I had a blast studying abroad this summer during June and July. I studied in Alcalá de Henares, Spain, which is about 25 miles outside of Madrid. While I was there, I took 4 classes that were all taught in Spanish. We had class from 9-2:30 Monday through Thursday, so we had Friday-Sunday completely free to travel or do anything else we wanted to do. We had the option to live with a host family or in the dorms, but I chose to live with a host family to work on my Spanish skills. Since I stayed with a host family, I got home cooked meals every day which were a highlight of my trip.
For me, this program was the perfect addition to my Spanish major. I was able to learn more Spanish and more about Spanish culture through my classes but also through my daily life. I learned a lot from just navigating the city on the bus or talking to restaurant employees or eating dinner with my host family each night. I took the bus to class every day, and I loved traveling just like the locals did. It was so cool to know the language and be able to communicate with locals when I needed something. Also, I love the way of life in Spain. From 2-5ish, many businesses close for “siesta” time, or nap time, so employees can eat lunch with their families and rest before returning to work. However, it was hard to adjust to this eating schedule because they eat dinner between 9 and 11 pm. When you walk through the streets of Spain at night, there are people everywhere, eating, laughing, and having a great time. It’s not uncommon for people to stay out until midnight eating dinner with their friends.
One of the best parts of my summer was having the opportunity to travel on the weekends. I loved traveling within Spain to Toledo, Barcelona, and Valencia. Our program had a 5-day break between our June and July sessions, so during that time, I got to travel to Rome and Florence, Italy. My favorite trip was a weekend I spent in Paris with other UTC students. By the end of the summer, we were all pros at planning weekend trips by booking transportation, Airbnbs, and learning to navigate the new city once we got there. I grew to love public transportation and being able to walk within the city I live in, and I really miss this back in the US.
To anyone deciding if they want to study abroad or not, do it. Before I left the US, I was extremely anxious about how my summer would be. I had so many questions and had no idea how to prepare. I had traveled outside of the country a few times before but not for such an extensive period of time. Also, staying with a host family was very intimidating to me, and I didn’t know what to expect. However, I absolutely loved my summer abroad and would do it all over again if I could. Every day held new experiences and new challenges, so it’s important to have an open mind and be flexible. I gained a lot from my experience including better language skills, more confidence in speaking Spanish, and firsthand experience of Spanish culture. I also gained many incredible friendships and a greater sense of independence and confidence in my everyday life. I believe study abroad is a once in a lifetime experience that everyone should take advantage of. Signing up was a big leap of faith for me, but I am so grateful that I did it.
Isabella Savely (BS Psychology and BA Spanish) spent Summer 2022 in Alcala de Henares, Spain as part of a faculty-led trip linked with a UTC course. Isabella had the following to say about study abroad, “I highly recommend study abroad to any student looking to do something outside of their comfort zone, learn about new cultures, explore new places, and make lifelong memories! If you are thinking about studying abroad, DO IT! I am extremely grateful for my time abroad and the amazing friendships and memories that came from it.”
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