Orientation at the Institute

Trip Start Sep 01, 2013
Trip End Dec 20, 2013

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What I did
Universidad de Alcala Alcala De Henares
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of Spain  , Madrid,
Thursday, September 5, 2013

Since my last post on my first day here in Spain, I feel like a lifetime has passed. I'm going to do my best to retell the majority of it. 

Tuesday and Wednesday of this week were the official orientation days for the study abroad program. I've met several students from other American universities (U of Arizona, Stony Brook, Tufts, and Tennessee). Butler definitely has the largest number of students here in the program which is a good feeling. We are also the only school with our own professor from America traveling with us and teaching at the school. I have also now met most of the teachers/ staff of the Instituto Franklin. They are all very young (30's) and very interactive/ interested in talking with us in Spanish. Even though Many of us Americans are not yet good enough to carry on a very involved conversation, the teachers will approach us and ask us questions to force us to try and get better. The dynamic at school here is that we are expected to speak the language all the time, but it is not intimidating because the teachers are very understanding of mistakes and often help us with words. It seems like the perfect environment to learn how to become comfortable with the language! 


On Tuesday first thing I took my placement test. Based on the results, I was indeed able to take all the classes I signed up for, but I don't think they would have done anything if my score had been bad. It was more just so  the teachers could be familiar with everyone's individual level. Next, we were given a tour of the Downtown campus of the University of Alcala and the historic part of the city. This was when I was finally able to take all the pictures you see posted. The second half of the day was spent lecture style. We got information in both Spanish and English about how to get our books/ take advantage of the different services the institute offers. During the evening, walking around the town with some friends, we came across the Plaza de Cervantes in the middle of town and saw something incredible. Hundreds of people had crowded in the plaza. We didn't understand why until a small band started playing. Once the music began, everyone started dancing. moms and dads, grandparents, children, people in dress clothes, people stopping by after working out. It was very very interesting. Made me wish it was a common sight in America. Check out the video I posted in the "pictures" section. 

The second day of orientation was very similar. Both days lasted from 9am - 2pm. On Wednesday, We got important information about the bus and subway lines in both Alcala and Madrid. We also got a run down of all the conditions/ expectation of our home stay with a Spanish family, and also the logistical info about our health insurance and where to go if we need healthcare. 

 We had a 20 minute break during the orientation session Tuesday, and my Butler professor took all the Butler students on a walk to what she said was going to be a "treat." We followed, of course, but had no idea where we were going until we came up on a convent. In this convent, (as was later explained) The nuns do not leave and cannot have direct contact with people from outside. However, they do make and sell candies. In one of the most interesting exchanges I have ever seen, my professor walked up to a window with a giant revolving lazy-susan looking device in the middle, ordered some almonds covered in a honey glaze, placed money in the revolving window, and spun it 180 degrees. All the students (behind her) were a little confused. She turned around and smiled. 10 seconds later, the box of almonds was spun back to her. And that was how it was done! 

Both Tuesday and Wednesday in the late afternoon, I have gone out to walk around town with some friends from Butler. We've been trying to shop for cell phones. I'll be getting a prepaid small flip phone for contacting people here and for emergencies. Also, I have been working on applying for a bike permit through the local government recreation office. The school told us the that government offers free bikes. This morning I went to the office and applied for my bike permit. They told me to come back next week to pick it up. Once I get my card, I'll be about to check out a bike any time I want to. It will be perfect for taking group trips to the big natural park south of the city or for when I need to ride across town. My typical walk from my house to school/ the main downtown area where my friends and I have been walking every evening takes 20 minutes. I will only use the bikes for places farther than that. 

Almost all of the buildings around the downtown central plaza area are incredibly beautiful. My school building is only a block off, but it is one of the most impressive. I'll say I feel very cool to walk through the giant wooden doors every day! 

Today was the first day of class! I only had 1 class today (12:30- 2:00pm). Spanish Civilization and Culture. It was definitely a syllabus day, getting a rundown of how the class would work. For the most part, the class structure is very similar to what I am used to in the US. I will be having presentations, papers, and tests. The teacher is young and very expressive (I guess he has to be to communicate with us). It will be entertaining. Towards the end of the class I had already noticed feeling more comfortable with the way he spoke and definitely felt like I was catching the majority of what he was saying, whereas at first the speed of his talk was intimidating. 

Both Tuesday and Wednesday, my madre worked and was not home when I got home from school (around 2:30). On these days, I ate lunch by myself. She is so nice and actually prepares it for me the night before. I just have to warm it up! Today, however, she is off work. After my class she told me to come straight home because we had to eat lunch together. In Spain, lunch is the most important (and largest) meal. We had paella, a traditional Spanish dish. Its similar to a stir fry, but has much more rice, and less vegetables. The version my madre made had both chicken and shrimp in it (and yes, the shrimp heads and legs were still attached as is the norm here). This paella has definitely been my favorite meal I have had so far! 

Tomorrow we have a University-sponsored trip to Madrid. The purpose is to familiarize ourselves with the main streets of the city and the transportation systems. We will not be going to any museums tomorrow, that will come later in the semester. I will certainly take pictures, however, and have a new post about Madrid up this weekend! ADIOS. 


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Ferg on

i could not stop smiling reading your posts. i'm so envious! love you, bd, stay safe! keep posting - these are great!

American Mom on

I am so glad u are doing this blog! I love reading it!

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