I am very happy with my experience in Alcalá de Henares, Spain. Every experience that I had made me more confident and independent in a way that I don’t think any experiences in places familiar to me could have. I am not as terrified of public speaking, I am more comfortable with getting lost, I am not as hard on myself about making mistakes, and I have more patience and tolerance. I also learned a lot about myself that I had not realized before, like how much I value my family and friends, car rides where I can sing as loud as I want, and mac and cheese.
During the first week of my study abroad experience in Alcalá de Henares, I was too busy and tired to feel lonely or overwhelmed; those feelings didn’t really hit me until the end of the second month, when a lot of the friends I had made during the first month had gone home, and I was feeling smothered in my host home. This was hard for me at first, because I couldn’t figure out what the cause was. Everyone was being extremely kind and welcoming to me, but I still felt slightly estranged; by that point I knew I was ready to come back home.
I am a very independent person, but my stay in Spain made me even more independent in ways that my life in Chattanooga, TN, could not. I was forced to work through situations on my own with very little help or information in a foreign language. I would not get that type of experience here. I think that this helped not only my Spanish-speaking skills, but also my English-speaking skills. There were multiple times when I knew I was saying something wrong in Spanish, but I had to say it because it was the only way I knew how to get my point across. This decreased much of my hesitancy and embarrassment when I speak in front of people, because if I can do it in Spanish, there is no reason why I should not be able to do it in English.
My two favorite parts of my study abroad experience were my classes and my travels inside Spain. I loved being able to learn things that aren’t taught at UTC and forging relationships with students from around America and teachers from Spain. Everyone was different and had something to offer to the class. I also loved using the public transportation and the long-distance trains and buses in Spain to travel around the country. I saw so much diverse countryside and beautiful, ancient architecture. My favorite part of Spain was the Basque region; the blend of cultures was incredibly interesting and enchanting. I loved hearing the different languages and dialects of Spanish.
This opportunity was amazing, and I grew and learned so much. I would definitely recommend a study abroad experience to other UTC students, and I would love to have another study abroad experience.
Camden Eckler is majoring in Political Science, International Studies, and Spanish with a minor in Biology. She participated in a faculty-led trip to Alcala, Spain through the Spanish Department in Summer, 2018. Camden had the following to say about her study abroad experience, “I think that everyone who has the opportunity should try a study abroad experience once. Even if the only thing you get out of it is learning that you don’t like going abroad, that is still an important thing that you have learned about yourself. Also, don’t be afraid to try things just because you’re afraid to make a mistake or seem unintelligent. Persevering and trying new, and sometimes uncomfortable, things helps you grow.”
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