Skip To Content
Waterfall in Spain

A Month Studying Abroad in Spain

Jan 6, 2017

Who wouldn’t want to call a beautiful coastal city on the Costa Blanca their home for a month? Getting familiar with the locals, eating the most delicious foods, seeing some of the best views, learning a language, and above all, sharing this experience with amazing people: this trip was the best experience of my life.

The Journey & Our New Home

After over 24 hours of traveling, we finally arrived in Alicante, Spain. Through tired eyes, everyone woke up to see what their new home for the next month looked like. Emotions started sprouting: nervous, happy, excited, scared. These feelings were all new to me. Maybe this was because I was going to meet strangers who were letting me stay in their house for a month. I had no idea if the strangers even knew any English. 

A house in Alicante by the Santa Bárbara Castle.

We got off the bus and were quickly introduced to our host moms, and just like that we were on our way to our new home. My host mom did not know any English. Thankfully, I was able to understand her, but I was flustered trying to form sentences of my own. She showed us to our rooms and we settled in, finally being able to shower. Later that night, we met our host dad who knew English well. There wouldn’t be that much of a language barrier after all! Knowing English, our host dad was able to help us with our Spanish, letting us become more confident in what we wanted to say within a few short days. Over the course of a month, this family would soon become people that I would be sad to leave behind.

Breakfast was simple: buttered toast with strawberry jam. Lunch was always my favorite because there was the chance of having tortilla de patatas, a Spanish omelet, my favorite meal that I highly recommend! It is even better as a bocadillo (sandwich). Meals at my “house” were always served with a big mountain of veggies and ham is eaten often in Spain. This is part of the Mediterranean diet where food is more plant based and healthier. I enjoyed the fruit that was constantly stocked in the house and the freshness of all the food, either on my dinner plate or in the big supermarkets.

The School

When studying abroad, thinking about the classes can seem intimidating at first. But after the first day, you realize that the classes are not hard, but they are fun and exciting, especially because you are in a new country. Proyecto Español is a school situated by the mercado, the market, next to some of the most delicious cafes in town. Classes start at 9 a.m. and end at 2 p.m., with two breaks throughout the day. During the breaks, students talk to others from different classes, either from our college or from other countries. Others went for a bite to eat at the local convenience store or cafes, such as Farmer’s or Los Maños.

The classes at the school were fun and hands on. I was nervous at first at how well my Spanish would be after taking a semester off before the trip. Each student was placed in different levels of classes based on an entry exam taken prior to the trip. I was in a class where we learned about the culture of Spain and the city of Alicante. I was able to learn many celebrations and their meanings, such as San Fermin (Running of the Bulls) and Las Hogueras de San Juan, the Bonfires of Saint John, which we missed by just 11 days! My culture class took many mini field trips around town to local museums and historic buildings.

The amount of culture and new vocabulary words that I learned are endless. Every time I learned a new word, I would write it down in the back of my notebook. At the end of the trip, I had eight pages (front and back) all of vocabulary words. The teachers and staff at the school were among the people who made this trip so amazing. The teachers helped to make class fun and exciting, while helping the students expand on their Spanish.


The inside of La Sagrada Família.

Although we lived in Alicante, we were able to explore neighboring pueblos (towns), such as Elche, Guadalest, and La Vila Joiosa. One of my favorite excursions with the school was to Las Fuentes del Algar, which are a system of endless waterfalls! My friends and I were able to explore the waterfalls up stream, then let the current help us find our way back. My favorite part was watching the beautiful pink flowers fall from the trees and float down river. In the park, there were diving platforms where you can jump right into the fresh water and other areas where you can relax.

Another favorite place of mine was Barcelona. This was my second time visiting Barcelona, but it still amazed me all the same. La Sagrada Família was one of my favorite buildings because of its intricate design that was created by Antoni Gaudi and started to be built in 1882. This Roman Catholic Church was named a basilica by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010. Each detailed facade of the basilica tells a different story from the bible.

Barcelona had a lot of other interesting sights to see too. On the other side of Barcelona was the Montjuïc Fountains that had a water show once it was dark out. The view on top of the Arenas de Barcelona (now a mall that used to be an old bullring) was spectacular. From walking through the detailed buildings of the Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter) to the colorful mosaics of Parc Güell, Barcelona had so much to offer.

The City: Home

Alicante is the city that only sleeps during siestas, which usually start around 2 p.m. after lunch. Most stores are closed during this time, then reopen a little later in the afternoon. After classes, students return home for lunch then have the rest of the day to themselves. Many took siestas at the beach while soaking up the hot Mediterranean sun.

There is a lot of shopping in Alicante and many places to explore, such as the Santa Bárbara Castle and Mushroom Street. A little spot that seemed to be a crowd favorite on this trip was only a tram ride away outside of the city called Los Baños de la Reina in Campello. The Baños is a coastal enclave where many visitors jump off the rocks into the refreshing clear blue Mediterranean Sea or relax in the rock pools.

A little farther down the tram rail is Parc Natural del Penyal d'Ifac that has a spectacular view of the coastline as you climb the mountain. Being in such a beautiful place, my friends and I wanted to get as much out of it as possible. Although we needed it at times, we tried to stray away from the tempting siestas and always tried to make each day a new adventure.

One Month, Hundreds of Delicious Foods, Millions of Laughs Later

Los Baños de la Reina in Campello.

Being able to call a foreign place my home for a whole month was incredible. I got to experience learning my way through a new city, eating amazing foods, and having the time of my life with great people. I think that the best part about this experience was the people. I came onto this trip not knowing anyone and I was nervous about coming to a new country alone.

By the time I left to come back home, I had made good friends that I felt like I had known for months. This group of people always kept each other on our toes and looking forward to tomorrow's adventure. This trip has helped me to be okay with new surroundings and new people. It has helped me make friends on my own and gave me a new perspective.

When you’re in a city as energetic and vibrant as Alicante, you always have to be ready for what’s waiting around the corner and all you can do is be ready to enjoy it. To my amazing host family, the teachers who organized the trip, the teachers at Proyecto Español, and my new friends: thank you for making this experience one to always remember. And to España, I will be back soon!