As an affordable European destination with a vibrant culture, gorgeous architecture, Mediterranean beaches, and well-rated language schools to learn one of the most spoken languages in the world, it's no surprise that Spain is a popular destination for high school abroad.
Spain has many opportunities to learn a new language, experience a different culture and did I mention the culinary magnificence of paella, empanadas, tapas, and so much more of the Spanish cuisine? How could you say no to a mid-day nap and a three day weekend every week, while being surrounded by great history and monuments around every corner? Oh, what's that? You're saying yes? Then read on to find a high school abroad program in Spain and tips for planning your trip.
Spain is perfect for high school students who want to learn Spanish (at any level), study architecture, take cooking, dance, or music classes, or experience Europe in an affordable setting.
High schoolers in Spain have quite a few program options. If your Spanish is at a high level, you could consider spending a full semester or academic year in Spain. However, if you're looking to improve on your Spanish, a shorter term language immersion program or courses at a Spanish language school are an alternative option.
For students whose main focus isn't language, but rather Spanish culture, history, or simply getting to learn more about Europe, a teen travel program or a summer program in English might be a better option.
Semester / Academic Year Abroad
Spain is home to dozens of opportunities for semesters abroad. Students will take local classes and Spanish classes while living with a host family in the city of your choice. Taking the semester is a chance for high schoolers to get a taste of what it is like to be in a world completely different from your own and soaking up as much information as you can.
Take the full year to live with a host family and attend a local high school. Through first-hand experience you will be fully immersed into the Spanish culture and learning the language through practice every day instead of studying in a book. By attending a local school you will make new friends who are most likely born and raised in that city. Take a wide range of classes you might find in your local high school with a completely different perspective.
Alternative Summer Programs
From leadership programs to volunteering these alternate summer programs are a great way to learn outside of the class room. Be apart of a group of individuals with similar interests in being a part of a bigger world. Travel throughout Spain and explore the gorgeous cities and vast countryside or stay in one spot with a host family, either way, it will be the opportunity of a lifetime.
Language Immersion Programs
Spanish is one of the most popular languages for high school students to learn, so why not learn Spanish where the language began?
Spain offers numerous language immersion programs lasting for a few weeks in the summer to a full year for ages as young as 13.
Learning a language from a book and using flashcards can be difficult but using the language in day to day activities like ordering a coffee at a cafe, ordering dinner at a restaurant, to reading the brochures of museums and talking to your local friends, learning Spanish is always easier with hands on experience.
Whether you are living with a host family or traveling around Spain, enjoy these language immersion programs and come home almost fluent in Spanish.
Planning Your Trip
Although sunny, laid-back Barcelona and cultured Madrid might be the first cities to come to mind when planning a high school trip to Spain, they aren't your only options. If you're on a teen travel tour, you'll almost certainly explore Spain beyond these two as well.
Other popular destinations include Cadiz, Ibiza, Zaragosa, and Bilbao, each of which will give you a different view on what life in Spain is like.
A visa is not required for a stay shorter than 90 days, but a student visa is required for any stay longer than that. Students under the age of 18 must have a parental consent. Most programs assist with visa applications however, the application can be found online and submitted 6-3 months before you leave.
Most programs have students living with carefully selected host families. You will be given the opportunity to really live and experience another culture. From personal experience living with a host family in Spain the food is incredible and having a family to care for you makes being thousands of miles away from home a little less difficult.
Of course, teen travel programs usually arrange for students to stay in hostels / hotels though some may involve a couple of days at a host family.
At a summer camp or course, students will more likely stay with other students in dorms.
Most programs include meals so students are only responsible for personal expenses. However, students should still budget roughly 50 euros per day to cover personal expenses. Also, ladies, remember that Zara started in Spain so you might want to plan your budget accordingly.
Program costs can run from $5,000 to $10,000 depending on the length of stay and location of the program. Most programs don't include airfare, which could be anywhere from $800 - $1,500 depending on where you are departing from.
Spaniards tend to eat quite late, like around 9 or 10pm, and siestas really are a thing. Also keep in mind that tipping isn't customary.
Weather in Spain is generally pretty mild, but can vary depending on region. To the north you will need to bring jeans and a jacket well into May and maybe even June, nights can be quite chilly in the areas of higher elevations.
Down south you will need to shed that jacket a little sooner than the north, pack shorts and tank tops for the summers and even a few short sleeves for the mild winters. Some towns of higher elevation may even see a snow flurry or two in the winter. No matter what, be sure to bring:
- A power adaptor and converter
- Packing your belongings in a backpack or duffel bag is ideal
- A swimsuit (just in case!)
- An unlocked cell phone
- A gift for your host family
Cell Phone Plans
Most students who are spending time in Spain will be best off bringing an unlocked cell phone (note: most smart phones are now unlocked for international usage, but you should double check with your carrier) and grabbing a SIM card on arrival at the airport.
Unlike the U.S., cell phone owners in Spain mostly operate on pay-as-you go plans -- as opposed to having a contract -- so you'll simply buy credit as you need it and add it to your phone. There are a few monthly deals, outlined in our guide to cell phone plans in Europe, you could opt for as well.
Be sure to include cell phone expenses in your overall budget, as this is rarely ever included in program fees.
Health & Safety
Spain is a very safe country however, being apart of the Schengen with open boarders the threat of terrorism is currently at a high level. Although mostly just precaution, the threat level remains high and security increased until the problems are solved.
Remember to always use common sense while traveling and be aware of pickpockets in major cities, avoid hanging your backpack / bag on the back of a chair while you're eating out (a common way stuff is stolen throughout Europe), and be vigilant in crowded spaces.
No vaccinations are required to travel to Spain.