Por fin! You’ve selected your school, your provider, your session. You’ve made a deposit, smiled for a passport photo, and have already looked up flight prices three times today. But wait, your study abroad advisor is emailing you about selecting your classes. That’s the real “study” in study abroad, but where do you begin?
There will be a wide variety of courses to choose from, and in Spain you will most likely have the option to take courses taught in English or Spanish. Often times a placement test is given upon arrival (or before departure) to determine your level of Spanish language fluency. Don’t panic – if you’re a beginner, you’ll be taking courses suitable to your level of understanding. Likewise, if you are looking to improve your intermediate Spanish abilities, you will be able to take classes taught by native Spanish speakers.
After you find the language of instruction that works best for you, take advice from the experts (a.k.a. study abroad alumni), and select a variety of classes that are both required and interesting.
Something in Your Major or Minor. If you are an international business student, you should take the opportunity to learn about how business is conducted in Spain, which includes learning the range of vocabulary needed to conduct business in Spanish. You may be able to talk about mergers, human resources, and consumer behavior in your own language, but Spanish for Business courses will be essential to understanding Business in Spain. These courses will help you pick up on information related to business customs and management hierarchies, as well as provide you with other useful pointers on how to conduct business in Spain.
Something Specific to the Site. If you’ve chosen Spain to be your destination, you should take the time to learn a bit more about it beyond Google and Wikipedia entries. Going to school in Granada, for example, will mean you should attempt to learn more about the Moorish influence in Andalucia. Take a course that has a fair mix of Spanish culture, language, religion, art, and history components to it. Many classes like these will also include a field trip or two to a local museum, or somewhere further afield, so you can add to the standard reading and classroom discussions by going out into the city. Take advantage of your international location!
Something Required. Sorry, but nearly every program will require a class on Spanish grammar, no matter what your Spanish language level may be. Remember you will likely take a placement test to determine which level is appropriate for you, so don’t sweat it if your Spanish is not as polished as you’d hoped before your trip. Classes such as Producción Oral y Escrita, or Spoken and Written Spanish, are often available and beneficial to complete in a country of native speakers. If you attend a long-term program you may even have a series of intensive grammar focused courses, which will be challenging, but extremely useful. And yes, required!
Something comfortable. Study abroad is challenging enough that you don’t need to be taking 400-level Chemistry courses (unless you want to). So be sure to include something that looks fun and exciting into your schedule. Take a course like, Spanish Culture and Civilizations, where you will have the chance to learn about traditional bullfights and festivals throughout the country, and find out the must see places to visit on the weekends at the same time.
Something you’ve always wanted to study. Depending on your degree requirements, you may be able to take some electives that fulfill a general education requirement while abroad. Take a step outside your major and find something that interests you, and expands your understanding of your location for study abroad. For example, Politics in the European Union, will teach you about the structure of the E.U. and ways in which countries interact politically, which will be valuable information if you decide to travel around Europe during your program.
Things to Keep in Mind
It’s important to remember that not all programs or schools are created equally. For example, on a faculty-led program you will likely not need to choose your courses at all, they will be preselected for you. On the other hand, in the case of an independent study abroad program, you’ll get to look through a course list just like you do at your home campus and select that courses that stick out to you.
Remember that every U.S. school has its own course approval process, one that you should follow closely in order to receive credit for your coursework abroad and stay on time for graduation. Ask your study abroad advisor what the overseas courses will look like on your transcript (Do you get the actual grade? Does it factor into your GPA? How many credits is the course worth?). Stay informed so there are no surprises when you return!
Coursework is key to your study abroad experience and choosing the right mix will not only earn you the academic credit you deserve, it will also keep you informed and excited about your new home away from home.