The “study” of Study AbroadSalamanca, Spring 2012

I haven’t mentioned it much yet, but yes, there is actually a study portion of “study abroad.” Taking classes in Spanish and being able to learn in a foreign language is actually one of the most rewarding aspects of the experience. From January, when I feared I wouldn’t be able to understand my professors, to today, where I can understand them perfectly and doing my assignments in Spanish feels natural, my language skills have grown tremendously.

These are the classes I took this semester :

Reading the City: Literature and Art in Salamanca (This was an awesome course where we learned about the history of Salamanca through field trips around the city and studied many of the famous buildings, monuments, and writers of Salamanca. It really helped me appreciate this unique ancient city way more than I would simply as a tourist!)

Political Systems of Contemporary Spain and Portugal (I had never taken a politics course before this one, but it proved to be a good introduction into Spanish politics & helped me to really understand and appreciate the political system)

Topics in Advanced Grammar, Composition & Syntax III (This course focused in-depth on a few of the problems native English speakers have with grammar – especially the intricacies of the subjunctive. We also went beyond simply grammar and also worked on expanding vocabulary and explored many cultural topics)

Spanish Literature and Politics in the Late 20th century (In this course we not only learned about the history of Spain throughout the 20th century but also how the literature of each decade was intertwined with the politics ocurring at the time)

Hecho Religioso y Fe Cristiana (A class at Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca where we studied all the major world religions and then focused a bit more on Christianity for the second half of the course. My professor really had a passion for the subject which made it especially interesting)

All the IES courses are taught in Spanish by wonderful university professors – I didn’t have a single professor that I didn’t like! IES provides the syllabi to their courses on the website, which proved to be very helpful to me as I was deciding which courses to take. However, you don’t need to actually decide which courses to take until after you arrive in Spain – also the IES abroad advisors are also very helpful and will assist you through the whole registration process.

There is also a 2-week trial period as you are deciding which University courses to take, where you can attend various classes to see if you like them before you actually confirm your registration. There are hundreds of possible courses to take at Universidad de Salamanca and the private university, Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca. I would definitely recommend taking at least one university course in addition to the IES courses – it is a unique experience to be one of the only Americans in a whole class of Spaniards! It definitely helps you to branch out and meet other students and to really feel integrated in the university. Founded in 1218, the University of Salamanca is also the oldest university in Spain and the 3rd oldest in Europe! It was definitely a cool experience to learn about the history of this famous university and to actually be there so many years later.

There are a few differences between the American and Spanish education system – typically in the University classes most of the weight of the final grade lies on one final exam, and perhaps also a midterm or a term paper. However, many of the departments are shifting to the “Bologna Plan,” which includes more smaller assignments and activities and is more similar to the American style of education.

As much as I would rather be out exploring Spain than studying, the classes that I took in Salamanca really were a valuable part of my experience and were essential to helping me learn the language & feel integrated into the culture of Salamanca. After doing a whole semester of work in Spanish, it also is going to make writing papers and assignments in English again seem like a piece of cake!

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