Pitt in Spain 2 – Goals

Hola from la Universidad de Alcalá! I’ve moved into my gorgeous (yes, that is the correct adjective) dorm in the middle of the city center, right next to the rose-festooned Plaza de Cervantes and have just started clases. They’re giving me all the practice I could ask for in Spanish listening comprehension, as well as a fascinating introduction to Spanish history and the literature of Cervantes. I’ll be sure to update you with how they progress as I make it further into the semester!

My most important goal for this trip was to improve my practical Spanish skills, something I’m working toward by writing down new Spanish words, devoting some time each day to reading in Spanish, and through day-to-day interactions in my local neighborhood. Some awkward bumbling in a farmacy trying to buy hand lotion notwithstanding, I’m excited about how much progress I’ve already made—reading in particular has become much easier and more enjoyable than I would have hoped a week ago. I’m working through Borges’ Ficciones in my free time, a book I’ve already read in English translation but am truly rediscovering in the wonderfully rich original Spanish. I look forward to carrying my skills and excitement forward when I come back to my literary studies in Pittsburgh.

As I’m situated in an area rich in history, art, and culture, I’ve also been attempting to experience as much as I can of the historic city of Alcalá de Henares and nearby Madrid. I took a train to the latter’s expansive Retiro Park over the weekend with some friends—the largest and most famous in a city known for such—and discovered not only beautiful paths, statues, and gardens, but an impressive modern art installation that simulated the appearance of modern building ruins with cardboard and paper-paste. Back in Alcalá the following day, I made a stop at the local archeological museum, and found multiple full Roman mosaics (something I’d previously only read about). Of course, living in Spain isn’t just about seeing parks and museums, and even simple every-day activities have given me an interesting taste of Spanish culture, something I’ll definitely loop back to in another post. Suffice it to say that there’s lots for me to learn…including the fact that people will actually stop for pedestrians at crosswalks. Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief update and I’ll be back with more about my trip next week!

Fun fact about Alcalá de Henares: There are legally protected stork nests on most of the rooftops in the old part of the city. Take a look at them and their occupants in my attached picture!

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