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Old 25th April 2010, 09:49 AM   #1
cppman
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Default Study Abroad in Spain

Hello again, everyone. I had a few questions about studying abroad in Spain, hopefully some of you have good advice for me.

First of all, the only real reason I want to study abroad in Spain is to learn the language and culture, not so much my major. It will be through my university, so my options are somewhat limited. Here are my questions...

1. As far as I am aware, my only two choices for schools are University of Granada or Complutense University of Madrid. Like I said, I'm not too worried about my major while I study abroad as I am more focused on learning Spanish and the Spanish culture. With that said, which of these schools would be the best option?

2. How difficult is it to communicate with very limited Spanish? By the time I actually transfer, I should have at least 2 years of university-level Spanish under my belt (Spanish 1 - 4).

3. Is a single year long enough to develop a more keen understanding of both the language and culture of Spain? For example, would I be likely to be able to actually hold a conversation in Spanish without much thought? In short, what is a realistic outcome of me studying in Spain for a year?

4. Finally, is the whole experience actually worth it? The entire study abroad program (housing, food, transportation, tuition, etc.) will run me approximately $20,000 USD for a single year (estimated by my school). I won't qualify for financial aid; however, I should have family that will help and I can apply for a few scholarships/(or loans).

Any other input is greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.
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Old 26th April 2010, 12:13 AM   #2
El Tifón
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I would go for the Complutense University of Madrid - it is supposed to be the best public university in all of Spain and people in Madrid generally speak clearer Spanish than in Granada (where you have the heavy Andalusian accent). Madrid is also a good base for exploring the rest of Spain and it has direct connections to several major US airports (Chicago O'Hare, Boston Logan, New York JFK et al) so you may find that handy.

2 years of Spanish should be fine for day-to-day communication; although in my experience I've found that Spanish in the classroom is a lot easier than it is outside! Once people find out that you speak Spanish they may start talking at lightning speed... at which point you may only catch a few words or the gist of what they are saying.

You can learn a lot in a year; it really depends on how much you immerse yourself into the surrounding environment. One of my friends did a year-long placement/internship in Buenos Aires and he became a fluent Spanish speaker. Of course everyone has different language abilities and it depends on how much you soak things up. I spent a few days in Spain last month and my Spanish improved just by being in the right environment.

$20,000 USD is a pretty hefty price tag but I genuinely think it's worth it - not that many people get to study abroad, least of all in Spain! I'm a Canadian studying in the UK and the fees for us international students here are ridiculously expensive. Not to mention the living costs and housing. But my experiences have made it all worthwhile, and without coming here I may never have discovered my love for Spain. So go for it by all means - buenos vientos!
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Old 26th April 2010, 07:09 AM   #3
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I would go for the Complutense University of Madrid - it is supposed to be the best public university in all of Spain and people in Madrid generally speak clearer Spanish than in Granada (where you have the heavy Andalusian accent). Madrid is also a good base for exploring the rest of Spain and it has direct connections to several major US airports (Chicago O'Hare, Boston Logan, New York JFK et al) so you may find that handy.
Thanks. That advice is definitely helpful. I figured Madrid would be the better choice (for travel in general, just wasn't sure about language).

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Once people find out that you speak Spanish they may start talking at lightning speed... at which point you may only catch a few words or the gist of what they are saying.
Oh, I hope that won't be too much of a problem. I have trouble with my listening comprehension (in Spanish) as it is. To me, almost all native speakers sound like they are speaking a million words a minute, so it is really hard for me to grasp anything that was said. I was looking around for techniques to help improve that, and one person said to listen to "real world" Spanish for at least 15 minutes per day. So, I try to make a habit of following BBC Mundo podcasts everyday. I've also started listening to Spanish music, and I think doing both of those things has helped slightly.

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One of my friends did a year-long placement/internship in Buenos Aires and he became a fluent Spanish speaker. Of course everyone has different language abilities and it depends on how much you soak things up. I spent a few days in Spain last month and my Spanish improved just by being in the right environment.
That's really impressive of your friend. Well I hope it works out like that for me. (If I do end up studying abroad...)

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I'm a Canadian studying in the UK and the fees for us international students here are ridiculously expensive. Not to mention the living costs and housing. But my experiences have made it all worthwhile, and without coming here I may never have discovered my love for Spain. So go for it by all means - buenos vientos!
That is terrible that you have to pay international fees. Luckily for me, the international fees are waived if I go through my school. What are you studying in the UK, if you don't mind me asking?


Thanks for all the input.
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Old 26th April 2010, 09:08 AM   #4
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1. As far as I am aware, my only two choices for schools are University of Granada or Complutense University of Madrid. Like I said, I'm not too worried about my major while I study abroad as I am more focused on learning Spanish and the Spanish culture. With that said, which of these schools would be the best option?
I honestly have no idea... personally, I love Madrid almost more than I love life, so if I were to have the chance to move to Madrid, I'm jump at it. I know next to nothing about either school, though, so I'm afraid I'm not much help with this question.

