alcalá.

I’m going to start off by saying that NoDak will always be #1 in my heart when it comes to university life.  The campus (with its perfectly square layout, green courtyards, and unmistakably foul-smelling coulee), the facilities (including the timeless chalkboards of Witmer #mathlete), the faculty (shout out to Jan at Squires dining hall), the athletics (real tailgating begins when it’s 10 degrees outside), the Grand Forks scene (I could go for some Rhombus Guys or Red Pepper right now), and the community (nowhere compares to the down-to-earth attitude of the upper Midwest).  I wouldn’t trade my college experience for anything and if you ask me to talk about it I probably won’t ever stop.  So I’ll end this topic now before you get the chance to.

I had absolutely ZERO information about the University of Alcalá de Henares (aside from its Instituto Franklin and the Teach & Learn Master’s Programs) when I applied for their Master’s in Bilingual and Multicultural Education.  And also zero information when I enrolled in this year-long commitment.  And also also zero information when I stepped foot on campus for the first time during orientation week.  I didn’t even attempt to google a single fact about UAH or Alcalá in the 8 months I had between discovering the program and arriving here….  WHO DOES THAT?!  I feel a little ridiculous admitting that the answer is me, but it’s the truth.  My priorities were more about the content of the Master’s curriculum, the practicum component, the opportunity to be in Spain, and the price tag.  I wasn’t worried about the prestige of the name of the institution or how trendy its city was.  I knew I wanted to live in the center of Madrid regardless.  And from my experiences in undergrad, I know that opportunities are always there if you’re willing to take initiative, I know that it’s the relationships you establish that make the entire thing worthwhile, and I know that I prefer to surround myself with people who are rich in personality and humility, not social status and finances.

Probably would have been a good idea to do a little more research, but WOW did I get lucky!  My practicum placement ended up being in Alcalá as well, which means that for 5 days a week my commute is a 40-minute train ride on the Cercanías plus 10 minutes of walking to/from the station on either end of the trip.  I don’t mind it though, because the hour-long journey is not too much longer than what I was doing in Minneapolis last year and it gives me an ample amount of time to prepare for or wind down from work.  Most importantly, the city of Alcalá is awesome and here are some of the things you should know about it:

  1. Alcalá is the birthplace of Miguel De Cervantes, author of Don Quixote and father of the modern novel.
    Cervantes was baptized here in 1547. That fact is celebrated every year with a huge Cervantes Festival, complete with 16th century-style markets, jousting tournaments (RIP to my knight Arturo), and lots of street food. His masterpiece Don Quixote has been translated into more languages than any other book (besides the Bible) and every Spanish student in the history of forever knows his name.  It’s stunning to think that someone so influential lived in the same city that you spend the majority of your days in.  His historical significance isn’t something I’m used to experiencing in Minnesota which wasn’t founded until several hundred years after Cervantes’ death.  We do have Prince and Target though, so that counts for something…?
  2. The University was started in 1293 (!!!) and has produced a significant number of note-worthy scholars.
    It was officially founded in 1499 (still really freaking old) and has long been a well-respected university in Spain, which means a lot of significant people have attended. Some of the more notable students/teachers were Nebrija, Ignacio de Loyola, Lope de Vega, Quevedo, and me.  UAH is also the host of the Cervantes Prize which honors the lifetime achievement of outstanding writers.  Recipients have included Octavio Paz and Jorge Luis Borges.  It feels unbelievable to be studying in facilities that have played an important role in the lives of so many significant scholars.  Also worth noting is the fact that the King of Spain visits for the Cervantes Prize ceremony so I think I’ve finally found my way into royalty.
  3. Instituto Franklin is Spain’s only University Institute for Research on North America
    Instituto Franklin, which is the entity within UAH that offers the Teach & Learn Master’s Programs, was founded in 1987.  The institute’s mission statement is “to serve as a platform for communication, cooperation, and unison between Spain and North America, in order to promote mutual understanding.” (institutofranklin.net) They have postgraduate programs that focus on education and research related to American Studies and Bilingual Education.  It feels a little weird to think about yourself (an American) as something to be studied and researched.  Then I realize how naive that is since half of my education has been spent learning about Spanish language and culture.  I find it really fascinating to think about how Spain and the US have so much potential to improve their education systems by learning from each other and the rest of the world.  And I feel even more confident that I made the right decision by coming here to study.
  4. UAH has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
    Sometimes as I’m walking through the streets in the center of Alcalá where my university campus is, I have to pause for a moment.  Surreal doesn’t even begin to describe the feeling you get when you suddenly realize how much history and art is infused in the structures that you absent-mindlessly pass or enter on a daily basis.  Its buildings are beyond gorgeous and the architecture inspires daydreaming of centuries long gone.  I feel indebted to the people who have helped me get here: those who have nurtured a sense of wonder, adventure, and empowerment. Studying here in this beautiful setting reminds me of how lucky I am to be living out this opportunity.

I am very happy with the location, size, and character of the town that hosts my University and cole, despite having done absolutely nothing to mentally prepare myself for it before arriving. (<- cole is short for colegio which means “school” and also means I’m really cool for knowing that. #streetcred) And now you and I both know a little more about where I spend a lot of my time every week!

Pics:

2 thoughts on “alcalá.

  1. Gina says:

    Hey I am thinking about doing this same program. I would love to hear about what you did after your masters. Did you go back to the states? Did it transfer if so? I also have not done much research so I’m a little nervous about the comitment if it’s a “bullshit” program that won’t help me to teach in Spain or the US. Thanks so much !

