Frequently Asked Questions

BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE USA

  1. Scan your passport (bring one copy; leave one copy home).
  2. Scan your credit and debit cards.
  3. Call your credit card and debit card companies to tell them you will be in Spain from May 21 to June 26.
  4. Be sure the program director (Dr. Oliver) has your emergency numbers and cell phone number.

WHAT TO BRING

What we should bring with us?
Comfortable clothing. Comfortable shoes for walking. Something to remind you of home and friends if you get lonely.

What is the weather like in Salamanca in May and June?
Spain is warm and comfortable in May and June, maybe a little hot. Be prepared for variable weather in May, average 14 degrees C. June may be hot during the day and cool at night, average 18.4 degrees C.

How much we should pack?
As little as possible. One large suitcase and one carry on like a backpack are sufficient. You have laundry facilities in the dorm. You need to leave room to bring back souvenirs. It is better to buy an extra cheap bag for the return than to carry two on the way over. Remember, you have to lug these things around the airport, Madrid subway, train station, and Salamanca unless you take taxis everywhere.

Do we need a computer?
A laptop computer will be convenient to use in Salamanca at the University. You will have access to WiFi in the dormitory rooms, in university buildings, and some cafes. Computers are available in the computer center at the Neuroscience Institute.

Will we have computer access at the Neuroscience Institute?
Yes

Do we need to buy a plug/electrical converter?
Yes, you will need an adapter for the plug. Spain uses two round prongs, not the standard US plug. USA uses 120V but Europe mainland uses 220V. Most computers and phone chargers will be OK since they use 100-240V input to the transformer. You just need the plug adapter.

You also may need a transformer to cut 220V to 110V for some devices like hair dryers. If your hair dyer only takes 110-120V it will fry if you do not use a transformer. Check the input voltage range for your appliances.

If so, where can they be purchased?
In Salamanca, they are 1€ at small electric shops. In the USA, go to Best Buy or airports. Or other places on the web, see http://goeurope.about.com/cs/electricity/l/bl_electricity.htm.

MONEY

How much spending money we should bring?
This is a personal decision that depends on how much shopping, traveling, and eating/drinking you plan to do outside the dorm.

You can use your ATM card and credit  cards in Spain just like you do in the USA. You get euros instead of dollars. The fee for currency exchange is actually lower than if you go to a currency exchange booth. Because ATMs are so easy, there are now very few currency exchanges. There will be an ATM in the airport after you exit from the luggage pickup. Set up online banking so you can check your balance.

Be sure you have a backup plan in case a card is lost or stolen and you have to wait for a replacement. Be sure to tell your card companies and banks that you are traveling to Spain, so they won't think it was stolen.

Some travelers prefer to have a travel debit card that is not attached to a bank account. AAA offers one.

Travelers checks are still possible, but there are fewer places that will take checks instead of cash.

THE DORMITORY

The dormitory works like a hotel. They will have your reservation and will check you in and give you keys.

Can a friend or family member spend the weekend in the dormitory room?
No. After 23:00 non-residents are prohibited in the rooms. So, unfortunately, friends or family will have to stay elsewhere. There are good hotels and hostels nearby. One of our students snuck a friend into the dorm through the kitchen at night and was caught by the security cameras.

Is there other security?
There is a receptionist during the day and a security guard at night.

Is food included in the bursar payment?
Yes. Your food is included in your room and board payment but you will need money to eat in cafes and if you travel out of Salamanca.

How does the internet access work? Is there wireless?
The dorm and university buildings have WiFi. See dorm and ID card for passwords.

Will the students have double or single rooms?
So far, there are single rooms free, so they can choose to be single or share (the director should you provide a list ASAP, otherwise they will have to go to double).

How are rooms assigned?
The director will provide a list.

Do we need towels and sheets?
Bring a towel. Sheets are provided.

How much does laundry cost there? Is there a place to do it in the dorms?
This will depend on the specific dormitory.

WHAT TO DO IN SALAMANCA

Are there certain things or sites that you recommend that we see and do?
Absolutely. The afternoon walk around Salamanca is mandatory. Afternoon is until sunset at 10 p.m.

For more ideas, see www.spain.info/us/tourspain or www.aboutsalamanca.com.

What are tapas?
The tapa is the bar food that comes with a drink. Tapas are a cheap way to eat in Spain, especially in Salamanca. The food is in display cases on top of the bar. You order a drink and get something to eat with it. Pointing is OK. The price depends on the drink more than the tapas. Dr. Oliver likes Zaguan and Ruta de la Plata for the ribs (costilla); Casa Paca for the selection and the marinated bonito tuna; Cafe Real for the pinco maruno.

