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5 posts from October 2010


Friends in alicante


The friends I have made within CIEE are awesome! and I wouldn't replace them for anything  you really bond and connect, and like Charlie said earlier we are great friends ( you really learn a lot from everyone here.) I really have enjoyed meeting so many people here in spain but not only spaniards, I have also met people from the different states and have gotten really close to them. I have probably made some of the best of  friends within CIEE.  Something I find kind of funny is that when we all travel and we go our separate ways we honestly miss each other and can not wait to come back "home" and see everyone again. 

You will honestly make lifetime friendships here. I couldn't have chosen a better place to study abroad. 


Classes in Alicante

After a month you really adapt to the city, classes, people, somewhat of the culture and such... and you really select the path you want to follow. My classes are not super hard but it does take a while to adapt to the spanish. Being in the Liberal Arts program we have 3 classes with CIEE and one direct enrollment with the University.  My direct enrollment is Introduction to Public Relations which can be sort of challenging since we take notes in spanish and my hand isn't used to writing as fast (some of my notes are written in spanglish) I think having a direct enrollment is helpful, because that way you really have the ability to make spanish friends, and really practice your spanish. 

CIEE gives you different classes for you to choose from, for example: Spanish for business, Spanish Art, and Conversational Spanish are the classes I am taking. 

I honestly recommend taking conversational spanish because you really learn the spanish slang, and how students, young people really speak. My professor really knows what she is teaching, and knows every possible word/expression out there for everything.  My spanish art class isn't what I expected, therefore I am not really content with that class but I do find some stuff kind of interesting ( if you decide to take this class, be prepared to sit for 2 hours straight just looking at pictures and listening to the professor.) 

The CIEE staff is really nice overall Eva, Felipe, Manolo, Beatriz, Paco... WOW! They really know what they are doing. They help us so much with everything... If we have any sort of questions or just need something...  they are on it like no-one's business. 




Life in Alicante, Spain (Homestay)

(view from my apartment)


Deciding to live with a home stay can be a hard decision for some; it's very nerve racking to think you will be living with complete strangers you don't even know while having a language and culture barrier. However, for me, the decision to live with a home stay family was one of the best choices I've made here in Spain.

By living with a home stay family, you really get to live in a spaniards daily life. You see how spanish family members and friends interact with one another, you hear the spanish language constantly, you eat spanish dishes daily (lunch and dinner mostly, there really isn't "breakfast" here), and you get the opportunity to become part of another family.

My proficiency in spanish has improved drastically while living in my home stay family. Each day I learn new spanish words by either listening to my family or asking questions. Take advantage of your family, ask them how to say different sayings or words because they are more than willing to help. Also, remember that this family has agreed to have you, so they know you will not be fluent. Don't be afraid to ask them for help. I recommend bringing a small notebook, that way when you hear/learn new words, you can write it down with the english translation so you won't forget it later. It's a great idea because at the end of the program you can look back and see how much you learned as well.

From my experience, the spanish food is great in a home stay. You really get to try dishes that are not common to taste in the United States. I have had paella, shrimp, veggie burgers, fried vegetables, soup, many different types of fish and meat, pasta, cheese, eggs, beans, and bread. The difference in the food is that it is all fresh, or home grown. My family has a house in the country side where they grow many different types of fruits and vegetables (they also have hens for eggs). I really lucked out with my home stay considering my padre studied cooking in Italy for a couple of years (Sorry, but I don't think this is common for most home stays).


However, it's very important to know that here in Alicante, seafood is VERY popular. If you don't like seafood it doesn't mean you shouldn't come to Alicante, but I would tell your home stay family if you don't like it or not sooner rather than later (same goes to vegetarians). At least try it though, because that is part of the fun while studying abroad, have a open mind. You never know, you might like it!

I think the most rewarding part of my home stay so far is that I feel apart of this family and not as a guest. I help the family with dishes and cleaning up after eating, I help walk the dog, and also am currently learning the family prayer which is stated before each meal. This may not seem really fun, but it makes me feel apart of the family and immersed in the spanish culture. My best advice is to just assume that this is your family in the United States and becoming comfortable in your house and around your spanish family will be a lot easier. Granted, David is right with the fact that in a home stay it is a lot harder to make spanish friends your age, but at the same time you have a family (you could also have siblings that are around your age which is really fun since they will take you out and you can meet their friends). With a family, you can learn all about their past, what it was like growing up in Spain, and you can also watch spanish home videos with your family (which is pretty funny). However, as for the night life, you won't be spending time with your parents out in the barrio or the puerta.

