An independent language course review by Lisa Zealey

My stay with don Quijote was much more that just a two-week Spanish course. Under the hot Spanish sun there’s something for everyone … flamenco classes, day trips, Spanish singing lessons and not to mention the Latino nightlife!

I will always remember my two weeks with don Quijote in July 2001 as a most amazing and eye-opening summer break. I chose to go to their school in Salamanca and really would recommend it to anyone! I was fortunate enough to win a place through a competition arranged by don Quijote at the annual London Language and Cultural Learning Show in Hammersmith, London. Having entered the competition I had almost forgotten about it as I never expected to win!

I was delighted to hear I had won an all-expenses paid place and was asked to choose my destination. To choose between two weeks in Barcelona, Madrid, Salamanca, Malaga, Seville or Granada … was a difficult one! Although I had barely heard of it before, I chose Salamanca based on the fact that the brochure said it was big enough for plenty of socialising but not a huge city; the fact that it is said to be a place where the most pure Spanish is spoken and also because of the flamenco and singing classes which I knew I would love!


I had the choice of staying in a host family or a student flat. I chose a student flat because I was more keen on being around other students and I decided by being in a flat I would be with other young people. Both options have their advantages though because with a family you have to speak Spanish all the time – in our flat (as often happens) – the common language was English.

My stay with don Quijote was much more that just a two-week Spanish course. Under the hot Spanish sun there’s something for everyone!

It was actually the first time I had flown by myself and I was really excited about getting on the plane and not knowing what to expect at the other end! I had received instructions of how to get to Salamanca and I felt a sense of adventure. When I arrived in Madrid I got a taxi to the coach station and then, in the days of pesetas and rusty GCSE Spanish, managed to find the coach to Salamanca. All was going to plan so far and after a relaxing (3 hour) coach ride I arrived in Salamanca where the fun would begin!

It’s hard to sum up such an influential two weeks in a short review – I learned far more than just Spanish; I reminded myself how easy it is to just go out there and do something great for myself.

Having been met by don Quijote on my arrival in Salamanca, I was taken to my flat, given all I needed for my classes and wished ‘Buena Suerte’ (good luck)!

As soon as I got to my flat, I met a couple of guys who were already there (one from Germany and one from Taiwan). They were great and took me out to show me the way to school and watch the local jazz band. I hadn’t even had time to unpack and straight away I felt like a good time was ahead! A thing that I loved about it was that almost everyone (in my flat as well as in my class) came from a different country. Such a variety of people was great and everyone got on so well together.

My first day at don Quijote was a long and very event-filled day, starting with a level test at 8.00 in the morning followed by a newcomers’ tour of the city while the staff determined which level groups we would go into. My classes were 3.00 – 7.00pm – ideal for someone like me who is not a morning person and likes to check out the nightlife! It had been a while since I spoke any Spanish and what I knew was only basic. I soon started to remember what I had previously learned at college and by the second week of the course I definitely felt like I was progressing well.

On our first night we had a newcomers’ welcome dinner hosted by don Quijote in their own café next to the school. This was a great idea and it was lovely to get chatting to people. I had been told that July was a good time to go and I could see why. There were so many people there and such lovely weather all the time! I think that going on your own is the best way to do it – not one minute did I feel like I was by myself. It’s really what you make of it. I had not imagined that it would be such a task to find another English person there! I met two guys who were English but out of the seven people in my class we had people from Poland, Germany, USA, Switzerland and Holland. This was such a great experience and made the lessons much more fun and diverse than if it was all English people.

I was 20 when I did this course and was pleased to find that the majority of students were my sort of age. I hadn’t really thought about it, but I found that most of them were on their summer break from university and filling in the time with some study abroad. I was simply taking two weeks off from my job in London. There were some older students there but most were between 20 and 26. The tutors were a mixture of ages. We had two separate teachers – one for each two-hour block. This meant we covered different topics with each teacher and it was like two separate classes. All the tutors were native Spanish and all instructions in the class were given in Spanish which was great for learning the everyday expressions. After all, with students from all over the world, not everyone would understand the explanations in English! There were never more that 7 or 8 in a group which meant that our abilities were more or less the same and we could learn far more than if we were in bigger, mixed ability groups.

don Quijote Salamanca holds Flamenco and singing classes once a week. I met a great girl from Croatia who also loved it! The songs were sung with songbooks around a big table with a Spanish teacher playing the guitar and teaching us. I really enjoyed learning them!

Salamanca is certainly a student town, so I would only recommend it to people who like to party! Almost every night of my stay the students met up in the evening and went out. People generally seemed to behave more like they were on holiday than on a language course!

Activities are arranged every weekend and for the one weekend I was there I went on a coach trip to the mountains – that was such a lot of walking (which I hadn’t prepared myself for!) It was a lovely (but very tiring) day. The views at the top of the mountains were amazing and it was really worth all the walking to reach the top.

I was very happy to have done this course for many reasons. It gave me a real incentive to do something like this again (which I’ve now done in France and Germany). It gave me the confidence to travel alone and meet new people. I met some great people on this course – several of whom, over a year later, I am still in touch with or have even visited. The Spanish classes made my Spanish very conversational even after two weeks, and this was incredibly exciting! I look back on Salamanca as a place where everyone is having fun – the atmosphere was really relaxed and I would love to go back someday.

I would definitely recommend a course with don Quijote if you want to become more confident in your Spanish and have a great holiday at the same time.

I would definitely recommend a course with don Quijote if you want to become more confident in your Spanish and have a great holiday at the same time. Here’s to the next one!

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