2. How difficult is it to communicate with very limited Spanish? By the time I actually transfer, I should have at least 2 years of university-level Spanish under my belt (Spanish 1 - 4).
I did 2 years of beginner/novice level Spanish courses before I did my year abroad. At the start, I found it hard to communicate- I had to think so hard before opening my mouth. I did have an intensive immersion course at the start of the year for 2 weeks and that helped a lot, but I found communicating exhausting. I could make myself understood I understood when people spoke to me, but it was really hard to have to think so much all the time
As time goes on, though, communicating becomes much easier. You adapt to having Spanish as the 'normal' language to your ears, and you'll probably get to the point where you can think in Spanish (if you don't already hit that point before you go).
I found that my ability to have conversations varied with the topic. I can't explain much in Spanish in the way of farming, but I can tell you anything and everything that has to do with Spanish naming laws and customs. One of the hardest things was not knowing words for really mundane things, like 'spoon' or 'blanket' (and I only realized that I didn't know those words when my soup came with a straw, or when it was 8 degrees inside the house).

3. Is a single year long enough to develop a more keen understanding of both the language and culture of Spain? For example, would I be likely to be able to actually hold a conversation in Spanish without much thought? In short, what is a realistic outcome of me studying in Spain for a year?
It's absolutely long enough to get a grasp on the language and culture! I don't think a year is satisfying enough (I have only been back in Canada for less than 3 weeks and I am dying here. I miss Spain so much), but you can learn a lot. It does depend on how committed you are to immersing yourself, though. If you meet people who speak Spanish and spend pretty much all your time speaking the language and hanging out with them, you'll absorb so much more.

4. Finally, is the whole experience actually worth it? The entire study abroad program (housing, food, transportation, tuition, etc.) will run me approximately $20,000 USD for a single year (estimated by my school). I won't qualify for financial aid; however, I should have family that will help and I can apply for a few scholarships/(or loans).
YES! Absolutely, 100% worth it! Spain is incredible. Since stepping off the plane in Madrid 3 years ago, the country has occupied the vast majority of my thoughts. I can't get enough- I've been there twice for trips and then for 7 months of university. It is a LOT of money to pay, but if you can swing it, I really do recommend that you take the opportunity and run with it. Studying in Spain was by far the best thing I've ever done, I would definitely do it again, and I'm searching for ways to get back there as soon as I get my degree next year.

Oh my gosh, I'm so sad now. I want to go back.
I really, really hope it works out for you! It truly is amazing there.
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Old 26th April 2010, 12:49 PM   #5
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US $20,000 seems like a lot of money to me given how cheap Spanish university education is. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think there are international fees here, so you could probably go it alone and live here on less (working on the side if necessary). If you can afford to spend that without giving yourself too much of a loan, go for it.

The only way I could afford to come here was to do English teaching assistantship programs, which I've been doing for the last 3 years. The downside is you lose valuable Spanish immersion time teaching English (or at least being stuck in a school, whether or not they actually use you) and it's thought that one of the reason adult learners pick up a language well in another country is because their first language begins to rust up a bit from non-use. On the plus side, you'd only be employed for 16 hours a week and get paid more than enough to survive here and study in the evenings in a language school if you wanted to.

Last edited by Grimace; 26th April 2010 at 12:56 PM.
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Old 26th April 2010, 01:37 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by cppman View Post
Oh, I hope that won't be too much of a problem. I have trouble with my listening comprehension (in Spanish) as it is. To me, almost all native speakers sound like they are speaking a million words a minute, so it is really hard for me to grasp anything that was said. I was looking around for techniques to help improve that, and one person said to listen to "real world" Spanish for at least 15 minutes per day. So, I try to make a habit of following BBC Mundo podcasts everyday. I've also started listening to Spanish music, and I think doing both of those things has helped slightly.
Don't worry, as lucy.annabel said, it takes time to develop an ear for Spanish. I was lucky because my Spanish teacher back home had a policy of speaking only in Spanish so that we'd learn a lot quicker. It was really difficult at first but over time we began to understand most (if not all) of what she was saying.

By far the best way to practice would be to intercambio with native Spanish speakers, especially if it is in person. Are there any Spanish/Latino societies you can join at your college? If you meet the right people you can immerse yourself in Spanish even in a predominantly English-speaking environment.

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That is terrible that you have to pay international fees. Luckily for me, the international fees are waived if I go through my school. What are you studying in the UK, if you don't mind me asking?
I do architecture, but what makes it so expensive is the fact that I'm here for the whole 4 years as opposed to just one year studying abroad from a Canadian university. I honestly wouldn't have been able to afford it without the help of my family, and they're also glad because it gives them an excuse to spend their holidays in Europe!
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Old 26th April 2010, 02:04 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by cppman View Post
Hello again, everyone. I had a few questions about studying abroad in Spain, hopefully some of you have good advice for me.

