Nino Bravo), and I had researched and presented a topic about Flamenco in Spanish.

     El flamenco es la danza folclórica y la música española que se inició en el siglo XVIII. Se conecta a las personas de etnia romaní de área Gitanos de España. Oriundo de la región de Andalucía, en el sur de España, el flamenco es un arte expresivo, que incluye cante, togue, baile y palmas. 

     Curiosamente, la palabra flamenco se puede describir como la llama ¨flame¨ en Inglés, debido a la fuerte expresión emocional de fuego que es el arte del flamenco.Para el artista para alcanzar esta intensidad, utilizan sus brazos, manos y estampación rítmico de los pies. Por otra parte, el flamenco también puede ser un solo o el desempeño del grupo. Como mención, hay diferentes partes en el flamenco y me centraré ahora sólo en la parte del canto flamenco


     Se desarrolló en la época dorada de 1869-1910. Hay tres clasificación en la parte cantada del flamenco que ayuda a distinguir una cierta emoción.  Están Grande, cante intermedio, y chico canto.


     El cante chico es un flamenco más liviano, y puede incluir el uso de una voz más suave; que expresa el amor, el humor subido de tono, y puede ser cantado alegremente con el acompanionment de la guitarra flamenca. Algunos ejemplos del cante chico son fandanges y cantes de ida y vuelta, que tiene influencias de América Latina. 


     Relativamente, las sevillanas está relacionado con el flamenco y la mayoría de los artistas flamencos tener al menos un clásico Sevillana en su repertorio. El estilo origniated como un baile castellano medieval, llamada la seguidilla, que fue adopeted con un estilo flamenco en el siglo xix.


     En conclusión, el flamenco es una forma de danza y música tradicional interesantes de Andalucía, España y puede ser disfrutado por muchos, ya sea como actor o una audiencia.Gracias y espero que hayan disfrutado de la breve presentación del flamencoSi usted tiene alguna pregunta, voy a intentar mi mejor esfuerzo para responder o referirlo a una mejor fuente.


What did you learned about flamenco?  If you do not know Spanish similar to me, I did everything with a dictionary and an online translator.  Before I went to sleep, I read Spanish poetry out loud and recorded myself to listen to my pronunciations.  Also, I borrowed books at the school library and also signed up for a public library card and borrowed books and disc from there too.

To finish this blog entry, I like to say thank you to University of Navarra, the International Summer University coordinator: Nicole Mayes, International coordinator: Mei-Hsin Chen, and the orientation leaders: Natalia and Nachi.

Finally, this experience had challenged me to live outside my elements, if I can do this, you can too, so what are you waiting for? Make that effort in class, spare that hour to write a letter of interest and complete that application form for the GEO program, and tell your friends and family on what you are doing, its unbelievable how many people support you and how many you can inspire to do the same.

Here are significant events that shaped me during this journey in Spain:

  • Walked part of el Camino de Santiago, from Pamplona to Puenta la reina to Estella.  The journey to Estella was a tough one for me, as the weather was sunny and extremely warm.
  • Planned a weekend trip to Bilbao, visited the Guggenheim Museum, designed by Architecture Frank Gehry and hiked San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, a small island in Bakio, Spain in the Basque country.
  • Watched the magic fountain in Barcelona, taught my three friends stand -up paddling in the Mediterranean Sea at Barceloneta
  • Asked local for directions
  • Lived in an apartment with four outgoing girl
  • Horse back riding at Casa Gurbindo, an organization that promotes local food and a school that teaches people agricultural skills
  • Made friends from around the world
  • Unfortunately my digital camera had malfunction every now and then, apologizes for the lack of pictures, but thankfully my amigos were generous and were not hesitant in taking photos for me when I asked

I hope my personal experience has inspire you to take that chance and be open to a new language and culture, please do not hesitate to ask questions and leave a comment.


Sherry Ing

Massage Therapy student at Centennial College

My trip to Spain

I started my exciting journey to Spain on Sept 5. I will stay in the country for six months to learn business courses and Spanish. I hope to understand the economy and culture of Spain as well as other European countries, which will enrich my global business knowledge and improve cross-cultural communication skills. The experience definitely will make me closer to be a global citizen.

My itinerary was Beijing – Zurich -Palma de Mallorca-Bilbao. The flight from Beijing to Zurich left the airport on 1:50 AM. And the total travel time was about 20 hours.


The Zurich airport is pretty big. I had to wait there for about five hours to take another flight to Palma de Mallorca. I went through the security check and the custom and got one entry stamp (no more at other airports). During the waiting time, I went outside of the airport to walk around in the shopping area and found some interesting things.


The train to port A/B using the sound of animals as background music. Sounds funny : ) Image

Some special local food.


The second stop is Palma de Mallorca in Spain. The place is an island with nice beaches.


Some interesting things found in the airport-strange wall decorations and McDonald green.


The last stop is Bilbal. And then take a bus to the university of Mondragon.

Travel tips: I did not find any open free Wifi at Beijing and above European airports. People may have to use a local phone number (or Passport) to get a code to use the free Wifi for a limited time,which is not very convenient.

Thanks for reading my post,

-Lin Cao