Soaking up some Spanish


By Sophia Allistone, Third year, English Literature

Sophia Allistone recounts her summer learning Spanish, something she implores you to try. A combination of sun, sangria and sand doesn’t sound like a bad classroom...

Wanting to learn a language, and feeling unequipped by my years of Spanish and French at school, I chose the small but picturesque city of Cádiz in south-west Spain to do a language and surf course. The oldest inhabited city in Europe, Cádiz is also famously liberal. Its world-famous carnival was the only one in Spain Franco failed to suppress. Pleasantly sparse of tourists, the local residents of Cádiz - 'gaditanos' - are very friendly and welcoming.

The Language School
After researching the best language schools, International House (IH) seemed to have the best student feedback. The surf-course available with IH in Cádiz was its selling point, so I booked a three-week beginners course for July. In an effort to save money, I chose the least intensive course, entailing 20 hours of Spanish a week. I actually found this to be the perfect amount - I finished school at 1pm leaving whole afternoon to do what I liked, whether that be surfing, reading on the beach or exploring the city.

The school itself did not disappoint. Not only was it well-organised with great teachers, it also provided different activities every evening, which you could get as involved with as you liked. I attended salsa and yoga classes on the rooftop terrace of the school which were both easy ways of meeting people whilst improving my Spanish.

I would also highly recommend the surf course. Don't be discouraged if you’re a newbie, as most people there are beginners and the course itself is very relaxed -you can choose which days you surf and how long for. It's a great way to be active and set a routine in an unfamiliar place, and is also how I Don't be discouraged if you’re a newbie, as most people there are beginners and the course itself is very relaxed met most of the people I became closest to!

The Old Town Unsplash/Alberto Frías


Living-wise, I would definitely recommend being in the old town. Not only is it picturesque, with tall buildings and narrow cobbled streets, it's the central spot where people meet after class for tapas/bars/clubs. I organised my accommodation through IH, and was assigned to live in a self-catered flat with two other students and a Spanish landlady. Whilst I didn't actually apply to have a host, it didn't affect my independence there, and was also a great way to practise my Spanish and get a local's insight into the city.

Don't be discouraged if you’re a newbie, as most people there are beginners and the course itself is very relaxed

There are three main beaches in Cádiz: La Caleta in the old town, La Santa Maria del Mar and La Victoria in the new town. Situated in a small bay on the edge of the city, La Caleta is quite small and can get crowded. It is, however, very convenient to reach if you're living in the old town and a beautiful spot to have a group picnic watching the sunset. La Santa Maria and La Victoria - which join together and stretch for miles – are slightly further away, but worth the journey. If you do surfing, it will be at La Victoria beach, which you can reach by bus for just over a euro.

 Playa de la Caleta - Unsplash/Jorge Fernández 

Top 3 Places to visit:
Cádiz Cathedral: even if you don't pay to go in, there are lots of bars and restaurants on the cathedral square, although these tend to be more expensive! Generally, the smaller and more local looking a place, the better food and prices. If you are interested in going inside, it costs four euros for students to access both the cathedral interior and Levante Tower, which offers stunning panoramic views of the city.
Plaza San Antonio: every other corner in Cádiz has its own plaza, which offer green areas and lots of cafes and bakeries. My favourite plaza is Plaza San Antonio, a massive square which is breathtaking during the day and lively at night, filled with live musicians and dancers.
El Mercado Central: Spain's oldest covered market, el Mercado Central sells fresh meat and fruit during the day, and by night becomes a buzzing collection of cheap bars and food stalls.

Cádiz Cathedral - Unsplash/Jorge Fernández

International House is a great way to travel, learn a skill and make close friendships with people from all over the world. I would recommend this place to anyone!

Featured image credit: Unsplash/Jorge Fernàndez

Have you ever spent time at a language school? Let us know if you enjoyed it as much as Sophia did!