Life-changing and incredible (EVERYONE SHOULD STUDY ABROAD) February 21, 2015

By (Spanish; Communication Sciences and Disorders, University of Wisconsin - Madison) - abroad from 01/08/2014 to 04/30/2014 with

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

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
My study abroad experience was SO worthwhile! I LOVED the people I met, the classes I took, the food I ate, the travel I did, the laughter and memories and happiness is something that I can always look back on. I became more independent, I learned to go out of my comfort zone in speaking Spanish more, making new friends, and pushing myself to try new things. I opened my mind to learning about new cultures, people, traditions and social norms. I made incredible memories and even during stressful or unpleasant times (like getting sick or lost on the metro), I had new friends and support of my program director who cared about it and those bad memories don't stick with me as much as the good ones do.

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 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.

Classes were interesting, a variety of history, grammar, culture, and I took a teaching and service course as well, and were not TOO hard where I couldn't take time to go out and experience my city or travel around, but challenging enough to keep my interest!

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Our program director was like a second mother (to be honest even better than my host mother) because she looked out for us, gave us advice, helped us plan trips, challenged us to speak better Spanish, provided support and really truly cared about it. She is one of the major factors that made my experience studying abroad the best it could be!

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

* Food:

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

I never had anything stolen from me on public transportation, however a friend of mine did. My advice is to always travel with at least one friend (a group is safest), to be paying attention to your surroundings and the people near you, to keep your hand on your purse/bag (wearing a backpack forward - almost like those baby wraps that mothers wear - is recommended on crowded metros), and I would even go as far as to put napkins/tissues/maps/random papers in my purse so if someone were to open my bag and reach in to grab something (camera/phone/wallet) they would firstly get a handful of random things that I didn't care about losing!

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)

I did a lot of traveling (nearly every weekend except two or three) so I spent a lot on the weekends.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? Depending on where I was traveling too, cost for flights, hostel living, food, and museum/touristy things was maybe between 100 and 300 euros a week
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? If you live with a host family, always try to be home for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Pack a lunch if you will be gone. Eating out can be expensive. Buy a water bottle and fill it up when you can (if its safe water). Souvenirs can get expensive so a way to bring something come to commemorate your travels is keeping your tickets from your flight, metro, museum, even hostel receipts or restaurant receipts, this, together with pictures, can make for very cool scrapbook or wall decorations for you to remember your amazing study abroad experiences!

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

We were encouraged to speak Spanish all the time. If you were speaking English you were asked to repeat yourself in Spanish. The professors and program director were encouraging us because they said it was the best way to become fluent!

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 had taken 6 Spanish courses
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? Don't let yourself speak English with your friends. Don't do it!!! Practice your language with eveyrone - host fam, professors, friends, classmates, store people, everyone! The best way to become fluent is to just plow through the awkward beginning stages of not knowing all the grammar or vocab but to keep speaking anyways. All your friends are in the same place you are, everyone feels incompetent at some point, just keep speaking your language as best you can, and you WILL improve. You really will. Just do it!

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?
  • New friends - I made amazing friendships that were so fun and different!
  • Experiencing a new culture - living with a host family and eating different food, speaking Spanish constantly and being surrounded by something different was very cool!
  • Traveling was amazing - we visited many cities in Spain, both "touristy" spots as well as historical or cultural beautiful places
* What could be improved?
  • A more in-depth host family survey
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Helpful things for you to pack for traveling! Bring sheets, a pillow case, a small blanket, a towel, good tennis shoes, a swim suit, containers for travel (conditioner, shampoo), zip lock bags, gloves, and a credit/debit card for abroad that doesn't charge you!