With that said, by becoming apart of a family, you need to realize you have responsibilities! This means that when you're brother or sister is studying for a test, you can't be blasting music in your room (for the most part the apartments aren't very big so your own personal space is really just your room). Also, it's very important to eat at home with the family for almost every meal (meaning you have to leave the university for lunch and come back to the campus if you have class again, which can be annoying). Furthermore, some friday or saturday nights you may have dinner with other families or friends from spain, so going out with your friends right away might not be possible (you can always meet up with them after).

Overall, deciding between the dorms and a home stay is a very tough choice, but in the end it is about what you want to get out of your experience in Alicante. As you can see, David and I had very different set goals before coming to Alicante, so that's why we chose different living conditions (despite this we are great friends).  Think about what you are looking to get out of your study abroad experience and I'm sure you will be able to decide easily (more or less).


Vineyard Visit

The CIEE program offers many great activities while studying abroad here. There are water sport classes, cooking classes, dancing classes, trips to Granada, and trips to water parks (just to name a few). Also, keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities that come up around the city! I was able to see and even touch the World Cup trophy because it was traveling around Spain after the victory in South Africa (it took three and a half hours of waiting in line but it was worth it).


For me, one of the most memorable activities I participated in was visiting a bodega (vineyard). We traveled by bus for about an hour and arrived in a very rural part of Spain, and to say the least it was beautiful! There were rolling hills, and of course, acres upon acres of grapes. When we entered we were provided a tour with one of the vineyard employees. The tour was extremely fun and interesting due to our tour guide. She was beyond friendly, very bright, and entertaining. In fact, she allowed everyone in our group to try different kinds of wine, and also allowed us to take one bottle of wine home for free for our home stay families! More importantly, she showed us the amount of work and time that goes into producing wine, and to say the least it was incredible to see. It was even more astounding to learn that there were only 5-6 employees at this relatively large vineyard! Overall, I will never forget visiting this vineyard. I think by visiting a vineyard I was really able to observe an important part of the culture of Spain, so in other words, if you study abroad in Alicante, visit the vineyard!! IMG_0280

Life in Alicante, Spain (Dorms.)

I have always wanted something different from life, and coming to Alicante was definitely what I needed.  I chose to live in the dorms because I felt confident it would really be a piece of cake since I speak spanish fluently, however, making friends here was really up to me. Spaniards don't usually come up to you and ask how you're doing... you really have to step up your game and make an effort to do this. I try to be the most social as I can be. Once I arrived at the dorms with the other students in my program I realized that only sitting with them and speaking english wasn't going to get me anywhere since I am studying here for the year I really had to make some friends... That is exactly what I did. I would sit with spaniards and to be honest it wasn't that hard at all, once you tell them you are from the States they want to talk to you. Either to ask about the culture which involves how fast food is so BIG in America and/or they just want to practice their english. 

You are assigned a "roommate" but you don't really share rooms, it's more like you share a little sink, microwave, and a mini fridge. I bonded with my roomie really fast, to the point where hangout and talk everyday, and you really learn a lot from each other... I know spanish from my parents but my spanish is completely different from Spain spanish so he helps me with stuff I don't know and I help him with his english.. it really is a win-win situation. 

 I am usually not a complainer at all but there are two things about the dorms that are not good at all!!! 

1: The food - It's not very good, they honestly repeat the same thing everyday and it is just not working out for them. 

2: You are kind of far from the actual city where the other students live with their host fams, so it gets annoying when they all go to the beach or out on a tuesday night because the buses stop running at 10:30pm and taxis are expensive if you don't split it between 2 or 3. 

Regardless, I do feel I have an advantage here in the dorms...

The people who live with host families have a harder time making more friends because they can only meet people in el barrio and it is a little harder to just walk up to complete stranger and say "Hola, que tal?" while in the dorms you can just go sit with someone who is eating alone in the cafeteria and the conversion will start instantly. 

overall, the dorms are a good idea, you make a lot of friends your age and you actually learn/practice  the spanish young people our age actually speak. 

Here's a pic. It is actually pretty comfortable... no complaints there.