Hello! My name is Eliza Conner, and I am a junior studying biomedical engineering. This summer I had the amazing opportunity to study abroad in Alicante, Spain. Before I discovered this trip, I had never heard of Alicante, but I quickly fell in love with the quaint, costal city and learned to call it home for the summer.
When I first arrived in Spain, I was welcomed into a flat just outside the city center where I met my host mom and host sister (and of course I can’t forget to mention their two dogs Kyra and Torito). Living with locals was truly an irreplaceable experience that allowed me to be immersed in the culture in ways I never could have imagined. For five weeks, I communicated with my host family solely in Spanish while eating three homemade meals a day and learning all about their holidays, customs, and daily lifestyles.
Outside of the homestay, I also grew close to many of the other students in my program through our class discussions and adventures throughout Spain. I was enrolled in two 400 level Spanish classes, one that focused on analyzing short stories and one that focused on cultural topics chosen by the students. These classes were unlike any class I had ever taken because we were able to incorporate knowledge we learned outside of class and learn not only through research but also through students’ first-hand accounts.
Some of our local adventures included learning how to make authentic Spanish tapas, visiting various Mediterranean beaches, learning about the wine-making process and tasting some of Alicante’s oldest wines, practicing the basics of wind surfing and sailing, and hiking to the peaks of Alicante for some stunning views. I was also lucky enough to be in Alicante during their biggest festival of the year which involved watching daily mascletás and parades, enjoying bonfires on the beach, burning ninot sculptures several stories high, and getting drenched by firefighters. During this week of festivals, the streets bustled from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. while the entire city came together to celebrate.
Overall, I am extremely grateful for this experience and would encourage all students to study abroad if given the opportunity. Living in another country allowed me to step outside my comfort zone and grow in many ways. While my trip only lasted a short five weeks, the relationships and memories I made along the way will last a lifetime.