I survived my first full week of (Spanish) class! Or as I like to call it, (being a stereotypical U.S. student who was never taught anything about this particular conjugation whatsoever) Crash Course in Vosotros.
The first day we took a placement test (multiple choice plus short answer). They use the Cambridge system so A=beginner, B=intermediate, and C=advanced, with 2 levels for each. I ended up in level B1 which means you know enough to have a real conversation in Spanish (aside from “hi how are you it’s sunny today”) but you’re definitely not fluent yet. However, all the international students were placed into either A1, A2, or B1 so at least I know I’m on the same level as all the others. In my class there are 9 of us from England, Italy, Germany, France, and Rhode Island (of all places haha).
Class is broken up into three parts: grammar, oral, and writing. Grammar is 9:15-11:15 and then we have a pausa where we all go downstairs to the café and just hang out for a bit. 11:45-12:50 is more grammar with Marián, a very sprightly, kind, and expressive lady who is very interested in our personal lives (in a good way) and likes talking about our current relationships (or lack thereof), living situations, and what we did over the weekend. 12:50-1:50 is the oral class with Rubén, during which we mostly talk about relevant topics like Spanish culture and fiestas, how the medical system works, etc. Both grammar and oral are less like lectures and more like conversations that just go wherever they end up going, which makes the two hour periods a little more bearable. Normally 14:00-16:00 (Spain normally uses military time) is siesta but our teacher asked if we could have writing class 15:00-17:00 instead of 16:00-18:00, which we were all fine with. We mostly watch cortomentrajes, or short films, and then write either narratives, descriptions, points of view, etc.
Ultimately, the days are long, pretty much like high school again except with much less homework, but I think I’m definitely improving. Exhibit A: I was telling my host mom that the other students and I might go to a tapas bar later and when I said tal vez iremos she freaked out. I thought I had said something really wrong but she looked at me very seriously and said that you would never hear a non-native speaker use that phrase or that type of grammar unless they really spoke Spanish. Soooo I’m gonna take that as a sign of improvement.
Aside from class, there’s also been a lot of down time which has been quite relaxing (a word I don’t think I’ve ever used to describe Cornell). Tuesday was a “fiesta” which is really just a holiday on which no one works but there aren’t any special celebrations. It was the feast day of the patron saints of Santander, Saint Celedonius and Saint Emeterius (which is supposedly where the name came from, according to wikipedia: Santemter, Santenter, Santander). Monday night there were fireworks on the beach and my host mom warned me that they would be smaller than in the U.S. and I told her I didn’t mind at all because any fireworks are super cool to watch, and it ended up being one of the largest and LOUDEST firework show I’ve ever seen!
After the fireworks we went to an international festival happening nearby with live music, rides, and tons of stalls selling food, drinks, and other things from so many different countries (ironically the U.S. stall was selling Mexican food…???). I had a Spanish sangria, my second ever legal drink (the first was in Canada) and it was fantastic. All the international students were baffled when I told them I’m still not allowed to drink in the U.S.
On Tuesday it was really sunny so a bunch of the Erasmus kids (international students) took a ferry across the Bay of Biscay to a beach called Somo. We discovered that they have surfing, wind surfing, and kite surfing lessons there, so those are definitely going on my list of fun things to do (assuming I can get over the freezing cold water).
Friday night was interesting. We went to a tapas (normally called pinchos here) bar and a discoteca and I definitely learned a couple things.
- Don’t go a Spanish “club”
A discoteca is what we would call a club (e.g. music, dancing, maybe a bar). A U.S. club is NOT the same thing as a Spanish club. DON’T GO TO A SPANISH CLUB.
- How to talk to Spanish boys at a discoteca: Don’t
At one point during the night Priya (also from Cornell) and I broke off from the group because the discoteca we were in was too crowded and everyone was much older, so we found a different place. Within two minutes of getting there a slightly (possibly very) intoxicated Spanish student, with his posse snickering behind him, came up to us, looked at me, and asked a question. It was quite noisy and he wasn’t speaking very clearly so I couldn’t understand anything. I explained that we spoke English and understanding Spanish was sometimes difficult so he proceeded to repeat the same question over and over. By the third or fourth time I realized he was saying. I tried to continue pretending that I didn’t understand but he was pretty determined and just kept going so eventually I gave up:
Drunk Spanish Student: ¿Un beso? (a kiss?)
DSS: *surprised* ¿Por qué? (why?)
Me: Porque (because)
DSS: ¿Por queeeeeeé?
Me: PORQUE NO QUIERO
DSS: …Por qué?
*Priya shoves between us and steers us far far away from him*
Thank God for Priya.