I just returned from Alcalá de Henares, Spain yesterday after spending a month studying at the University of Alcalá, and I’m already looking back fondly at the memories I made during my time there. Not only was I able to improve my Spanish tremendously, but I was also able to travel every weekend and experience so many different cultural aspects. I found support through my professors who showed they were genuinely invested in contributing to my positive experience abroad, and I was also able to make many new friends (most who go to Pitt!) whom I would never have encountered without this program.
What surprised me most about this program was how flexible the entire experience was. Each and every student had the freedom to choose specific classes that interest them, as well as deciding what they wanted to do in their free time. Not having classes on Friday was a nice break each week and allowed students to travel on their own to experience different cities in Spain, or even make a quick visit to another country – something we are not accustomed to in the United States. My advice to others participating in study abroad would be to travel as much as possible, as my weekends were the most exciting part of the program and I learned so much from these visits.
My experiences during the summer program also allowed me to see that students can stray from a “traditional” path of study and still pursue their goals. As a STEM major, there is a common misconception that study abroad is out of the question as it is difficult to fit high level science and math classes into a curriculum in another country. However, studying during the summer was a flexible option that allowed me to make progress on my Spanish minor without taking time away from my required core science classes. After living in a society that predominantly speaks Spanish for a month, I am eager to further improve my conversational skills to someday utilize them in my future career within healthcare.
While I am disappointed that the time flew by so fast, I will never forget the time I spent in Alcalá. I arrived there feeling lonely and out of place, but I left with improved Spanish, new friends, and many fascinating experiences under my belt. However, Spain hasn’t seen the last of me, and I will definitely be planning my trip back as soon as possible!