Ever since I was a junior in high school and decided I wanted to major in Spanish for my Bachelor’s degree, I knew I would want to study abroad in a Spanish-speaking country. I had been to Honduras on a mission trip and this trip helped me in two ways: improved my Spanish fluency and made me realize my passion for Spanish. This realization was what made me decide to be a high school Spanish teacher. When this past spring semester I realized that I did not want to be a Spanish teacher, at least not for right now, and I had a semester left to decide what I was going to do after graduation, I put a lot of pressure on this summer semester in Spain to make clear what I wanted to do. My best friend Maria signed up for the trip when I told her about it and we ended up taking on Spain together. This was the biggest blessing because we each got to have someone with us as we experienced all these amazing but somewhat scary things.
What was really unique about our program is it was designed specifically for international students advanced in Spanish. One of the ways this program forced me to improve my Spanish was by living with a host family in Acalá de Henares for the entire month of June. I lived with a lady in her mid-70s, my host mom Maria, and her daughter Mati who was in her mid-50s. These two women spoke no English, and despite the initial difficulty communicating, my Spanish improved immensely. One of the most special parts of living with Maria and Mati was seeing the typically Spanish lifestyle and eating typically Spanish food. Maria stuffed me full every meal, and even though I was warned about this being Spanish moms’ love language, I definitely ate my weight in paella.
Another one of my favorite parts of this trip was the fact that it was faculty-led by Professor Gastanaga. In the Instituto Franklin, there were several other students from universities all across the United States. None of these students, however, had a faculty member from their university with them. The students from UTC went on field trips specifically with Professor Gastanaga and spent time with him in Alcalá. These were some of my favorite days. Dr. Gastanaga has been to Spain many times and his insight on the places he took us as well as various things in Spain was invaluable.
I became friends with a lot of the other UTC students who were a part of the program and we planned trips to other parts of Spain as well. One trip in particular that I will cherish forever was our trip to Barcelona. Before coming to Spain one of the options I was thinking about post-graduation, was coming to live in Spain to teach English. We took the trip to Barcelona during our third weekend of the four-week program and to be completely honest, up until that point I was pretty sure I did not want to live in Spain. While I was having an amazing time and completely enjoying Alcalá and Madrid, I just could not see myself living there. However, during our trip to Barcelona, my mind completely changed. It was absolutely gorgeous and just seemed like a place I would love to live. At this point, I still did not have my questions about my life after graduation answered but I knew living in Spain would still be an option. When I got home, I mentioned to Maria the idea of us both moving to Spain after graduation for a year to do a Master’s program. While in Spain we talked to former UTC students who had done this and absolutely loved it. Maria and I both ended up becoming serious about the idea and now we are looking into options for programs for both of us.
I learned so much in the short month I was in Spain, and if anything this trip has made me even more of an advocate for study abroad. I am a tour guide at UTC and I told every single tour group about how accessible it is to study abroad in college. Now, I will get to tell them of all my adventures and how worth it studying abroad was.
Amber Walliser (BA Spanish) spent Summer 2022 in Alcala de Henares, Spain as part of a faculty-led trip linked with a UTC course. Amber had the following to say about study abroad, “Studying abroad is one of the best decisions I made all of my college career! There is probably no better time in terms of life, money and opportunity than to travel with a study abroad program in college.”
Share this post: