I came to Altea from a university of 30,000 undergraduates, as the only American and the only person from either school to participate in the exchange. It began with a lot of emails and paperwork with Alfredo Pellin Garcia and Jose Vicente who were very helpful and responsive in answering all my questions about classes and details. Then I was set up with a Buddy, who emailed me pictures of Altea and told me a bit more about the school before I got there.
I was really nervous when I first arrived because I didn’t know anyone and could barely speak Spanish. Luckily my buddy had arranged a place for me to stay and she picked me up and brought me around town. She helped me set up a bank account and look for a place to live. She also introduced me to one of her friends so I could meet more people. Everybody was very accommodating and friendly.
Then I found a roommate and neighbors who also went to UMH. My roommate was excited to show me around and help me with classes. He was from Valencia and would invite me to visit his family over some weekends and his mom would make paella! Then classes started and I met a lot of new people all at once who were eager to introduce themselves. Teachers were very understanding with the language barrier, and often liked to practice their English with me! Anything I didn’t understand I could ask after class. I found that the school had amazing studios and resources for such a small town and so few students. I got to take a lot of cool classes like printmaking, where I learned a lot of new intaglio techniques and fundicíon where I learned how to bronze cast.
The dean also approached me about language conversation exchanges, which we started doing weekly. We would chat in Spanish or English about specific language grammar questions but also about art and culture and politics. I learned a lot about Spain while improving my Spanish, and even my English! I enjoyed these sessions so much I also started meeting up with another student for extra language practice. We became good friends and got to travel a bit together.
I was in Altea for a year, and it was the most relaxing and beautiful place I’ve ever been. It was the ideal international education experience: immersive small town, Mediterranean sea, friendly and engaged students, and siesta! I had a lot of opportunities to travel around Spain and made some lifelong friends who travelled with me.