Study abroad in Spain, University of Alcalá

Posted by: Students Worldwide

Published on: 04/07/2021

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Katy Humberstone, Universidad de Alcalá


I completed my first term of study abroad at the Universidad de Alcalá, Spain from

2017-2018. You may be wondering, where is Alcalá? But if you’re in Madrid, it’s a must-see

site, and highly recommended for any Erasmus student!


Located half an hour from the centre of Madrid, Alcala is the birthplace of Spanish writer

Miguel de Cervantes. Although relatively small, it is actually a city in itself, part of the wider

Madrid region. The atmosphere is truly wonderful; the city is steeped in history with its

medieval streets and yearly Medieval market (every October) – the biggest of its kind in



Above: The medieval market of Alcalá


When I arrived in early September, the city wasn’t totally new to me – I had visited the

previous summer with my family to check out the area and scope out my accommodation

options – although I ended up not going with any of those which I saw – if you can (in

non-Covid times!) I’d highly recommend making a short trip, if nothing else to become

familiar with your surroundings, and get a better idea of the distance between different

places in the city (including where you’re thinking of living!)


The main university building


In the end, I found some accommodation online during the summer prior to arriving; it was

privately-managed, but was very much a student accommodation – I shared the flat with

about 10 other girls who were incredibly lovely, welcoming and with whom I am still in touch.

The accommodation itself was affordable – about 280 euros per month – this included all

utilities – wifi, water, electricity etc. And as for distance, I could not have asked for a better

location as it was right in front of my faculty building! That said, many other exchange

students found their accommodation via a list of landlords which the University provided –

and they had a great experience, too.


I found the University system quite different from that which I was used to in the UK – there

was often just one person coordinating the Erasmus programme from Alcala’s end (for all

Humanities exchange students!), so at times, I had some teething problems when signing off

paperwork for my University back at home and sorting any module changes…and at the start

of term, I nearly got kicked out the Portuguese module as the University had realised that it

was over-subscribed – but these teething issues are all normal, and everything always gets

sorted in the end! As for University classes, these were also different from the British system.

Sometimes it was tricky to adjust to the assignments which didn’t always expect those

independent research/close-reading skills that are always drummed into you by the British



Above: Christmas preparations underway in Central Madrid


Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the study element to my year abroad experience. The

best bit about it was having absolute freedom to choose the modules I wanted to study…as I

am a Sociolinguistics and Modern Languages person, I chose an Introductory

Sociolinguistics module, in addition to other modules which complemented this very well –

such as language policies, Spanish language…and even a beginner’s Portuguese module

which was intense but incredible! In the Sociolinguistics module, I worked with another

student to look at the linguistic landscape of Alcalá which was great fun and a highly

enriching experience – I’d say my current MA and future PhD studies were greatly inspired

by these projects!


As for social life, there were always lots of activities available for Erasmus and exchange

students. The University held a Welcome day for new students which was a fantastic

opportunity to meet incoming students (in exactly the same boat as you!), and the Erasmus

Student Network, whose programme of events at the start of term was extensive – from tours

in Central Madrid, hikes (for the more outdoorsy!) to integration picnics and other activities!



I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Alcalá and would recommend it to any student who has the

opportunity to go! Although it is perhaps lesser-known than other Universities in Central

Madrid, it has a thriving student scene which attracts hundreds of international students each

year. What I loved was the best of both worlds – being only an hour from central Madrid by

direct train link, but it also had the benefit of being in a smaller closer-knit community at the

same time. And, on top of this, Madrid has excellent transport links to other parts of the

country, and affordable flights to the rest of Europe. I was sorry to leave, and I’m sure you

will be too… ¡Hasta pronto!


My last evening in Alcalá…*sad face*. Pictured: Alcalá’s main plaza


Credit – Katy Humberstone

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