This summer I was given the opportunity to study abroad with the Spanish department on a faculty-led trip to Alcala de Henares, a small city outside of Madrid, Spain. Dr. Gastañaga, the faculty member that led the trip greatly encouraged all students to do a home-stay with families and I am so thankful he did. My family consisted of a mother, father and a son. They were so welcoming to me and helped me increase my Spanish beyond what I thought possible. They cooked me delicious food, and the dinners were especially fantastic. Not only did they cook me delicious meals but also learned my favorite dessert and offered it every night: ice cream. Along with living with a host family, I also took four classes this summer that were given fully in Spanish with a focus on Spanish history. Both of these experiences helped increase my Spanish abilities, which was the main focus of the opportunity. One thing that I loved about Spain was the easy and accessible public transport. I was able to pay 20 euros a month to have unlimited public transport in and around the Community of Madrid. It is one of the things I miss the most.
Only having class Monday-Thursday meant that I was able to have a long weekend every weekend and travel. This was one of the greatest parts of studying abroad this summer. I had the opportunity to explore London, Paris, Rome, Florence, Valencia, and Barcelona. Each of these cities were unique in a variety of ways and I found that the best way to see as much of each city in as little time as I had was by taking a tour bus around the cities. By taking these buses I was able to hop on and off at any spot and take in the history. While I loved seeing each of these big cities in other countries, the cities in Spain are the ones I enjoyed the most. I enjoyed these cities the best because I was still able to explore parts of the world I hadn’t seen while also continuing to improve my Spanish speaking, listening and reading skills. For this reason, Valencia, Madrid, and Toledo are at the top of my favorite cities I explored this summer. Each of these cities were great in unique ways. Valencia was great because it is located on the coast of the country so the beach was beautiful and it had a very interesting aquarium. Madrid was also one of my favorites because it was the city I got to explore the most. It was a city full of rich history and it had a very big park that was a great place to enjoy evenings. Toledo was one of the more unique cities that I had the opportunity to explore. As a result of it being the previous capital of Spain it had many old buildings, but what set it apart from other cities is that the city is on a hill. The main access to the city was an escalator or stairs.
This experience was one that I will never forget and I am extremely grateful that I was able to spend this time abroad. I was able to make new friends and lifelong connections abroad, so that when I return I will be able to catch up and reminisce on old times. Many of my friends that I made are also students at UTC, and I am thankful that this program gave me some of my dearest memories with friends that I can continue to see in Chattanooga.
Rebecca Heise (BS Elementary Education and BA Spanish) spent Summer 2022 in Alcala de Henares, Spain as part of a faculty-led trip linked with a UTC course. Rebecca had the following to say about study abroad, “Studying abroad was one of my favorite things I did during my time at UTC. It was such an amazing experience where I was able to make life-long friends and connections abroad.”
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