Auburn student pictured abroad overlooking a houses on a cliff

Amid Madrid

Mary Grace Grigson: Alcalá de Henares, Spain Spring 2019

I have loved the Spanish language ever since I was in elementary school. From kindergarten to second grade I attended a bilingual school, where half of my day was in English and the other half in Spanish. I believe this is where my love for Spanish began. Coming to college I knew I wanted to continue studying Spanish and hopefully have the opportunity to study abroad in a Spanish speaking country.

With the help of the Study Abroad office, I was able to narrow my search to the country of Spain and discovered a semester long program. I lived in a town 40 minutes outside Madrid, Spain called Alcalá de Henares. I lived with one of my friends from school in a host home. Living with my host mom, or grandma in my case, was one of my favorite things my program offered. I was able to experience the Spanish culture first hand by a local. My host mom, Oma, would cook traditional Spanish dishes for us every night and taught me how to cook too!

I attended the University of Alcala and all my classes were with other American students. All of our classes were taught by Spanish professors. I enjoyed living in Alcalá de Henares because it was just outside Madrid, and it had the small town feel, I was looking for and was still close enough to Madrid for big city activities and shopping. The closeness to Madrid made for easy travelling on our 3 day weekend trips. While abroad I was able to travel to 7 countries and countless cities every weekend. My personal favorite was Greece because it was beautiful and has been on my bucket list for years. One of the most difficult things about being back in the USA is that every weekend is no longer an adventure to a different country.

One of my favorite things that my university in Spain offered was the opportunity to have a Spanish conversation partner. My friend Paula attended the University of Alcala and once a week we met for coffee and alternated our conversation in English and Spanish so that we were both able to practice the languages we were learning. We became close friends and I even spent a day with her family at their home. Her family cooked lobster for me and we all watched a Spanish movie together. In my opinion, the best way to truly experience a different culture is to befriend the local people. Getting to know my friend Paula and her family was the best way to learn more about Spain!

Going abroad is one of the best experiences ever. The opportunities to immerse yourself in new cultures and countries every weekend is unmatched. You will grow in independence and learn more about yourself along the way. I hope everyone has the desire to step out of their comfort zone every once in a while, because it will always be worth it.

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