2023 Activity Report

(Photo 1:The Pontifical University of Salamanca facing the Casa de las Conchas)

October Activity Report

31 October 2023
Global Japan Office Coordinator
KUBO Masako

The summer weather has continued even into October, but the cold winds of winter suddenly arrived due to a low-pressure system. The weather was so bad that we even received a warning from the Embassy in Spain, but the wind and rain didn’t stop the tourists, and we saw many groups of tourists wearing raincoats all over Salamanca. There are also night tours where you can enjoy different views than when it is all lit up in the daytime (Photo 1).

There are also many university events in October. One of the highlights must be the visit from Sadako Fukui, a kurayoshi kasuri traditional craftsperson, whose visit will be deeply engraved in the memories of all who participated. Following an exhibition at the Paper Mill Museum in Barcelona, many of the exhibits were also shown. There was not only an explanation about kasuri, but there were also workshops, such as actually spinning yarn, weaving fabric, and trying on kimonos (Photo 2 & 3). The students also participated in a lunch, an exchange of songs, and a tour of the city, so I think it was an excellent experience for the Japanese language students (Photo 4). Looking at the responses to the survey after the event, it was clear that the students were deeply moved by the polite and kind guidance they received from the Japanese participants, and there were many requests for similar cultural events like this in the future.

During the guided walk around the city, we passed many university facilities, such as the Literature Department, the Translation Department, and the Geography and History Department, so the question of “Where is the actual campus?” was brought up. The University of Salamanca is a comprehensive university, so the many different departments and facilities are spread across various locations. The most historic ones are concentrated near the cathedral, but you could say that they are integrated into the city. Looking at this beautiful scenery, everyone says “I can’t believe I get to study in a place like this!”.

The exchange students get to have such valuable experiences. The language exchange sessions started this month, and around 50 students attended since the participation requirements were expanded (Photo 5). At first, I couldn’t cope with such a big event, but I have gradually become used to it. Some participants even said that the time wasn’t long enough, so I suggested that perhaps they could continue the session by going out to a cafe together after the event.

Every day I feel the history of the University of Salamanca and Salamanca itself, a city that has attracted the attention of people from around the world since ancient times. Countless people, including many Japanese students since the 20th Century, have come to Salamanca to study not only the Spanish language, but also to research Spanish literature. I feel that with Salamanca as a base, you can expand and deepen your connections (Photo 6).

(Photo 2:The students engrossed in the workshop)
(Photo 3:Everyone was very interested in how to weave the fabric)
(Photo 4:A student explaining the buildings in the city in Japanese)
(Photo 5:Practicing speaking in Japanese and Spanish for the first time)
(Photo 6:Poet and philosopher Luis de Góngora was also a student at the University of Salamanca)
(Photo 7:On the 31st of October, there is an event to express gratitude that no one was injured in the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. The bell ringer plays a traditional folk song after ascending to the top of the bell tower.)

September Activity Report

30 September 2023
Global Japan Office Coordinator
KUBO Masako

The university council decided the academic calendar for 2023 at the end of March. They decided that the first day of the academic year after the summer vacation would be the 1st of September, which is the earliest start date ever. Even though there was a proviso that the start date of classes could be adjusted by each faculty, no one could hide their frustration when the news was first announced. I soon found out that the classes for the Department of Literature would start in the third week of September, which was a relief, but I can see that the university wants to follow the trend of universities around the world that start classes at the start of September.

Many towns in Spain observe the 8th of September as a public holiday, and the Feast of the Virgin de la Vega is celebrated on this day in Salamanca. It is said that the Patron Saint Vega protected Salamanca from military attacks during the War of the Spanish Succession. Even today there are many people with ‘Vega’ as part of their name. There is a festive mood in the streets of Salamanca for about 10 days after this holiday, with various events taking place, such as a temporary amusement park, music concerts by famous musicians, and street acrobatics. Salamanca continues to embrace the tradition of a long summer vacation so it will be interesting to see how the university’s new policy will impact the old traditions of the Department of Literature or even Salamanca itself.

As usual, the Department of Literature held an orientation and welcome party for the new students on the 12th of September (Photo 1), classes started on the 18th of September, and the university’s official opening ceremony was held on the 25th of September (Photo 2). This month also had many commemorative events, such as the Doctorate Award Ceremony where Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine winner, Shinya Yamanaka, received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Salamanca (Photo 3).