Warning: in the more touristic cities, Madrid, Seville, etc., you will pay more for tapas and they are usually not free with a drink.

OUT OF TOWN TRIPS

What are good ideas for weekend trips?
Long Weekend: By bus – Barcelona and Seville; by train – Madrid (discotecas: Kapital and Joy, museums: Prado and Reina Sofia) and Segovia also Lisbon, Portugal
Day Trips: Avila, Zamora

Hostels are cheaper than hotels. See www.hihostels.com and www.hostelworld.com.

Hint: Join the Hostelling International USA before you depart the United States.

Aggie Stygares, 2010, recommends:

  • In Madrid: Hostel Andorra, 20 euro a night for a four person private room and bathroom right on Gran Via.
  • In Seville, Hostel Urbany was 12 euro a night for an 8 person room or 16 a night for a four person room and this included free breakfast.

Book hostels and buses early, especially if you are traveling in a big group – they do get sold out!

Helpful hint: Spanish travel agents may be able to get you a great deal in a hotel with discounts below internet prices.

BUS and TRAIN

For traveling to Avila, Madrid, Segovia, Valladolid the bus company is Auto-re, www.avanzabus.com/web/.

For traveling by bus to Zamora there is a company called Zamora-Salamanca S.A., but for traveling there and to other destinations you need to buy the tickets directly in the bus station. Bus Station Salamanca Tlf.: 923 22 01 87

Finally, the website for the train services is www.renfe.es.

MONEY

How much do we need in our accounts to make up for the exchange rate?
The U.S. dollar is now worth less than a Euro (€), the currency used in Spain. For the current exchange rate from dollars to Euros, see www.xe.com/ucc/.

How should I exchange money in Spain?
Use a debit or credit card in an ATM at a major bank. ATMs are everywhere, just like here.

CLASSES

What is our class schedule like?
Each class is Monday through Thursday. See websites for lecture schedule. Classes will be two hours each. Spanish is in the morning from 8:30 to 11 a.m or 9 to 11 a.m.
Neurobiology of Hearing: 12-14 (12-2 p.m.)
Undergraduate Neuroscience Class: 16:30-18:30 (4:30-6:30 p.m.)
(See Academics for current class listing)

What is our schedule really like?
Sleep
Light breakfast of café con leche and croissant 8-9
Big Spanish lunch in the dorm cafeteria 14-16
Afternoon walk and tapas 18-21; entertain visiting professors from Johns Hopkins or UConn
Note: Sunset will be around 21
Small dinner (if necessary) after 21. Dinner in dorm is 21-23.
Disco and clubs open at midnight.

COMMUNICATION: CELL PHONES

All students must have a cell phone that functions within Spain so that we can reach you. If you do not already have one that works in Spain, we will provide you with a cell phone in Salamanca. We already collected money for this in your fee.

Here is how it works, the Spanish phone has a SIM card with a Spanish phone number. In Spain, each number is registered to a passport. If the number is not used for six months, the number is cancelled and eventually reused. We will provide you with either a dumb phone or a SIM card that you may use in your own phone. It is a pay as you go system. You buy more minutes at the phone store. Each card is for a specific network and the rates are set by the local network provider. Vodafone is the biggest provider in Spain. Movistar is another provider and was formerly the Spanish national phone company.

There will be one rate for local calls in Spain and a higher rate for international calls. Usually there are plans with lower rates for the USA that you can buy when you get the phone. A phone without a Spanish phone number may be a problem and only good for roaming calls. Spanish numbers have the +34 country code.

Only GSM phones with SIM cards will work in Europe. 2013 was the first year students put SIM cards into their USA phones successfully. More USA phones now use SIM cards or miniSIM cards.

Can I buy or rent a cell phone here to take to Spain?
Yes, but why bother? We will give you a phone.

Can you use your own phone with a global plan?
Of course, you must arrange this in the USA with your carrier before you depart. Calls from these phones may not be cheap. iPhones and some Android phones can use WiFi and use Skype over WiFi.

See: How to Set Up Your American iPhone When Traveling in Europe to Avoid a Billing “Surprise”

COMMUNICATION: TEXT MESSAGING

Text messaging is usually cheaper than calling in Spain. You can use your Spanish phone or SIM card in your own phone for this. A new alternative for international texting is whatsapp.com. This is a new free app for your smart phone that you can use over WiFi anywhere in the world to communicate with other people using the same app. Try it here with friends and family first.

ALTERNATIVES TO PHONE FOR INTERNATIONAL CALLS

Skype is a great alternative to a phone call. You will have an internet connection in your room and if you have speakers/headset and microphone, you can use it to call the USA. Webcam works too.