Studying abroad in Spain will intrigue each one of your senses. First, you’ll notice the sunlight. It shines on every corner, balcony, and patio. You’ll hear the staccato beat of a flamenco heel and cathedral bells. Then, you’ll take in the deepest black of a lace mantilla during a holy week procession or the stark blue of a wide open sky. Layer after layer of color and noise lead you to taste and smell the essence of this place: a mixture orange blossoms and fresh seafood from the pier. Take in the history and beauty of this country as you study abroad in Spain and expand your cultural repertoire.
From top to bottom, Spain includes some of the world’s most intriguing cities. You can follow the pilgrimage route of Santiago de Compostela and head south to the Alhambra fortress in Granada or take in the sun on the costa del sol in Andalucia.
Madrid is an obvious choice for study abroad in Spain if you want a hip and cosmopolitan base to call home. Soak up culture at Museo del Prado, then stroll down (while window-shopping) Gran Vía and lounge in Buen Retiro Park. Finish off your day enjoying a bocadillo de calamares in Plaza Mayor.
If you want a little bit more seaside while studying in Spain, check out Barcelona. Go on a city-wide treasure hunt to search for Gaudi’s architectural creations, then enjoy tapas and sangria in one of the tucked-away cobblestones plazas.
Are you looking for big city living, but are so over the tourist hot spots? Try studying in Seville, with its impressive Los Reales Alcazares palace and tasty torrijas. The surrounding southern region of Andalucia is great for spring semester students, as they have some of the most impressive holy week processions and lots of great outdoors activities.
Students who study abroad in Spain may find themselves attending local universities alongside Spanish students or taking classes at private study centers, which often house courses and students. Study abroad programs in Spain generally have excellent experiential learning components, offering excursions and cultural activities within your host city, so you’ll be able to get to know your new city on your own as well as with your program.
Study Abroad Programs in Spain
Spain has long held its place as one of the top five most visited destinations by U.S. study abroad students. Its rich history and acceptance of siestas between classes makes it an easy choice for many students interested in studying abroad.
Two of the most common subjects of study in Spain, offered nearly everywhere and in English or Spanish, are history and politics. With a rich past, these courses will look at everything from Arabic influence in the south to Catalunya’s fight for independence to culture and civilization over time. Many courses in Spain will also examine the nation’s position within the European Union, its many political parties, and its economic role on the world stage.
While many students study abroad in Spain in pursuit of Spanish language immersion, there are plenty of other students studying business, art, or communications throughout Spain. If you’re looking for a full immersion experience, look for a semester to year-long program and check for classes taught in Spanish. On the extracurricular side, one can expect the occasional course in Spanish cooking, flamenco guitar, or jotas dancing.
Apart from the month of August, when almost everyone in Spain goes on vacation, there is no bad time to study abroad in Spain. With festivals and courses year round, you can’t go wrong with a short or long term program. Class schedules and structure is similar to that of Westernized institutions, but with longer breaks for lunch and (often) earlier ending times. The Spanish love an excuse to celebrate and have many more holidays than you might be used to at home. Excellent for those long weekend excursions.
Scholarships & Costs
Studying abroad in Spain is as affordable as you make it. With an intense nightlife and strong emphasis on going out, it’s easy to run through Euros quickly. A plate of tapas in Granada might be free(!), but the same plate in Madrid could be €8. Regionally, the north of Spain will be more expensive than the south, where the economy is still struggling from the economic crisis. You can find a cup of coffee or a local bus fare for €3 each, a burger for €10, and a novel for your literature class for €15 (we suggest any of the impressively-stocked used bookstores).
For most students who study abroad in Spain, in addition to tuition, the cost of accommodation, weekly cultural activities, 24/7 emergency support, health insurance, and airport transfer will be included in packaged program costs. This can make a big difference in your daily budget, so make sure to plan accordingly based on the program you choose.
Compared to its European counterparts, Spain has a lower cost of living. However, compared to costs of other Spanish-speaking countries, such as those in Latin America, Spain is going to fall on the more expensive end of the spectrum. Scholarships from program providers are common if you complete tasks you might already be doing: blogs, photography, and post-program student ambassadorships. Don’t forget to take a look at GoAbroad Scholarship Directory for even more opportunities to lighten the load studying in Spain has on your wallet.
Accommodation & Visas
While studying abroad in Spain, you’ll also learn how to live like a Spaniard. Stepping out your new front door will land you in the hustle and bustle of a cobblestone Spanish street, where you’ll likely have a metro stop, a café, and a butcher within walking distance.
Housing options vary, depending on the specific study abroad program in Spain. Many providers or universities will offer students the opportunity to live in a homestay with a host family. This allows for a great immersion experience and can cut down on your overall costs, if meals are provided. Don’t panic if you’re independent and need your space! Most host families have had students in their homes for years and they’re quite used to hosting college students with a need for freedom.
However, if you do need an extra degree of independence, you can also choose to live in a residence hall or shared apartment while studying abroad in Spain. Residence halls will most likely be similar to residence halls in your home country. Living in residence halls is a great way to meet other local and international students, not to mention halls are not one of the more expensive housing options. Apartments can be assigned by your program provider with other students from your program, or you may find one on your own to share with local Spanish students or young professionals. Working with your study abroad advisor to determine what suits you best will help you make the decision on where to live while studying abroad in Spain.
Students from most countries are allowed to move about the country as tourists for 90 days. If you plan to study abroad in Spain for more than 90 days, you’ll need to complete a student visa application. The rules and requirements are often changing, so be sure to visit GoAbroad’s Embassy Directory for more information.
Benefits & Challenges
Students of Latin American Spanish draw their biggest surprise from the frequent use of the pronoun vosotros /-as while studying abroad in Spain. Learning Spanish using ustedes to address the teacher can make the big change of introducing (yet another) pronoun a bit difficult. Becoming familiar with proper pronouns might take some practice, but in no time, you’ll be able to address everyone from your new APS (that’s BFF in Spanish) to the university director in a grammatically-correct manner.
You may find that your Spanish classmates choose to live with their parents until marriage, although recent years have seen many young professionals moving out to live on their own. Family is a vital part to Spanish culture, evidenced often by how many seats are around the table at midday meals. Living with a host family will make it very clear that family, both immediate and extended, is an important part of everyday life in Spain. If you’re used to solo lunches and empty houses, this constant interaction might seem strange, but soon you’ll wonder how you ever did without.
The Spanish are a talkative, extroverted people; they can be loud, opinionated, full of jokes, and proud, of their culture, their languages, their food, and their country. The best part? They are dying to share it with you, and they don’t do anything halfway. They do everything with their whole heart: cook, laugh, love, sing, or dance. Extend your experience of study abroad in Spain and take in the Spanish lifestyle fully, as learning can take place far outside the classroom.
Is your mouth watering for tapas yet? Are your toes tapping thinking about flamenco? If you’re feeling as excited as we are, start searching for study abroad programs in Spain now.