The first week of semester is an adjustment period for course registration, but to be honest, there are some classes that are held 2-3 times in the week so there is not much time to hesitate. Careful consideration is necessary for students taking courses between different faculties. You must get your classes and your university routine all organized by the middle of September. Since the university is a comprehensive university, the campus is huge, so you have to travel near and far to get your student card or make a university account. Office hours in each department are different to those in Japan so you should also be careful about that.

I think it is a very valuable experience for you to be able to spend your time as an exchange student at the University of Salamanca, located in a World Heritage designated city. You can use the library in the façade of the University of Salamanca for free and get a discount at the official shop using your student card. You can also enter the New Cathedral of Salamanca for free as a resident of Salamanca. Please make the most of the benefits available to you as an exchange student.

(Photo 1:New students of the three majors of the East Asia Bachelor Program)
(Photo 2:2023 University Opening Ceremony - from the official YouTube channel)
(Photo 3:The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine winner, Shinya Yamanaka, receives an Honorary Doctorate at the Honorary Doctorate Award Ceremony on the 14th of September at Salamanca University - From the Salamanca University Press)
(Photo 4:National Police Day observed on the 20th of September. This year it was held in the Plaza Mayor in Salamanca)
(Photo 5:I found some bamboo in a corner of the plaza surrounded by the library, Faculty of Social Sciences, Faculty of Law, and the Faculty of Dentistry – please look for it too)

June Activity Report

30 June 2023
Global Japan Office Coordinator
KUBO Masako

Finally, the long, long exam period has finished. When June arrives, the temperature keeps rising, but Spain still has many ways to keep the heat out of buildings, even when many are still without air conditioners. Contrary to the mornings and the evenings, which are cool enough to require a jacket, it is hard to avoid sunburns due to the strong sunshine in the daytime. Unlike Japan, where people carry towels due to humidity, people here keep seeking shades, resting in parks with fountains or water features, or taking folding fans. In the university, we keep the front door closed to stop the sunlight from raising the indoor temperature. Still, as the room temperature rises during the afternoon, many places apply the summer schedule after the middle of the month and adjust working hours so that morning shifts end around 2 pm. Plus, pools are opened, and summer bargains start after the standard university admission tests are all finished, along with year-end presentations, graduation ceremonies, and elementary, junior, and high schools. It feels like the dazzling summer is arriving when many want to use part of their paid vacation. No wonder, as summer solstice approaches, there will be many events everywhere.

In the middle of that, fourth-grade university students and Master’s course students are still working hard to finish their thesis on time. Moreover, from this year on, there will be additional thesis presentations for the undergraduate program, and everyone now has a 20-minute face-to-face presentation. Lots of students are going in and out of classrooms to have offline review meetings since online meetings are basically not possible at Salamanca University. It is very crowded; students return to Salamanca to attend these 10-20 minute meetings. Students were thoroughly prepared and skillfully used presentation tools such as PowerPoint; they made their presentations proudly without reading, and the presentations’ quality was remarkably high. There were many themes related to Japanese culture and literature, but only one or two regarding the Japanese language. Still, this year, I did not only find many themes about the Japanese language, but there were also contents for Japanese about language learning and language education, such as Spanish, and I strongly felt the urge to watch over the paths of new graduates.

(Photo 1:a refreshing part of a faculty building called “Hospedería de Anaya”. Currenlty, there are make up exams in the classrooms)
(Photo 2:A flower garden in a corner at the back gate of the faculty.)

May Activity Report

30 May 2023
Global Japan Office Coordinator
KUBO Masako

In the Department of Literature, we have come to the end of the classes for the current academic year. Especially for fourth-year students, the end of classes marked their last university days. As the good weather continued, there was a secret wish to try an outside class, and, just right at that time, we got the chance to attend the newly opened "Essential Characters" exhibition in the Hispanic-Japanese Cultural Center as an extracurricular class. The exhibition in the hall of S.M. La Emperatriz Michiko (Empress Michiko) displays art pieces that "viewed science as art" taken from Japanese elements and touch the mysterious novelty of original objects. In fact, we prepared several plans if we had extra time due to the few exhibits. Still, every artwork invited many views from students of Japanese, and it was very refreshing having a very active exchange of views that inspired various ideas. (Photo 1)

