MY EXPERIENCE STUDYING ABROAD IN ALCALÁ DE HENARES
By Maddie Ketchem
Greetings from Alcalá de Henares, Spain! I’m here in Spain studying at la Universidad de Alcalá de Henares (UAH) from Indiana University in the United States.
Choosing the CIEE Alcalá de Henares program was the best decision for me and this experience has been the most impactful part of my time in college. Through CIEE, I’ve experienced a completely different world, made lasting friendships, and become a part of the Spanish culture.
I chose CIEE’s Alcalá de Henares, Spain program for many reasons. First and foremost, I felt that the courses offered through UAH best fit with my academic needs to complete my Spanish minor at Indiana University. Second, I found Alcalá de Henares on the map of Spain and saw that it was very close to Madrid – the center of Spain. This was important to me because I definitely wanted to travel around Spain on the weekends and be close enough to a large city to experience the Spanish urban atmosphere after classes. Third, I looked up the history of Alcalá de Henares and discovered that it was the birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes, the author of Spanish novel Don Quixote. As an avid literature fan and bookworm, I was jazzed about this fun fact. Fourth, I looked up the CIEE program website and was impressed with the stories of support that other students received while studying abroad in foreign countries with CIEE.
My classes at UAH were interesting to me because they directly correlated to the world around me – I would learn about a historical event in class then see the effects of this history in Spanish cities. Through my Spanish Culture and Civilization course, I was able to travel to Toledo. I was amazed at the beauty of Toledo and the historical significance that the city contained. Through my Business Spanish course, I toured a local Spanish yogurt company, Danone, and learned about the marketing strategies used in Spain to promote Spanish products.
On the weekends, I traveled all around Spain. On my first weekend trip, I went with a group of friends to Seville and Granada. In Seville, we stayed in a hostel together and explored the city – everything from El Real Alcazar to La Catedral de Santa Maria. After several days, my group took a bus to Granada and toured La Alhambra, which was truly beautiful. My next weekend trip was CIEE sponsored to Barcelona! We went to the beach, toured the famous Sagrada Familia, and learned about the history of the Catalonian architecture and modernistic styles that developed there.
While traveling around Spain was incredible, Alcalá de Henares was home. I loved exploring this beautiful and historic city after classes, on weekends, and with friends. Alcalá de Henares is where I made my friends – these students became the people I travelled with on the weekends, made dinner plans with every week, and studied with before our final exams at UAH. I loved being close to Madrid and experiencing the city atmosphere then coming back home to Alcalá de Henares and experiencing the central family atmosphere of this town.
Since the moment of my arrival, my Resident Coordinator, Sonia, proved herself as part of my support network in Spain and was an integral part of my Spanish experience. When I arrived in Spain, I had a rough start with navigating the terminals of the Madrid airport but I called Sonia and she immediately talked me through the situation and got me onto the CIEE program bus safe and sound.
My experience here at Alcalá de Henares is something that would not have been possible anywhere else in the world. I loved my time here in Spain and I’m so glad that I made the choice to come here with this program. I’m going to miss Spain and I’m going to miss my new friends. I enjoyed every minute of my time here at Alcalá de Henares and I am forever changed by this beautiful culture! I’m so grateful to have had this opportunity.