This summer, I studied abroad in Spain for 2 months. I stayed in a town right outside of Madrid named Alcalá de henares. It is a smaller town than Madrid, but still rich with history. In fact, Miguel Cervantes, the writer of the books “Don Quixote” was born there. There are many buildings there that date all the way back to the 14th and 15th centuries. The town is also full of cute little restaurants and shops that my friends and I would frequent.

I stayed with a host family that knew very little English. This is positive, though, because it forced me to only speak Spanish with them. Because of this, my listening and speaking skills in Spanish significantly improved. I also enjoyed eating a traditional Spanish meal every night.

I had a great experience at the school in Alcalá. All of the professors were very helpful and patient with us. My classmates were all fellow American students, however the teachers only taught in Spanish. The classes were not extremely difficult and we had three-day weekends, which gave us time to travel on the weekends. During these long weekends, my friends and I were able to travel to Rome, Portugal, Asturias (Northern Spain), and Barcelona. Each trip was filled with unforgettable experiences and beautiful sights.

The town I lived in was only about a 40-minute train ride from Madrid, so my friends and I visited almost every week. Madrid is a bustling, progressive, and gorgeous city that is full of life. The Royal Palace there is magnificent and the architecture of the buildings in the city is stunning. There are thousands of great restaurants and shops there as well. It was a great place to go after school and explore.

I learned many things during my time abroad. Aside from obviously learning more Spanish, I also learned a lot about people. I learned that although there are cultural differences when you travel, people are more alike than you would think. We all get angry, get jealous, fall in love, crack jokes, have people we love, and have dreams. Even when you are 4,500 miles away from home, there are still so many similarities you can find.

While there are similarities, it was also very interesting to learn about the differences in cultures. For example, in Spain people do not eat dinner until around 10 PM. I also noticed that no one smiles at each other unless they know each other. In the south, it is commonplace to smile at someone as you walk past them just to be nice. However, this is not done in Spain. I figured that out after I got some confused faces from Spaniards when I smiled at them whilst walking past them on the sidewalk.

In conclusion, I would like to say that studying abroad was without a doubt one of the best experiences of my life. I got to see things that I thought I would only see pictures of and read about. I met people from completely different cultures and ways of thinking. I would not trade any of those experiences for the world and I cannot wait to return to Spain someday.

Sara Noble is majoring in Spanish and Communication. She participated in a faculty-led trip to Alcala, Spain through the Spanish Department in June, 2018. Sara had the following to say about her time in Spain, “Studying abroad provided me with knowledge that you cannot learn in a classroom. It gave me unforgettable experiences, friends from different cultures, and memories that will last a lifetime.”

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