A view of San Lorenzo del Escorial

UA in Spain has officially begun! Last Saturday, all 54 students involved in the 2015 UA in Spain program arrived at El Escorial to begin our month abroad. UA in Spain takes place in San Lorenzo de El Escorial, a small town in Spain just an hour outside of Madrid, the capital of Spain.

Despite some severe jet lag, our entire group was determined to explore our new home away from home. Before our tour of the university, my new friends and I walked around the town and monastery, shocked by the incredible beauty and history surrounding us. I am shocked every day by the architecture in El Escorial; we are living just a hop, skip, and a jump away from one of Spain’s oldest and most beautiful palaces. Even more, I am shocked (and maybe even a little jealous) of those who live in El Escorial and are fortunate to spend every day in a city so dense in culture and history.


El Escorial

During our first week, we started classes (bright and early at 9 AM), and took two day trips to Madrid. I love everything that Madrid has to offer–the art, the restaurants, and the hustle-and-bustle of city life. The primary goal of these firsts trips was to acclimate ourselves with the city, the public transportation system, and the historic sites that we will visit later this month. These trips were a bit of a tease–I can’t wait to go back to Madrid and experience more of the city life.

La Plaza Mayor in Madrid

La Plaza Mayor in Madrid

Each student who participates in the UA in Spain program has the opportunity to take an Arts and Museums class during which we tour the monetary and palace of El Escorial. This is by far my favorite class here (and possibly ever), both because of the course material and the manner in which the class is taught. Our professor is a friar at El Escorial, so he this the perfect person to give us the grand tour. We begin every class by discussing the part of the monastery that we will visit. During the second half of class, we walk are able to spend an hour touring the monastery, palace, and the surrounding buildings. We even have the privilege of viewing rooms that are not usually open to tourists. Prior to beginning this class, I didn’t fully understand the incredible opportunity that I would have here en El Escorial. With one week down, I can already tell how quick our trip will pass, but I cannot wait to see what’s in store for me!