I studied abroad in the Universidad de Alcalá de Henares during the Spring 2019 semester. I completed the program in under 90 days so that I did not have to apply for a Spanish visa, which was very convenient. Those three months were the best of my life. The UAH program is run by passionate, hardworking, and always-available professionals who are there to explain how life in Spain works for all the newcomers and what to expect from UAH. The program sets students up with local housing, requires that local families provide meals for students, and ensures that the weekly schedule allows time for students to travel on the weekends. These things make life easier for students; they do not have to worry about cooking, finding housing, or shirking studies to travel and experience Spain. An introduction to Spain class is required for all students, which teaches students about Spain's culture, history, politics, current issues, and anything else imaginable. This class makes life in Spain easier; students have a better and more complete understanding of the place that they call home for three months. Added to this, the Universidad itself is simply gorgeous and is a place of historical importance. Alcalá was the perfect location to see life and geography of central Spain, travel quickly to Madrid, and travel from Madrid to other places in Spain or Europe during weekends in order to see more of the world. It is difficult to describe, but life in those three months is more different than any other time of life that I have experienced; students quickly and steadfastly bond because they are all foreigners in Spain and want to have some kind of support group and friend group while there, students can travel to wherever their budget allows during the three- or four-day weekends and see places they normally would never see, students can get an intimate look at how families in Spain live and eat, and essentially, students can make a completely new life for themselves starting from day 1 and live to the utmost while still working towards their college degrees. Making the scary choice to study abroad was the best thing I have ever done, and I fell so in love with Alcalá, the UAH, Madrid, and Spain as a whole while I was there. A huge thank you goes out to UCM and UAH coordinators who made this program possible for me and for many others; you have changed our lives in a very real way and given us so many new experiences. (In addition, everyone at the UAH who directs students when they need medical attention, have any issue with their housing, or just have questions about Spain deserve all the thanks. Everyone was so wonderful!)
For those looking to possibly enroll in this program: I would recommend that students are fairly mature and independent before making the choice to study abroad for three months and also that they have a medium level of competency in Spanish, since they will be staying with Spanish families that do not know English and also traveling to other parts of Spain, maybe independently. Some students that I was with did not have any knowledge of Spanish and struggled to converse with their host families, but by the end of the trip, they were fairly competent in everyday phrases, which was amazing. Those issues can be avoided by simply learning the essentials before heading to Spain. I largely decided to study abroad because I study Spanish in university and knew that living among the language would increase my fluency. I was caught off guard, however, by just how quickly one learns a language being surrounded by it, and how drastically my confidence and ability with Spanish increased. I loved being able to use Spanish so much more frequently, learning new vocabulary by seeing it on signs or hearing people speak, and watching local news. Being fairly independent is important because, of course, students will be an ocean and, seemingly, a world away from their families, friends, and home cultures. The ability to adapt and be open to new people, new ways of life, and new experiences is essential and will enrich students' lives so much. Also, if you quickly make friends with other students in your program, you have buddies to travel with (and share lodging costs with) every weekend! If you are looking to enroll in this program and have a passion for Spain or Spanish language, this is a perfect program for you. I hope you fall in love with it like I and all the students with me did! I cannot explain how much of an effect this study abroad experience has had on all of us (we still stay in touch and reunite when we can) and will continue to have on us. Our memories of this experience are so, so amazing. A million thanks to everyone involved.