Dragons, barbecued meats, maidens in costume: the medieval fair was my first introduction to Alcalá de Henares. The city’s classic heart sets a marvelous stage for these reenactments, but the charm can be appreciated any time of year.
This year I have been able to observe the academic side of this historic town. In September I started a Master´s degree in Bilingual and Multicultural Education at the Universidad de Alcalá de Henares. This one-year graduate program is keeping me on my toes with a 25-hour per week teaching practicum, thesis requirement, and coursework. While the classwork takes place chiefly online, we are required to attend intensive on-campus weekend sessions every other month.
Wait, you mean I have class? Where’s my Medieval festival???
Our classes take place in buildings that have been around longer than my country. The outer stones of the college are worn into uneven grooves and the architecture is foreign to our modern selves. Holdouts from olden days are around every corner; even the font used to direct students through the corridor is one that inspires daydreams of quixotic knights.
Street art, Alcalá-style
What goes on within these stone walls, however, has nothing to do with that medieval motif running through the city’s marrow. When classes are in session, groups of students clatter away at their computers, in sloping desks designed before the invention of laptops. Discussions about technology in the classroom seem anachronistic in a town which references Cervantes every chance it gets.
Sancho, is that you?
The town in small; the most historic bits can be seen in half a day. It is a charming town, of course, but after eleven–yes, eleven–hours of class, I want nothing more than to hoof it to the station and have the train whisk me back to Madrid. The Spanish capital promises change, and in two month I´ll find myself traveling back in time to dragons and knights and Cervantes.