I had hoped to study in a Spanish-speaking country to experience the true cultural immersion ever since taking Spanish classes in high school. I decided to double major in International Studies and Spanish language with the hopes to work with people all over the world in the future. I finally had the opportunity to study in Spain during my Spring semester of junior year. I went to the University of Alcalá (UAH) because the UTC Study Abroad Office promoted its Spring International Studies program. Having studied in Korea (Summer 2021) and Canada the previous semester, I was surprised by how affordable this program was compared to other study abroad programs. I was never interested in traditional study abroad locations such as Europe, but I chose to study at UAH because of its affordability and I could really attempt to learn about Spanish culture and other parts of Europe with an unbiased mindset.
Unsurprisingly, the available courses at UAH seemed right down my alley. Two of my favourite courses were about the language and culture of the Spanish-speaking world and understanding crisis and trauma in regard to immigrants and refugees. These two classes helped me appreciate my time in Spain and ambitions even more. Not only did I get to meet professors from other universities (from Spain, Canada, and even Pennsylvania), but I also made friends with other students and went travelling with them in the free time we had.
The semester was shorter than what I was used to, as the program was from January 9th to March 30th. It was broken up into block periods where we took one course for the entire program, and also took an additional course for one month, had a short break at the beginning of the month, and then began a new class. Alcalá is a small and quaint city, which is great for those who want to be out of the city and feel more like a “local” in another country. And if bigger cities are more your style—Madrid isn’t too far away by the rail system, Renfe Cercanías.
There were plenty of opportunities to practice Spanish, and I definitely became more comfortable making mistakes while trying to communicate. Overall, the people were friendly and helpful, but I did notice frequent staring. There were a few instances where I did feel like I was treated a bit differently because of my race. Don’t let this information scare you. It is just something to note if you are travelling abroad and want to be prepared to interact with others as a minority. People generally minded their own business but were willing to help if you asked.
I travelled to other places in Spain such as Valencia, Barcelona, and Toledo, all of which have their own unique charms. I definitely want to revisit Barcelona someday! During our free weekends and breaks, I had the chance to travel to London, England; Edinburgh, Scotland; Lisbon, Portugal; Marseille and Paris, France; and Rome, Italy, with other UAH International Studies students. I never thought I would be able to visit all of these places, especially within the same semester during school. However, because of their proximity, cheap flights were easy to find, and travelling with others made the trips easier to organize.
I never thought I would go to Europe because I just didn’t get the appeal. Still, I decided to give it a chance, and I am grateful that I went out of my comfort zone. As I learned more about Spain’s history and culture, my perspective of the country grew. Now, I feel more knowledgeable about Spain and hope to visit the south of Spain in the future. Admittedly, I never quite liked many of the traditional Spanish dishes (I realized it’s a bit bland to me and I don’t like seafood as much as I thought), but the fruit was something I still think about daily. I would fly back just for a cup of orange juice.
Emma Sprayberry (BA Spanish and BA Humanities: International Studies) spent Spring 2023 studying abroad in Alcala de Henares, Spain through a direct enrollment at Universidad de Alcala. Emma had the following to say about studying abroad, “At first, studying abroad seemed daunting because of the application process, cost, and commitment, but it is actually easier than it seems when utlizing the Study Abroad Office and the resources they offer. I am grateful for the opportunity to study abroad because it has given me a new perspective and helped me clarify my personal and professional goals in life.”
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