I have currently been studying abroad in Alicante, Spain for roughly a month now and this will be my first blog entry. In this blog entry I'm going to address my first impressions I had when I arrived in Alicante, Spain.
Like every student who studies abroad, I was of course nervous but extremely excited to begin this adventure. I felt a little overwhelmed with having to rely on my spanish skills to communicate with the program directors and staff; they mean it when they say there won't be any english! At first, this seemed very demanding and intimidating, but with an open mind, the tenacity to try, and not being afraid of making mistakes, this program has already aided me in taking large strides in improving my spanish skills.
I think the main reason why I have already learned so much is due to the program staff here in Alicante. The CIEE program staff here is INCREDIBLE. Francisco, Manolo, Beatriz, Eva-Lena, Jennifer, and the various teachers are all extremely supportive. They realize what it's like to be a foreigner trying to fit in and will do anything to help. They are very patient, kind, and encouraging when it comes to the language barrier as well, so don't be embarrassed when you take a lot of time trying to form sentences in spanish! Not only are they supportive with helping you learn, but they are really fun! Take advantage of talking to them during orientation, they know a lot about the city and fun things to do.
As for the city itself, I have found that it is obviously very different from any city in the United States. To me, the city of Alicante seems very arabic, it may because of the architecture, the forever looming castle that looks over the city, the street layout, or just the heat, but it is not your stereotypical european city. Personally, I love this because by being in Alicante I don't feel as if I'm just another American studying abroad in Europe. Instead, I am located in a city that is completely different from the rest of Europe, so that just makes Alicante more special to me. Also, the city is incredibly gorgeous and in a perfect location. There are many fountains and statues scattered throughout the various neighborhoods and you are directly on the beach. Take advantage of the beach and all it's activities when you first arrive (if you are studying in the fall) because when it gets closer to winter things start to slow down in this area.
As for the weather be aware that it gets extremely hot here! Before studying abroad in Alicante, Spain I had been fortunate enough to travel to a lot of other places in the world including Kenya, Tanzania, Cuba, Peru, and other various countries. I can honestly say that I have never been to a hotter place before.... the first couple weeks here I had a lot of trouble sleeping because of the heat. I guess you could say that the heat makes the beach that much better, but for me the heat really got to me at first. Definitely drink a lot of water when you arrive and continue to do so, it will make your experience here much more enjoyable if you do.
Overall, to sum up my first impressions of the Liberal arts program here in Alicante I believe I really lucked out with picking Alicante. To be honest, I initially was attracted to Alicante just because of the beach, but in reality this city has so much to offer. It is small enough that you won't have trouble meeting and keeping spanish friends (because you will see them often either in el barrio or at the beach) but also large enough that you won't ever get bored or feel as if you have seen and experienced everything in Alicante. So ultimately, my first impressions of Alicante and the CIEE liberal arts program are great!