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.
Or, catch a glimpse of their wisdom in those statues…
After class, drinking a cup of Sidra (Cider, alcoholic beverage made from apple ) may be a good idea.
Or, seeing around just a few kilometres away from this lovely city…
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.
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.
Ask 2o people in the first week of school, their name and where they are from..in 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 🙂
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).
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.
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).
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.
Go out on a group trip
Massage Therapy student studying at the Universidad de Oviedo intensive Spanish classes as part of Centennial College’s SIPs this summer.
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.
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.
Sherry Ing, currently enjoying the Spanish course in Centennial College’s SIPs at the University of Oviedo this summer.
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.
4.FOOD, FOOD, FOOD.
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.
3. TURN DOWN THE VOLUME.
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?
2.SIESTA, YES PLEASE!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
3. CITY HALL:
Ayuntamiento de Oviedois 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.
I was thrilled to hear my professor Marg announce that she would be going back to Guatemala to continue her work. I submitted my application on the very first day, and was already planning my trip before the acceptance letter. A few months later, I landed at Flores airport. That was unreal.
The purpose of our trip was to teach the local midwives how to use a birthing simulator MamaNatalie, teach the local women how to make reusable menstrual pads, and provide First Aid training to the local health promoters. We visited six different communities throughout our stay, and each community was unique in its own way. Most of the communities we visited are Q’eqchi’, the Maya people, hence it requires double translation from English to Español, then to Kekchi. It was challenging, but in a positive way.
I didn’t really experience “culture shock,” definitely some “culture surprises” during our stay in Guatemala. Photos speak a thousand words, hence I will walk you through our wonderful journey through photos. Have some tortilla chips ready, sit back and relax.
Day 1:Our flight is TO -> Miami -> Guatemala city -> Flores, then finally a two-hour bus ride to Sayaxche, It was tiring, but we were warmly greeted by the heat wave in Guatemala.
Day 2: Flores -2 hours smooth bus ride to Sayaxche
Meeting with Apidec (Programa Integral de desarrollo Christiano) & World Renew staffs. Had a crazy ride in a “cage” to our first village. I was chosen to be the first to do MamaNatalie (meaning I have to fake birthing). I knew I did an awesome job because everyone outside heard my screams from the classroom. Some said my hysterical screams scared some babies and kids oops. There is no bridge to cross the river in Sayaxche, so we had to take the ferry. Unfortunately on our way back to the hotel, a truck was stuck on the ferry and we waited for an hour before crossing a small river. Apparently the government made big profits from the ferry, so bridges are unnecessary. We had to hide in the jungle for toilet break! We were still full of awesomeness but began to feel the heat wave eating away our energy.
Day 3: Meeting with the Ministry of Health of Guatemala (Gobiernode Guatemala Ministerio de Salud Publica y Assistencia Social) in the morning. Visited our second village “San Juan Acul” in the afternoon. This village has a huge shelter outside. Sweat was pouring down, but the hot & humid breeze meant so much to us! I’ve said “mi nombre Beidi” so many times. Awesome but the heat was unbearable. We definitely had an awesome time at this community all thanks to the shelter that they have.
Day 4:Third village “Herencia Maya” meaning Heritage Maya. Most residents only know Kekchi, a Mayan language, so we have to translate from English to Spanish then to Kekchi (most communities we visited are Q’eqchi’ so triple translations hence triple the fun, and most of the communities were receiving visitors for the very first time, not to mention first foreign visitors). I used leftover fabrics to make♥and stars to the kids and they love it so much. This heat was overwhelming… people were starting to get sick😦
Day 5: Visit to Tikal, the Mayan ruins! Everyone was excited though we were not feeling well. The heat was not bad, bearable. Awesome day!
Day 6:Boating to the zoo in the morning, and had a fabulous view of Flores from far. Was a little upset that we had to cancel our afternoon trip to another ruin😦but at least we went to a good restaurant and I got a super yummy chicken sandwich and a Jamaican Rose drink. Got a super-itchy spider bite, and the rash was crystal-like. Finally started raining on the way back to Sayaxche, it cooled down the heat.
Day 7 & 8:Can’t remember what exactly happened during these two days. I was drained, and totally shutting down. I remembered the tables were so small and low, I have to bend down all the time while surrounded by groups of women and children. The noise, the heat, and the environment was sweeping over me like waves after waves. Due to the heat and long bus ride, more people felt unwell. I forced myself to drink lots and lots of water, and I survived the hardest period during this trip.
Day 9:Visited the last community! The kids there were overwhelming. They dragged you everywhere, touched your hair, put their little hands in your pocket digging for stuffs. I went to the bathroom with ten kids surrounding the door. Last time using MamaNatalie, my energy level left only 10% while doing it. A long day ended with kids holding my hands, grabbing my leg, and singing my name.
Day 10:Meeting with Ministry of Health again with reporters, and many cameras. Seemed like we’ll all be in Peten news! Our efforts had been paid off. Our MamaNatalie, menstrual pads, and First Aid sessions benefited the locals so much that the MOH will continue teaching the midwives and women with MamaNatalie and menstrual pad making. I felt so grateful. Drove back to Flores and finally SHOPPING TIME!!! (didn’t buy a lot because I was… exhausted). Day ended with a two-dollar ice cream.
