An amazing and life-changing experience Past Review

By (English Language and Literature/Letters, Other, Brandeis University) - abroad from 01/10/2006 to 05/25/2006 with

Instituto Franklin-UAH: Alcalá de Henares - Study Abroad in Spain

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned Spanish almost to the point of fluency, I gained a tremendous confidence in myself as a traveler, and I learned about my place in the world as an American.

Review Photos

Universidad de Alcalá: Alcalá de Henares - Spanish Studies Abroad with Instituto Franklin  Photo Universidad de Alcalá: Alcalá de Henares - Spanish Studies Abroad with Instituto Franklin  Photo Universidad de Alcalá: Alcalá de Henares - Spanish Studies Abroad with Instituto Franklin  Photo

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

My classes were excellent and were taught by professors who not only knew their subject, but were also accustomed to teaching students whose first language was not Spanish.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Cristina Blanco was amazing at leading our program. She was diligent and prepared for all emergencies. For example I had a minor medical issue that had to be taken care of and she made sure that I could find the nearest doctor's office and even offered to come with me if I was nervous.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

It was a little hard to live with another family, but I greatly preferred it to living in the campus dorms. Pepi is an amazing cook and I found that my Spanish improved immensely in daily conversation with her and her sons.

* Food:

I ate like a queen both in the homestay and out in the town. Everything is fresh, simple delicious, and generally not very expensive. I still miss my bocadillos.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

It took some time for me to develop my confidence, but I think being in Alcala de Henares (rather than Madrid proper) caused me to feel more part of the community. On my way to class I would pass an "estanco," a stand where they sold newspapers, gum, and the like. After a few weeks I started to get to know the men who ran it and we would chat for a few minutes on my way to school. My friends and I became regulars at a few of the cafes in town and we became quite friendly with the waiters there. It was the best part of living abroad.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

The health care was easily accessible and free. I had to go to the doctor twice, both for minor issues. Cristina made sure that I got to the doctor nearest to me. I received good care and good advice both times I went. The pharmacies were well stocked and the pharmacists were always willing to help me if need be. I wouldn't be worried about the health care system in Spain.

* Safety:

Spain (and Europe in general) is known for having pickpockets. Cristina always told us to have "mil ojos" in order to ensure that we safeguarded our things. I would recommend that women use a bag that slings over the chest and that they keep a hand on the opening of their bag in crowded places. Men should keep wallets in their front pockets. Women would also be well-advised to only engage with people that they really want to talk to. Some men can be pushy and can make a woman uncomfortable. Don't be afraid to tell a person to leave you alone. A woman alone can't be subtle or polite.

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)

It is hard to answer this question because it really depends how much auxiliary travel a student does, how they choose to travel, and how often/where they choose to eat out. I think I spent about $2000-$3000 dollars over the course of 5 months, but I also traveled practically every weekend and spent a week in Italy at the end of my trip.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? If you just count eating out without traveling, I probably spent 20 euro a week.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Use buses instead of trains, hostels instead of hotels (you can get private rooms for a bit more, but it tends to be less than a hotel), eat from the menu del dia so that you get three courses for about 13 euro, don't go crazy on the souvenirs, and search for flights on Ryan Air and EasyJet (although these may have changed since I studied abroad).


* 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

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
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? I took a literature course, but it was really too hard for me.
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 a homestay, stay in a smaller city like Alcala de Henares so that you have to use Spanish in your daily life, and ask questions so that you become familiar with idioms.

Direct Enrollment/Exchange

* Did you study abroad through an exchange program or did you directly enroll in the foreign university? Exchange

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
  • International Students
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?
  • Learning Spanish
  • Immersing myself in culture
  • Cristina Blanco!
* What could be improved?
  • Access to Wifi (although that may have improved since I studied there)
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? How to use Skype!

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!

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Advanced Spanish Language

Course Department: IUIEN
Instructor: Cristina Blanco
Instruction Language: Spanish
Comments: Cristina led a challenging course that pushed her students to become familiar with complex concepts in grammar and vocabulary. She required us to keep a notebook with examples from newspapers or advertisements that used the particular grammatical forms we were studying. I still use this notebook today.
Credit Transfer Issues: I picked courses based on their ability to transfer conveniently. I only wish that I could have cross-listed the courses so that I could have had a double major in English Literature and Spanish.
Course Name/Rating:

Spanish Literature

Course Department: IUIEN
Instructor: I don't remember
Instruction Language: Spanish
Comments: I loved this course because it pushed me to use my skills in literature in the Spanish language. Prior to this course I struggled to make sense of the words on the page in a coherent, literary way. After this course I felt much more confident in my ability to treat Spanish texts with the same eye as I did with English language texts. One short story we read was "El Amor de la madre" and it made such an impression on me that I bought the entire anthology to read on my own.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

History of Spain

Course Department: IUIEN
Instructor: Julio ___
Instruction Language: Spanish
Comments: Julio made Spanish history sound like a soap opera! He explained the significant events clearly. I definitely enjoyed this class and remember a great deal.
Credit Transfer Issues: No problem that I remember.