IT’S TIME FOR DON QUIXOTE – The Franklin Students’ Blog


During their stay at Instituto Franklin-UAH, several students were asked about their personal experience and perceptions. They were given the opportunity of getting to know the city of Alcalá de Henares, one of the most visited, beautiful and impressive cities in Madrid. Alcalá de Henares is considered to be such a relic due to its historical past. Plenty of monuments as well as important people such as Miguel de Cervantes and his famous book El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha are the key behind its popularity.

Amanda Tolen, Erin Hoffman, Alanna Sullivan and Andrew De Jonge are four of our students who are taking the subject, Cervantes. Las Aventuras de Don Quijote, at Instituto Franklin-UAH and they kindly cooperated with us by writing and sharing with The Franklin Students’ Blog their views about Don Quijote, the main character of this influential novel: El Ingenioso Hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha.

These are their claims:

Amanda Tolen

  • What did you know about Cervantes and Alcalá before coming to the city?

Before coming to Alcalá, the only thing I knew about Miguel de Cervantes was that he wrote Don Quijote and lived in Alcalá. I had learned in various Spanish classes that he is among the most well-known and respected authors, but I had only ever read a few excerpts of Quijote. I knew the basic plot of the novel, but not much more. I knew even less about Alcalá de Henares; mostly just what I learned from Google. I knew Miguel de Cervantes lived here, and I knew it was close to Madrid, but that’s about it! I came into the summer with an open mind ready for new experiences.

  • What do you think about Don Quijote?

I really enjoy the novel! Throughout high school and college I’ve read several classic novels and have only really gotten into a handful of them. Truthfully, I didn’t expect to enjoy this class, but I like Don Quijote much more than I anticipated. It’s an interesting read, and homework doesn’t really feel like work. Because I knew so little about the book coming in, every chapter is a surprise. It’s much more engaging than I expected.

  • What do you feel when you walk the streets where Cervantes used to live?

I originally enrolled in this class because my university requires me to take a Spanish literature class. Because I knew Miguel de Cervantes lived in Alcalá, I felt that this was a good class to take. It’s really cool to think that someone so incredibly impactful and well-known used to live in this town and walk these streets. It helps me feel somehow more connected to the story and to the author!

Erin Hoffmann

  • What did you know about Cervantes and Alcalá before coming?

I knew only a little bit about Cervantes before arriving. I played guitar for the musical “Man of La Mancha” which tells many stories from Don Quijote and thus after attending many rehearsals for the musical, I learned about Cervantes and Don Quijote. I knew that Alcalá was close to Madrid and that it was where Cervantes was born.

  • What do you think about Don Quijote?

Don Quijote is someone who chooses to see life differently than the rest of us. While he was poor, old, and frail, he believed he fit the characteristics to be a knight. Many of us use imagination like Don Quijote when talking to a child but forget how fun it might be to spin reality a different way for us. The story of Don Quijote was unlike anything at the time which continues to be true! The clever use of language to create irony or attacks against other authors without it seeming so to average readers is something that sets the book apart. The duality between Sancho’s vernacular language and Quijote’s ancient language makes for great comedy as well. This type of humor has been able to last over 400 years.

  • What do you feel when you walk the streets where Cervantes used to live?

It is very interesting to learn about the history of Alcalá during the era of Cervantes. From the pictures I’ve seen and stories I’ve heard, a lot has changed since Cervantes lived here, but some is still the same. I understand the story of Don Quijote a little better after living in Alcalá for some time because I know more about the areas that are referenced in the book. I feel lucky to learn about such an influential writer.

Andrew De Jonge

  • What did you know about Cervantes and Alcalá before coming?

Before arriving in Alcalá the extent of my knowledge on Cervantes was very limited, and he was viewed in the same way as many other famous writers of his time. As for the town itself, I had only learned about it in the year before my program here, so I only really knew about its connection to Cervantes, as well as having heard about the university and churches in the city.

  • What do you think about Don Quijote?

From all I have learned so far, Don Quijote was a very innovative story for its time and has shaped the ways in which many books since have been written, with regards to both how stories are told and how humor is used in these stories. I think Don Quijote is an engaging book that is constantly creative while also drawing attention to many tired norms of storytelling.

  • What do you feel when you walk the streets where Cervantes used to live?

During my time in Alcalá, I never cease to be amazed by the history present everywhere in the city. From the numerous churches to the very university I am studying in, I feel an intimate connection to the past in a way that is very hard to find anywhere else. Living and studying in the very city that Cervantes used to live really makes for a much more engaging experience with the material than I could obtain anywhere else, and it’s a surreal experience to have that close of a connection to such an important piece of literature.

Alanna Sullivan.

  • What did you know about Cervantes and Alcala before coming?

I did not know much about Cervantes or Alcalá before coming to Spain. I had learned a bit about Don Quijote in Spanish class but mainly just the story of the windmills being giants. Regarding Alcalá, all I knew was that it was a town that was a train ride away from Madrid.

  • What do you think about Don Quijote?

I am enjoying reading Don Quijote and learning why it is such a famous book. There is a lot more to this book than I had previously thought. I like learning the history behind this book and why Cervantes wrote it the way he did.

  • What do you feel when you walk the streets where Cervantes used to live?

I feel very lucky to be able to experience living in the area where Cervantes lived while reading his book.

Amanda Tolen, Erin Hoffmann, Alana Sullivan & Andrew De Jonge with Don Quixote

Edited by Yaiza Calvo, current student at Universidad de Alcalá and intern in the Instituto Franklin-UAH


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