One year has passed, and this month will mark the temporary end of the language exchange meetings. Despite being busy with submitting assignments and taking exams, everyone kept coming until that last meeting, perhaps seeking a room to have a break. And even though we talked about having our next exchange meeting in a new place with an informal setting, Café Becker, we reluctantly disbanded. I look forward to the start of the next meeting, thinking about how the connection among the participants will completely change and wondering what kind of atmosphere we will experience. However, since tests will start right after the end of classes, I can see how students rush to study day and night in the library and study halls. Still, places where students congregate are not limited to study areas alone. Areas around the library, such as bars and supermarkets, are flooded with more students taking breaks than during-class periods. (Photo 2)

On the 25th of May, a lecture was held about "Japanese Rice and Spanish Rice" at the Department of Literature's auditorium while the president of Kanagawa University was visiting the University of Salamanca (Photo 3). The speech was made using Japanese and consecutively interpreted into Spanish. I believe it was a valuable and fulfilling lecture for students since they could listen to the discussion about Japanese culture in simple Japanese and then confirm the content in Spanish. In Spain, rice dishes are trendy, but in Japan, rice consists of an additional sense of sacredness, serves as a driving force in economic activities, and plays different roles that the Japanese people appreciate; they cannot help but to be impressed with it. Reflecting on the fact that different meanings of various life aspects could be viewed differently in Japan and Spain, allowed me, once more, to realize that learning about different cultures widens our worldview.

(Photo: Extracurricular classes, “本質的な特徴 Essential Characters” art exhibition)
(Photo 2: the library’s always quiet vicinity)
(Photo 3: May-25th, “Japanese Rice and Spanish Rice” Speech)
(Photo 4: May 26th, Medal Award Ceremony by the University of Salamanca for the 'Japan Salamanca University Friends Association)

April Activity Report

30 April 2023
Global Japan Office Coordinator
KUBO Masako

During Semana Santa, because some dorms are closed and international students are not allowed to stay in dorms for around 10 days, it can be a good chance for them to travel around. Recently, there are many international students studying at Salamanca, so it is common for Japanese students to travel around Europe in groups with other Japanese. And when they return to Spain, they seem to be more aware of Spain's position in Europe. A week after the holidays, Salamanca has its own afternoon holiday called “Lunes de Aguas (Monday of the Waters)”. Every shops and others are closed in the afternoon, so everyone goes to a picnic with celebrating the end of Holy Week. However, from the morning onward, everyone is talking about where and with whom to spend the day, whether or not they have already bought the hornazo (pie filled with meat) that is an essential part of this holiday, and how the line to buy the hornazo is so long, and everyone is getting excited. At the end of this month, the day of the patron saint of the Faculty of Literature is celebrated, and the Faculty Festival is held. Beginning with an opening statement, on the Friday of that week, many students head out in costume to the Plaza Mayor and have a good time going from bar to bar. (Photo1)

At the end of the semester, and just before entering the exam period, I guess the students want to enjoy the festive atmosphere.

Vacations and festivals followed, but there were also many events, including lectures, competitions, theater and film performances, and exhibitions, a truly diverse series of events. Perhaps due in part to that, the regular language exchange meetings sometimes turned into a game tournament. (Photo 2)

At the briefing about Grant Program for Japanese Studies Projects by Japan Foundation, 4 alumni of University of Salamanca, who had received this grant, hold a roundtable session and gave talked about their experiences and advices for the students. While the briefing was for master’s students and researchers, some undergraduates also attended, and I felt that the students were able to envision their future and set goals. The alumni said their programs were for two to six month with a busy and packed schedule, and all four mentioned that they were completely immersed in study and research during that time. I felt that two months was a short time for a language program, but their Japanese had improved considerably, and I thought that even in a short period of time, if they could work hard on their plan, they could achieve a lot. (Photo3)

In a neighboring town, there was an exhibition of ukiyo-e prints from private collections, which included works by Hokusai, Utagawa Hiroshige, Kuniyoshi, Sharaku, and others, and I was amazed that I was able to see such works while in Spain. The presence of "Japan" could be felt in many places here (Photos 4, 5)

Photo1: there often can be seen people performing music in front of the House of Shells.
At this day, a student band was playing tuna.

Photo2: Language exchange meetings became game competitions.

Photo3: many students are thinking about going into Japan research.

Photo4: behind the Cathedral, wisteria and irises are in full bloom.