    Liked by 1 person

    • rochekt says:

      Well I’ll start off by saying it’s definitely not a bullshit program, but as with most things in life it’s going to depend greatly on how much you put into it. I am really passionate about education, specifically culturally responsive education, so I work hard and apply myself. Overall I’ve had a really positive experience and am learning a lot. However, there are people who do it without putting forth much effort or accountability- those people are not going to get anything out of it. Having bachelors degrees in mathematics, Spanish, and education I can tell you that teaching is by far the most subjective field of the 3 and as such the learning and assessments come in the form of your reflections and the energy put into trying to better yourself as an educator.  You can definitely go though the motions and graduate, which I do see happening for some here, but in that case why bother showing up at all? Do auxiliares instead.

      Another note before I get into detail: DO RESEARCH BEFORE DECIDING TO COMMIT TO AN ABROAD MASTERS PROGRAM. It’s annoying when people complain about this degree not fulfilling their specific wishes, when it’s their own dang fault for signing up without putting any effort into figuring out if it’s a good fit for them. You have no right to complain if you did no preparation prior to moving across the world….. But you are starting this important research now, so good for you!! I actually did the same thing a year ago- reaching out to a student via their blog post.

      I am currently in the masters program and will be graduating in June so I can’t personally speak to the easiness of transferring the credits back or getting it approved. It really varies depending on your background and what you intend to do in the future. Personally, I already have completed full US teacher training and have a license to teach math and Spanish in Minnesota and North Dakota. I was a public school teacher before coming here and plan to be one when I return to the US. Everyone I have talked to who has done this program in my situation was able to successfully have this masters approved to get a salary increased in the public education system. It’s going to depend on your state, so although it’s highly probable know that you may want to ask Iulia or Angela at Instituto Franklin if they know of any alumni who have successfully got it approved in your desired state’s Department of Education. (Honestly this goes for any scenario. Contact one or both of those ladies to ask about your specific goals for after the program because they are wonderful and want you to have a positive experience. The program’s been around for 10 years so they are likely to know someone who has gone on to do whatever it is you would like to achieve.)

      Other scenarios based off of what I have seen, experienced, and been told:
      – you don’t have teacher training in the US but want to be a public school teacher in the US. 
      In this case no masters you take abroad will get you licensure. It’s an extensive process and each state has very specific requirements to qualify for licensure. Talk to your department of education but most require student teaching of some sort and this will not meet those requirements, because the practicum piece is not formally evaluated enough. You also need course credit in specific areas and to pass licensure exams. Teacher prep programs st US universities are tailored to meet these requirements. Abroad programs are not.

      -you don’t have teacher training in the US but want to be a private school teacher in the US.
      Private schools make their own requirements for employment. Many, if not most, do not require state licensure and I would assume that this masters would suffice their requirements. Here’s where your effort comes into play- if you apply yourself and grow and learn and write a great thesis with substantial meaning, you’ll have something to show to back up your degree. If not, you shouldn’t be a teacher anyway.

      -you want to teach in Spain full time as a real teacher.
      Doesn’t matter if you have US licensure or not. I have been told it’s a very difficult beurcratic process to get an abroad license evaluated and approved here…. which can take 5 years. You would probably need to do a different masters here in Spain that will meet Spanish licensure requirements but I don’t know of any so you would have to do research. There are also difficult licensure exams (called oposiciones) here you would have to pass as well.
       
      -you want to teach in Spain for a few extra years as a language assistant.
      There are so many people who come here and teach through auxiliares only as a means to get an easy visa. Having this masters will help you stand out from those people and for good reason – it’s great preparation. If you want to stay in Madrid short-term, the program has a lot of connections and alumni have a great reputation.

      -you want to do a PhD in Spain.
      This is a masters propio (there are two levels of masters in Spain.  Propio is lower and Oficial is higher. Honestly doesn’t always mean Oficial is better or more rigorous. Sometimes Oficial programs have very antiquated philosophies on education and are the same level of difficulty as any Propio.)  This means that to do a PhD anywhere in Europe you would need more than this masters. You would have to do a masters Oficial first, but this is a great experience and you will use what you learn here.

      -you want to do a PhD in the US.
      It’s going to depend on where and what the program is. I think getting the masters transferred to the US takes some time depending on how proactive you are. I’m staying another year after this so I’m not in a rush. Again here’s where your effort comes into play- if you apply yourself and grow and write a great thesis, you’ll have something to show to admissions. If not, you’re not ready for a PhD.

      All in all, it’s a quality experience if you want it to be one. It’s great practical experience if you put yourself out there and take initiative. The education system here is WAY DIFFERENT than in the US, so it’s not going to be as easy.
      In any case, I would advise you to:
      1. Do more research and look for blogs written by people with your specific goals for after the program (and what experience/qualifications you have coming into it).
      2. Talk to Iulia or Angela to see if they can put you into contact with any alumni or have any testimonials about people who have gone onto complete your desired goals.
      3. Check out the Franklin Students Blog, which has a lot of great posts about how this can further your career (in education and post-grad studies) and potential outcomes from doing the T&L Master’s: http://franklinstudents.com/
      4. If you want to talk more in-depth about what I know or my opinions of the program, feel free to email me at katie.roche905@gmail.com 🙂

      Suerte con todo. I know it’s not an easy decision and that the entire process is stressful. You can do it!!!! Ánimo!!!! I am so happy I decided to come here and I have grown a lot as an educator and human being during my time in Spain so far. No matter what you decide, make the most of it and you won’t regret it.

      (Now I’m probably going to make this reply into a blog post. haha!!)

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s