A Journey Through Spain Past Review

By (Indiana University - Purdue University Fort Wayne / IPFW) - abroad from 05/30/2016 to 06/29/2016 with

CIEE: Alcala - Summer Language & Culture

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
It was probably the most worthwhile thing I could have done with my Summer. I can't begin to describe what I learned about myself and about the world as a result of this trip. The most important thing that I learned was an appreciation for other cultures.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? None

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

All of the professors were very knowledgeable and the university itself offered a great array of resources both through the University of Alcala and the Franklin Institute. The city also offered a very large and useful library which offered free Wi-Fi (if you signed up for a library card, also free) which was greatly beneficial.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

There were a few CIEE administrators that helped with the program, but there was one administrator that was with the group the most and almost always available. She made herself available through e-mail, FaceBook, and regular office hours. She would help students with travel questions, advice, emotional support, and would travel with students during the scheduled CIEE excursions in Spain.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

* Food:

Many people try to make it an effort to go out and go to restaurants to find "authentic" Spanish food, but I would really encourage you to ask your host family to make their favorite meals for you. Sit in the kitchen and watch them cook, even!

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Alcala offers so much in terms of authentic Spanish cuisine, Spanish culture (it is the birthplace of Cervantes and they are proud of it!), and Spanish history. There are festivals regularly, there are museums, and there are local sporting clubs that you can support. If you don't feel connected with the local culture, it's because you don't look hard enough!

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Not applicable. I had no need to use health care facilities. The only medical issue I had was my asthma which was remedied by a trip to the pharmacy to buy over-the-counter medication.

* Safety:

While in Alcala, there were no reported major crimes and I personally never felt unsafe in the city, despite being out during the nighttime hours. The city is well-lit and quite active during all hours of the day.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes

This program was absolutely phenomenal. Being close to Madrid made travel so easy to ANYWHERE in Spain. I went to Barcelona, Toledo, Zaragoza, Sevilla, Segovia, Valencia, Granada, and explored Madrid extensively... With the travel fees within the autonomous community of Madrid already taken care of through CIEE, I did not need to worry about train rides to Madrid, metro rides around Madrid, or buses to Madrid, from Madrid, within Madrid, or within Alcala. The only travel fees were ones I willingly accepted (AVE/bullet train, out of Madrid bus fare, and local airplane charter.) My host family was absolutely phenomenal, they were supportive, they helped me with my Spanish, they took me to local cultural events. The school was phenomenal. The city offered so much in terms of culture. There was nothing to regret about this trip. It was fantastic from top to bottom.


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

The city is incredibly cheap. You're close to Madrid and if you go through this program, your travel fees within the autonomous community of Madrid (and the city of Toledo) are covered in your fees, so that really helps.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? 50.00
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Take advantage of your host family's cooking. I know it is more tempting to go out with your friends and go to restaurants but, make sure you don't eat out all the time. Also: if you do go out, be wary of bars. Spanish culture is different in that they don't drink the way Americans do, so the bars have high markups on alcohol. Additionally, be aware of how much water costs. It isn't free! Often times, you'll find that beer, wine, or sangria are actually cheaper than water.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

The professors would ONLY use Spanish, my host family would ONLY use Spanish (despite knowing English), and the program excursions were all within Spain to promote the use of Spanish.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Advanced
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Fluent
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Upper 400-level course.
How many hours per day did you use the language? 10+
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Accept your level of Spanish and don't be ashamed or embarrassed in it. Embrace where you are and surround yourself with people who will support you and help you get better. If you choose to be around people who refuse/don't want to speak Spanish, you probably won't get significantly better as quickly as you'd expect.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • The culture
  • The friends
  • The traveling
* What could be improved?
  • Not applicable
  • Not applicable
  • Not applicable
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? That tickets to Granada can sell out really quickly.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Academic or Linguist
You went abroad with specific academic goals in mind; the program credentials and rigor of your coursework abroad were very important to you. You had a great time abroad, but never lost sight of your studies and (if applicable) were diligent with your foreign language study. Good for you!