First of all, the only real reason I want to study abroad in Spain is to learn the language and culture, not so much my major. It will be through my university, so my options are somewhat limited. Here are my questions...

1. As far as I am aware, my only two choices for schools are University of Granada or Complutense University of Madrid. Like I said, I'm not too worried about my major while I study abroad as I am more focused on learning Spanish and the Spanish culture. With that said, which of these schools would be the best option?

2. How difficult is it to communicate with very limited Spanish? By the time I actually transfer, I should have at least 2 years of university-level Spanish under my belt (Spanish 1 - 4).

3. Is a single year long enough to develop a more keen understanding of both the language and culture of Spain? For example, would I be likely to be able to actually hold a conversation in Spanish without much thought? In short, what is a realistic outcome of me studying in Spain for a year?

4. Finally, is the whole experience actually worth it? The entire study abroad program (housing, food, transportation, tuition, etc.) will run me approximately $20,000 USD for a single year (estimated by my school). I won't qualify for financial aid; however, I should have family that will help and I can apply for a few scholarships/(or loans).

Any other input is greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.
Both universities have good reputations.
The Spanish spoken in Granada has a heavier accent
Granada is quite a bit cheaper to live in than Madrid
In Madrid you can easily pick up "cash-in-hand" work teaching English
you should be able to survive in both cities with two years of Spanish, however I expect that it'll be easier in Madrid (it's more cosmopolitan and there's more support, should you need it)
After a year of studying in Spain, you should have the language skills to hold a general one-to-one conversation without too much thought. It depends on the subject though, and your ability to join in conversations will be inversely proportional to the number of native Spanish speakers present.
Assuming you get 1.3 dollars to the euro, then $20,000 is about €15,000. If your tuition costs say €3000, then you are paying about €1000/month for food and accommodation. It depends on the food and accommodation as to whether that's a good deal, but you can rent a room in Madrid for €350/month and easily get by on €500/month for basic food, transport, etc.
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Old 26th April 2010, 04:50 PM   #8
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Assuming you get 1.3 dollars to the euro, then $20,000 is about €15,000. If your tuition costs say €3000, then you are paying about €1000/month for food and accommodation. It depends on the food and accommodation as to whether that's a good deal, but you can rent a room in Madrid for €350/month and easily get by on €500/month for basic food, transport, etc.
Well, the reason I am not doing it on my own is because my school has made deals with this university so that I won´t have any issues with credit acceptance and any course transfers back to the US. Also, the Study Abroad program sends you in groups and provides group activities. Here is an estimated breakdown of the costs:

State University Fee (Tuition): $4,911
Study Aborad Fee: $750
Insurance: $190
Departure Processing: $70
Group Activities: $800
Roundtrip Transportation: $1,440
Room & Board: $9,370
Other: $685
Personal Expenses: $3,500
Total: $21,716

And Granada is about $2,000 cheaper.
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Old 26th April 2010, 04:59 PM   #9
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US $20,000 seems like a lot of money to me given how cheap Spanish university education is. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think there are international fees here, so you could probably go it alone and live here on less (working on the side if necessary). If you can afford to spend that without giving yourself too much of a loan, go for it.
Well, the tuition by itself is only (still a lot of money) $4,911 (approx.) I'm not too worried about the "education system" since I don't plan on taking the main courses I need for my major over there, just language/history/culture courses.

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Originally Posted by Grimace View Post
The only way I could afford to come here was to do English teaching assistantship programs, which I've been doing for the last 3 years. The downside is you lose valuable Spanish immersion time teaching English (or at least being stuck in a school, whether or not they actually use you) and it's thought that one of the reason adult learners pick up a language well in another country is because their first language begins to rust up a bit from non-use. On the plus side, you'd only be employed for 16 hours a week and get paid more than enough to survive here and study in the evenings in a language school if you wanted to.
Yeah, I'm not sure if I would want to do that. I want to avoid speaking English as much as possible, otherwise it kind of defeats my purpose for going there.
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Old 26th April 2010, 05:30 PM   #10
Legazpi
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Originally Posted by cppman View Post
Well, the reason I am not doing it on my own is because my school has made deals with this university so that I won´t have any issues with credit acceptance and any course transfers back to the US. Also, the Study Abroad program sends you in groups and provides group activities. Here is an estimated breakdown of the costs:

State University Fee (Tuition): $4,911
Study Aborad Fee: $750
Insurance: $190
Departure Processing: $70
Group Activities: $800
Roundtrip Transportation: $1,440
Room & Board: $9,370
Other: $685
Personal Expenses: $3,500
Total: $21,716

And Granada is about $2,000 cheaper.
That sounds like a fair deal to me. Yes - credit acceptance is an issue when trying to find accommodation, so going with your uni sounds like the best bet.
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