What to Consider Before Getting an International Education
Spain is popular among students who want to become fluent in Spanish or who simply want to experience a different culture. Its first-world status and idyllic setting are non-threatening to first-time overseas travelers. And because classroom texts typically use Castilian Spanish, it provides language learners with a sense of familiarity.
But choosing where to study is only the first hurdle that involves an application process and writing an informative essay for each college you chose. Finding the right program is just as daunting. There are several things to consider, and the best fit relies heavily on the student.
Where to Study Abroad: Regions of Spain
Weather, language, and culture vary greatly in Spain’s regions. Before choosing a city, students should ask themselves the following: Do I thrive in big cities or small towns? Am I fascinated by museums and Gothic architecture? Am I looking for a traditional or contemporary Spanish experience?
None of the factors are mutually exclusive – it’s possible to find all in one place – but some certainly dominate specific areas. While the majority of Spaniards speak the official language, Castilian Spanish, some regions do have other languages: Basque in Basque Country, Catalan in Catalonia, and a local Catalan dialect in Majorca, just to name a few. This means street signs, restaurant menus, and government documents may be in a different language (though Castilian is usually provided upon request). Bullfighting and flamenco are central to Andalusian culture, while major cities like Madrid and Barcelona are cosmopolitan, global centers. Weather also varies greatly, as places like Barcelona get chilly early in the year, while southern Spain stays warm year-round.
Related Read: Best Cities to Try Tapas in Spain
A Summer, Semester, or Year Abroad
The biggest factor in deciding term length is cost. Tuition varies with each institution and program, and prospective students must contact them directly to get exact figures. Without factoring in plane tickets and entertainment expenses (assuming food and housing are included), programs normally cost several thousands of dollars. It’s best to consult university officials to learn about scholarships and loans.
Costs aside, the study abroad experiences, especially for summer and semester-long programs, are heavily influenced by the time of year. Summer is Spain’s busiest season, with tourists from all over the world flocking to beaches. Students will have to deal with crowded streets and venues and be especially wary of pickpockets who multiply when tourists do. Students should also note when major festivals occur: Running of the Bulls in Pamplona takes place in the summer, while Holy Week happens in the spring, with Seville holding the most elaborate processions.
A Student-Exchange or an Independent Study Abroad Program
Several universities partner with international schools to operate student-exchange programs. Such programs are usually dependent on the number of students from each country signed up to study abroad, and can be quite competitive. Academic achievement and language proficiency are typically taken into account, and slots and placement to the student’s chosen universities are not guaranteed. Independently run study abroad programs, in many cases, are less competitive with less rigorous admission guidelines.
Not only do the varying programs determine the classwork students encounter, but they also determine the classroom demographic. Student-exchange programs typically place students in classes with international and university students, allowing them to interact with Spaniards. As write my homework service emphasizes, many independent study-abroad programs, meanwhile, place international students with other international students, providing them with little to no interaction with local students. This may prove a disadvantage to serious language learners, as they may have a harder time meeting native speakers.
The best way to learn about student placement is by asking university and program advisers. Students who seek candid perspectives should ask their programs and universities of interest for former students’ contact information.
A Homestay or an Apartment
Homestays offer students an invaluable opportunity to live with Spanish families and experience day-to-day activities, such as grocery shopping, cooking, and dining. Language learners can expect to improve their language skills dramatically.
Landing a hospitable family relies on luck, however, and homestays may be undesirable for those who seek an experience independent of family-like ties. In such cases, students can scour listings for apartment rentals occupied by other international students or locals. Students may also opt to live in dorms if it is offered. While both alternatives may be great socially, they might limit immersion in everyday Spanish culture.