Day 11: Guatemala City was raining and flight was delayed. Almost missed our Miami flight back to Toronto because of that. One American said “look at those crazy Canadian girls running in airport.” First thing back home is feeling extremely cold in 20ish temperature, but home sweet home :”)
I have to thank Centennial College for this amazing opportunity.Thank all the staffs from World Renew. Thank you Marg, Roya & Jo! Although we faced many ups and downs in this trip, extreme deprivation of veggies, tears and laughter, it was an experience that could only be experienced. It made me question my values, tested my limits, and forced me to grow. Thank you Guatemala! Someone told me this quote during this trip “You have to do other won’t, so you can have other can’t.” and of course my own quote “IT’S ONCE IN A LIFETIME!!!“
Since arriving in Chile on June 1, I have been having the experience of a lifetime! I wasn’t sure what to expect because I had never been to South America before, but my host family has made me feel right at home in Viña del Mar.
The Flower Clock – One of Viña del Mar’s most recognizable features
My Spanish and Chilean Culture classes are very fun and engaging – and we don’t just learn in the classroom! Our teacher takes us on an excursion at least once a week to tell us about the history and show us the culture firsthand. This month, the FIFA World Cup started in Brazil, and it’s amazing how crazy Chileans get over soccer (or fútbol, as it’s called in Spanish)! So far, Chile has played and won 2 games, and the whole city was shut down during the games. My Spanish is much better now than when I arrived, and I am proud to say that I can order food in a restaurant sin problema!
I have also been volunteering at an orphanage in Viña del Mar. Many of the children come from fractured families, but are in good spirits and always excited to see us. We spend our time there playing with the children, and it is very rewarding to see the smiles on their faces. During my last visit, as I was about to leave, one of the young children grabbed my hand and refused to let me leave until he gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek!
A ship at sunset during a walk around the city with my Chilean Culture Class
In my spare time, I have visited several local landmarks (including the beach and the flower clock), as well as Isla Negra (the home/museum of Pablo Neruda, the Chilean poet who won a Nobel Prize) and the city of Valparaíso. On my second weekend in Chile, I visited the tourist town of Púcon with my new friends. We took a 12-hour overnight bus to go sightseeing, soak in hot springs, and ride horses. It was an amazing trip that exposed a part of Chile I didn’t know existed!
Horseback Riding in Púcon wearing ponchos of the Mapuche (indigenous people of south-central Chile)
This overall experience has been far more enriching than I could have expected. Not only have I greatly expanded my Spanish vocabulary, but I have tried numerous (tasty!) new foods, witnessed the passion for soccer in South America, overcome the challenges of working with children of a different culture and language, and navigated my way through a new country and new cities. I truly feel that I am living within the culture while living with my host family, and I couldn’t imagine a better way to experience a country and its culture.
Although this is an amazing trip and a once in a lifetime cultural experience, it is an internship, and I’m here to work (among other things, of course)! My position is interesting as well, because I’m doing my internship with the Global Experience Office as a part of my last and final course in my Project Management Program at Centennial. So my entire professional performance here in Panama will be translated into a (hopefully very good) mark back in Canada.
I am working with Centennial College’s Panama Recruitment Office, and my job is to essentially help the office run better. It’s a new office with only two employees, but they’re recruiting dozens and dozens of students for English language training programs and degree programs at Centennial College all through the year. Both high school and post-secondary students come through the office here, looking for advice on programs, information about the college, and help with the difficult and complex process of completing all of the necessary paperwork required in order to go to Centennial without a hitch. It’s both a highly individualized process that is meant to reach as many prospective students as physically possible. And Panama is brimming with students of all ages wanting to further their education, learn English, and come to Canada! The office here also works with many Panamanian institutions in order to reach more prospective students and to facilitate their travel to Centennial College.
At the start of any employment-related class I’ve had, the professor has always said “don’t go in there and try to change things around”…but that’s exactly what I get to do! Well, I make suggestions at least; and I’ll be establishing more formalized processes in the office in order to standardize the work as much as possible, in order to make the lives of my coworkers here in Panama (and any new prospective hires as the office grows) easier.
I have learned that Spanish is definitely the dominant language here in Panama. Very few people speak any English at all. This has proved daunting for me, as I sit in the office trying to muddle through a conversation in Spanish! I took two years of Spanish in University and completed enough credits to Minor in the language, however after three years of no use, I’ve forgotten most of it. I’m spending much of my first week observing the work done here and interacting with some of the students who have questions about Canada ( The question I get most is “Is it really really cold there?”). Conversation is a muddled mixture of my bad Spanish and broken English, but I love it!
I’m taking a lot of time to learn and study the language. Television here has some great English channels, but I try my hardest to follow along on the Spanish channels instead. It’s coming back to me…but very very slowly. Subtitles and sign language are helping. So is the Google Translate App on my phone.