Amazing Alcalá February 19, 2015

By (Spanish, University of Iowa) - abroad from 07/01/2013 to 07/31/2013 with

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

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Actually, I learned a lot about myself during my time in Spain, as well as a lot about Spanish culture and language. I also learned a lot of valuable skills like navigating and trip-planning. It was an amazing experience that I often wish I could go back to.

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.

Our classes during my program were at just the right level -stimulating, interesting, and challenging, without being overwhelming and definitely still allowing us time to explore and enjoy ourselves!

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Our program directors and other administration were phenomenal. Instituto Ben Franklin at the Universidad de Alcala really knows how to meet the needs of international students, and all of our professors were experienced, friendly, and helpful.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My homestay was wonderful. I had my own bedroom during my stay, and my Spanish family's community had a private pool where I could go take a dip with my younger hermanitos during the warm weather. I felt like I really got a feel for Spanish home life.

* Food:

Even as a vegetarian coming into a very meat- and fish- centered diet in Spain, I loved the food during my stay, both at home and out and about. One of my favorite things was to go get tapas in town near the Plaza de Cervantes - a cold cerveca con limon and a plate of olives is still one of the things I miss most about Spain.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Even though we were only there for a short amount of time, being able to interact with professors, community members, and our homestay families really helped me feel connected to the local culture.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I didn't experience any health issues during my stay, but our hosts were definitely conscious of our health, reminding us to stay hydrated, wear sunscreen, and eat well every day. If anyone did have an issue, healthcare was easily accessible.

* Safety:

Our first day orientation and many conversations afterward had a big focus on how to be safe in our Spanish community and the more urban areas that we would be visiting. I felt very comfortable during my time, and felt that I had been sufficiently prepared to take care of my own safety, and that my safety was being considered by my peers and by administrators of the program.

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

Finances

* 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)

This aspect was very flexible and definitely depended on the person. I would spend a little bit of money each week to buy a snack in the university cafe, to go out for tapas with friends, or to buy a souvenir or clothing, but once program expenses were paid for, all of my meals were taken care of by my host family, who also saw to any other needs I had that might come up. I also packed ahead many of the basic necessities so there wasn't much to buy when I arrived. The program itself is very affordable and I took out a very worthwhile small federal loan to cover the cost.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? This would of course vary very much - on weeks that we travelled to Madrid or Barcelona this would be more, but on average I probably spent 20-50 euros per week.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Pack as many basic necessities as you can (toiletries, sunblock, etc) so you don't have to buy them when you arrive. Go out with friends for drinks and snacks, but let your host family take care of the main meals. Travel smart! If you go on weekend trips, stay in hostels with friends, and take the train when possible.

Language

* 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? 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? 180
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? Just keep using your Spanish! It was easy to want to slip back into English when with English-speaking peers, and sometimes a break is good, but it's better to keep working on it!

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
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 people: peers, administrators, and host family
  • The community: Alcala is a beautiful place
  • The travel: visiting other areas of the country was exciting and fun
* What could be improved?
  • I would have loved to stay longer
  • I wish my peers and I had used more Spanish in our interactions
  • I wish I had made more time to visit more areas of Spain
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I had written down more of what happened while I was there, and had more pictures taken of me with all of the amazing places and people I met. Document your experiences!

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 Avid Adventurer
The wardrobe you packed was better suited for a semester of camping than club hopping. Outdoorsy, you might forgo a crazy night out for an early all-day adventure. You'd rather take in the rich culture of an old town than the metropolis of a modern city, but for you getting off the grid is ideal.