Spain is a large, culturally diverse country with breathtaking views, passionate, friendly people, sun, sea and sand. Visiting Spain guarantees an unforgettable journey in the land of Picasso, Cervantes, Hernán Cortés, Plácido Domingo and Salvador Dalí. The Spanish language is sensuously musical and spoken by 329 million native speakers ,the food exotic and delicious and Spain is bursting with artistic and historical treasures. The land of flamenco and “fiesta” enjoys a reasonable cost of living. Incredible cities such as Madrid, Barcelona and Seville offer diverse experiences. Spain has 5,000 miles of coastline and enjoys 300 days of sunshine per year, making it a top tourist destination.
Perhaps the most difficult choice facing a high-school student is what kind of summer program to choose. Study the exquisite Spanish language, learn to dance salsa, train at a soccer camp, volunteer to help children with their English, participate in a full immersion language course, the possibilities are endless.
- Immersion: One of the most popular choices is an immersion course in Spanish language and culture. Courses will normally major in Spanish language and have options in subjects such as Spanish Literature, Spanish Conversation, film cycles and Art History. Students are given the chance to improve their oral and written skills by communicating freely and expressively with peers and teachers. Language courses are an effective way of boosting confidence, competence and having contact with native speakers. Programs vary but will often consist of morning classes with excursions, or research projects in the afternoons and often trips and social events at weekends. Courses usually last between two weeks and three months.
- Volunteer: Volunteer work is not only a way of contributing to enhancing others lives, it is a unique way of developing personal skills, creating relationships and improving self-awareness. Volunteer programs range from teaching English, working with the disabled, integrating immigrants into Spanish society and preserving architectural heritage. These programs focus on improving the lives of others, and on particular aspects of the Spanish culture. A program will typically last between 2 and 12 weeks.
- Sports: Sports and adventure programs offer the possibility of learning, or improving, physical skills and abilities while being immersed in the fascinating Spanish culture. An excellent way to make friends and create new relationships, these courses provide students with a healthy, challenging experience. Popular courses include soccer camps, where individuals and teams can train with professional players and coaches, courses in water sports, oyster fishing in Galicia and hiking adventures through the Pyrenees. Courses typically last between two weeks and three months.
Planning Your Trip
When planning your high school program abroad you should think carefully about your motivation and the kind of program that is most suitable for you. What do you hope to gain from this experience? If you combine your dream travels with a minimum of practicality and common sense, you will make your experience much easier. Prepare yourself for culture shock, especially if you have never been abroad before. You are going to find yourself in a situation where you may understand very little of what is going on around you, both linguistically and culturally. Be open minded and prepared to go with the flow.
Hopefully you will be so busy you won't have time to be homesick but in advance how to stay in contact with your family whether through skype, email, using international phone cards and set aside fixed times to contact your loved ones. Before you do, check that your phone is compatible with Spanish services. A GSM (Global System of Mobile telephones) is the safest option.
Be adventurous. Don't be afraid to try new things and try to speak the language as much as possible. Shopping in small grocery stores, or frequenting local bars should give you an opportunity to practice the language. Make sure you budget well and don't spend all your money in the first week.
When applying for a summer program, ensure you check the age restrictions very carefully. Some programs, particularly internships, will not admit students who are under 18. If applying for a course that is conducted in Spanish, check the minimum linguistic level requirements and be realistic, following lessons in Spanish will be mentally strenuous. Complete application forms accurately and well in time for program deadlines.
Types of accommodation will vary depending on the program you follow. Many summer courses, particularly language and cultural courses, organize a homestay as part of the deal, which is a popular option. Staying with a host family is certainly a way of insuring a full immersion into Spanish culture ,an opportunity to improve language skills and hopefully making life-long friends. Costs vary depending on location and time of year but a single room with breakfast averages from €160-235 per week.
On some programs it is possible to sleep in a residence on-site or nearby. This obviously has the advantage of cutting down on traveling costs and sharing accommodation with other young people is a sure way of finding friends. Prices for a room in a residence range from around €140 to €270, depending on location and number of the number of people per room.
The majority of study, cultural immersion, volunteer and adventure programs arrange accommodation for participants so they can arrive stress free. Be sure to check the website carefully, but the cost of accommodation is included in many of the programs' fees.
Renting a private apartment is another option, but it will certainly be more expensive, since you will have to pay for utilities and groceries, and you will be responsible for finding lodgings. A one-bedroom apartment in a city costs around €525 per month.
Most students will undoubtedly be keen to spend their free time traveling. Study programs often include afternoon trips and weekend excursions, which are worth taking advantage of, since traveling costs may be included or greatly reduced. Young people and non-European residents can gain discounts on various forms of transport. Rail passes can be reserved from The USA. Passes cost around $469 for ten days second class travel.
The Basques, Catalonians and Galicians all have their own distinct language and customs and the diverse parts of Spain all merit visiting. In Madrid, take in El Prado, the largest art gallery in the world, housing over 8,000 paintings. Visit Gaudí's Barcelona-the epicentre of Catalan culture, the stunning modern architecture of Valencia, the majesty of The Alhambra in Granada, the UNESCO world heritage sights in Cordoba and Toledo, relax on the beaches of the Costa del Sol and enjoy the splendor of Spain's national parks.
Good organization will make your journey smoother and stress free. American citizens do not require a visa for a stay of up to 90 days in Spain. A valid passport is obligatory and it is advisable to have six months validity on your passport and at least two empty pages for stamps on arrival and departure. A round trip airline ticket and valid health and medical insurance will full international coverage are also required.
If you have any special medical requirements, it is advisable to consult your doctor before your trip. Take a plentiful supply of medicines you may require, which could be difficult to acquire abroad.
The cost of a summer program varies greatly depending on the type of program and the destination. A one-month language or cultural immersion program will range from around €4,200 to €8,295 including accommodation and registration. Registration fees for volunteer programs range from $20 to $500. Some volunteer programs cover all costs apart from travel, others may charge up to $5,700, including board and residence. Fees for sports and Adventure programs vary considerably ranging from around $3000 for two weeks to around $6,000 for a month.
Americans will find the cost of eating and drinking out more expensive than at home. Many basic groceries also cost more. Transport is quite comparable, however gasoline is more costly. Clothes are more expensive. Basic utilities have similar prices and rent is usually cheaper. Cities such as Madrid and Barcelona tend to be more expensive generally, Southern Spain is the cheapest region.
Scholarships for summer programs abroad are extremely hard to come by. A small number are available each year, and need to be applied for well in advance, paying special attention to requirements.
Top Reasons to Spend a Summer in Spain
In the words of Miriam Beard, "Travel is more than seeing the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living". Travel and experiencing other cultures is fundamental for personal development and helps you open your eyes to the world and cultivate a global perspective. You will surely return home more open-minded, enriched and having grown personally. You will certainly have a unique, rewarding experience that you never forget.
A student wishing to major in Spanish, will no doubt reap huge benefits from a language study course and being immersed in Spanish culture will nurture linguistic and cultural awareness. Volunteer programs can benefit college applications. Such experiences show initiative and a dynamic, flexible, adaptable nature. A student who has volunteered in a foreign country displays courage, determination and an adventurous spirit, which will doubtless impress future employers. Taking part in an Adventure program shows a student is willing to accept a challenge and adapt to difficult and demanding situations, characteristics that are helpful for both college and job applications.