Over the summer, I studied abroad in Spain in an immersive intensive Spanish program at a university outside of Madrid. The school was the Universidad de Alcala (UAH), and it is the second oldest university in Spain. The campus, full of ornate, old buildings, is extremely beautiful and Alcalá de Henares, the surrounding city, is no different. The city has received recognition as a world heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), an organization that awards this title to integral historical locations all across the globe. UAH created a program for Americans to study Spanish in an immersive environment with university-level classes in Spanish. Families around the city open their homes to host the students, and they stay over the summer for one or two months. I studied for one month and took two classes through the university. Additionally, I stayed with a host family and walked or took the bus to school every day, Monday through Thursday. Everyday was an adventure. Whether I was walking through historic main street on the way to class, through the local nature park or visiting the 2000 year old uncovered ruins of Roman Alcala, I discovered new things everyday. The program allowed students to travel with three day weekends, and classes that ended no later than 2:30 PM everyday, so on the weekends I traveled all over Spain. This program is very unique, because students are able to study the language and have all their classes in an immersive environment. As a Spanish student at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, this greatly improved my level in speaking and writing Spanish.
The program allows students to be immersed in Spanish but emphasizes discovering Spanish culture. Because of this focus from UAH, I was able to explore the city of Alcala, and learn more about the history of Alcala and of Spain in general. Only 100 years ago, Alcala was crucial to the Spanish civil war because of its proximity to Madrid and significance to the history of Spain. Many historical locations in the city are still visible today, and I was able to see them daily walking through the city. The city center is known as the plaza de Cervantes, and contains gardens, and fountains, surrounded by local businesses and cafes. Backing up to the plaza, is main street which is lined with beautiful columns and home to many different restaurants and bars. Frequently, I walked down main street with friends, found restaurants, and ordered tapas in places that were hundreds of years old. I was able to learn about Spanish culture by living in it.
I would highly recommend Spain as a country to study abroad, because it is in general a fun place to be. Spain has incredible food, fantastic nightlife, some of the best festivals and parties in the world. The Spanish enjoy hanging out with friends and spending time eating. As an American, I discovered the Spanish have an extremely friendly and relaxed culture. Through the program, I was able to meet a wonderful Spanish family, who have already offered to let me come back. I would additionally suggest this program to anyone looking to make new friends at UTC or all across America and Spain. In this program, I traveled with my friends and was able to visit other parts of the country in addition to Alcala. Spain is a wonderful place to visit at this age, because it is extremely cheap to travel in comparison to the States. Also, I found that even when I traveled very short distances, I could immerse myself in a completely different culture. This program might throw a student slightly out of their comfort zone, but they will quickly grow to love Spain and the Spanish culture. If a student enjoys traveling, and wants a fun way to learn Spanish, this should be the program of choice.
John Lazenby (BS Electrical Engineering) spent Summer 2022 in Alcala de Henares, Spain as part of a faculty-led trip linked with a UTC course. John had the following to say about study abroad, “Studying abroad is a life changing experience. It’s easy to forget that the world is bigger than the United States, and studying abroad can completely expand your worldview. Study abroad to discover new cultures, meet amazing new people and learn more about yourself.”
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