Memories for a Lifetime September 14, 2022

By (Villanova University) - abroad from 06/01/2022 to 07/29/2022 with

CIEE: Alcala - Summer Language & Culture

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I gained an understanding of Spanish culture and became independent through organizing my own trips and navigating public transportation. I improved my Spanish speaking and writing abilities, and gained so much confidence through interacting with CIEE staff and locals in the language. I now feel comfortable using Spanish with anybody and left with new vocabulary. I made many friendships that I will cherish forever, and have developed a strong love for travel. I hope to return to Europe one day, and am incredibly grateful to have spent the summer in Alcalá de Henares which is filled with such amazing history, beautiful sights, and easy access to Madrid.

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.

I felt incredibly supported by the CIEE staff and they were very encouraging during my studies and available for advice. My professors at the University of Alcalá had well-organized lessons and were compassionate towards their students. It was interesting taking courses in Spain and being able to apply the knowledge directly to my surroundings; the class about the history of the great Spanish painters aided me in analyzing artwork at Reina Sofia and el Prado, the culture and civilization of Spain course helped me understand the history behind el Escorial, and the Miguel de Cervantes course allowed me to fully appreciate the importance of Alcalá de Henares.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I have food allergies and therefore lived in the Lope de Vega dormitory located two minutes away from the University of Alcalá. My allergies were well accommodated by the staff and I felt very comfortable during my time there. I did not feel excluded from friends living with host families as they were only a short bus ride away, and the Plaza de Cervantes was a great area to reunite for meals or coffee.

* Food:

I am a major foodie so visiting Spain was a dream come true. Every meal was amazing and there was always something new to try, or a safe option that I knew I loved. Upon returning to the United States, I am longing for authentic pulpo (octopus), huevos rotos (fried eggs over potatoes and served with ham), and Fanta de limón. I highly recommend going with an open mind and exploring the wide variety of restaurants in Alcalá de Henares, or taking the short train ride into Madrid. I also enjoyed a day trip to Segovia where I got to experience the famous suckling pig experience.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

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


* 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)

Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Before leaving, look into pricing in your destination country and create a budget plan. Allow yourself to get the full experience but also be mindful of transportation, food, and activity costs and create a budget that works best for you! I recommend getting a train card if you plan to use the bus and metro system to save on those costs, and finding free but fun activities to do with friends; I was able to get free access to museums in Madrid with my UAH student ID, as well as student discounts for other places. Fun fact: Miguel de Cervantes' home is open as a museum with free entry!


* 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

All courses were instructed in Spanish and every interaction with CIEE staff involved Spanish-speaking. I also had daily conversations with locals which were greatly beneficial in developing my comfort with using the language and increasing my fluency.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Intermediate
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Advanced
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Do not be afraid to talk to locals and encourage your friends to use the language with you!

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
* 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?
  • CIEE excursions including kayaking, museum trips, and visits to el Escorial, Toledo, and Segovia.
  • The beautiful UAH building and its location near the Plaza de Cervantes which always has something to do.
  • The convenience and ease of travel through Atocha in Madrid and accessibility of public transportation.
* What could be improved?
  • Connecting students who are staying both sessions with new incoming students.
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Learn to say "yes" more. Travel throughout Spain because you never know when you will return, and do not be afraid to reach out to the students in your program. Take advantage of free activities throughout Alcalá de Henares and Madrid, and the benefits you have being a student. Overall, enter with an open mind and be ready to explore.

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!