Going to a Spanish University to Study Spanish: What to expect?

Going to a Spanish Univertity to study Spanish - Picture by bongobundos.blogs.comIf you want to learn Spanish at a Spanish University, you may be wondering what that will be like. Is the quality of tuition good? Will there be many people in each class? Is it easy to make friends, or get involved in activities? What about finding accommodation?

In this article, we’ll try to give you an all-round idea of Spanish courses at Spain’s public universities.

Who can study at a Spanish University?

The great news is, almost anybody can take a Spanish university language course, as long as you are 18 years old or over. You don’t have to already be a university student enrolled on a degree course back home to do this – although students who are studying for a degree in their home country can also take a Spanish university course to complement their existing studies.

But many Spanish universities offer Spanish courses to all types of students, from all backgrounds, and at all levels.

What kind of courses are there?

The course you choose will largely depend on your learning requirements, and the amount of time and money you can afford to spend in Spain:

  • There are shorter (2-8 week) General Spanish Courses, Intensive courses, DELE Courses or Business Spanish Courses, available to all types of students.
  • Many university students, or people taking a gap year, want to choose a longer course: full-term (about 3 months) or full-year.

Intensive courses or general Spanish language courses tend to focus on speaking, understanding, reading and writing Spanish, through communication and grammar lessons; DELE courses are for preparing students to take the official DELE exams that certify your Spanish level. Business Spanish courses will offer Spanish language learning, as well as specialist business topics.

Longer Spanish courses tend to have the same elements as shorter courses, but be less intense. For example, a Spanish language gap year course, or a term course, will have the same Spanish language learning elements (speaking, understanding, reading, writing, communication, grammar) as the more intensive courses, but the classes are fewer per week, or more spread out, and normally there are more people per class.

Gap year and full-term students, with a more advanced level of Spanish, may also be given access to lectures that Spanish-speaking students taking other degree courses attend – such as Spanish history, art or literature.

Campus life

Going to a Spanish University to study Spanish - Picture by upo.esCompared to US and UK universities, Spanish Universities can seem quite limited in terms of social, sporting and research activities available to students. Aside the classes that you have signed up for, however, there won’t be much more in terms of organised activities, social life, clubs or other entertainment.

While some universities will give you a student card that entitles you to use facilities like the library, sports grounds or the gym, it is very rare for a Spanish University to organise special activities for their students. So you’ll most likely have to find your own social life and entertainment.

Spanish classes

The number of students per class on Spanish university language courses is normally larger than at private Spanish language schools in Spain. On intensive university courses, which have a higher concentration of lessons over a shorter period of time, you may find around 15-20 students (which at a private language school would probably be more like 8-10 students per class). On a more general course, you may be looking at 30-40 students per class.

If you are combining a term-course or a gap-year course, and have a higher level of Spanish, you may also get access to general university lectures. At these lectures you may find any number of students, sometimes even in the hundreds.

Teachers, professors and lecturers

Study in a Spanish University - Picture by abulaorientacionyconvivencia.blogspot.comSpanish language teachers at universities in Spain will be highly qualified – usually with a degree in Spanish linguistics or philology, and in many cases, having had teacher training. During your structured language-learning classes, the teachers usually interact with students at least to a degree, whilst following a set teaching curriculum. The amount of interaction with each student depends largely on the number of people per class. As you may imagine, an intensive class with 15 students will get more personalised time from the teacher than a general Spanish class with 35 students.

If you additionally attend culture, history or art lectures, the lecturer may be an expert in their field, a professor, or an industry figure who has been asked to give classes at the university. At these types of lectures, as opposed to structured language-learning classes, you’ll literally be “lectured to” – there will be minimal interaction with students and you’ll mostly be just listening or taking notes.

So in conclusion, the time and attention you’ll get from your teachers at these different types of classes will vary depending on the type of course you have chosen, the intensity of that course, and the number of students accepted onto that particular programme. It is worth doing your homework beforehand, if this is an important consideration for you.

Organisation

Another way in which many universities in Spain can be quite different from UK and USA, is in the organisation. For example, the Complutense in Madrid, which has an excellent international reputation academically speaking, has a famously slow bureaucratic system. This can make the processing of student queries, issues and things like credits or diplomas frustrating.

This will probably not be an issue on a short 4-week intensive course, but if you’re spending a longer time in Spain (and if the idea of lax organisation generally stresses you out), it is advisable to do your research and pick somewhere like Barcelona University, an institution renowned for its impeccably organised courses and smooth administration.

In general, you will probably find Spanish university staff to be somewhat less helpful than they would be in the UK or USA, and you’ll have to “dive in at the deep end” and figure most things out for yourself. It is advisable to get as much information beforehand, if this is a worry – or book your course through an agency such as UniSpain, who can give you support if needed.

Other students

Goin to a Spanish University to study Spain - picture by kampussia.comSome Universities, like the Madrid Complutense, mix their Spanish language courses with “normal” degree courses (attended by Spanish people) on the same campus. This can mean a great way to make new Spanish friends. And if you are sharing a campus with Spanish students, you will find them very friendly and open. There will probably be many faculty parties and informal socialising, but few or no “newcomer” parties or organised introductions – you’ll have to make your own friends at a Spanish university.

Spanish students are generally more dependent on their families, and you’ll find that many are probably living at home while studying in their home province. This means that many students will attend lessons, but then go home at the end of the day. Mind you, each Spanish faculty tends to have a cafeteria, which is a great place to socialise between lectures. Don’t expect quiet cups of tea and students with their noses buried in books, though; in university cafeterias you’ll soon discover string coffee, cheap food… and how noisy and merry Spanish socialising really is!

Some Spanish university courses aimed at foreigners, however, are set on locations away from the main campuses. A case in point is Malaga University. Whilst offering high quality Spanish language courses that are remarkably well priced, Malaga University has a special campus for its foreign Spanish language students, away from its main campuses. So the people who you’ll meet on these courses will be other foreign students – not students from Spain. This means that you will have to be more disciplined and try to only speak Spanish outside classes, instead of mixing with other students from your own country, or resorting to a common language like English.

Accommodation

If the possibility exists, it can be a good idea to try to and share a student flat with Spanish students (although this is not always an option, so don’t get too hung up on the idea, as there are many other places and ways you can learn Spanish outside the classroom too). Some people are adventurous and able to source their own place to live, but when travelling to a foreign country – especially if its your first time – you may want to choose the easiest and cheapest option available, or pre-book shared accommodation with other international students on your course.

The average quality and cost of shared student flats can vary greatly. Your rent will depend on the location and the type of flat, how many you are sharing with, whether you have a private room and what facilities there are. For example, a very basic 250€ to 300€ per month rent will mean a room in a shared student flat – which may well have its issues with noise and cleanliness, and have hardly any amenities. This may not bother you if you’re 18 years old, but a mature student, like a professional taking a sabbatical month to learn Spanish, may not be happy sharing a flat with ten students in their 20’s! Instead, they may want to double that price, or more, on an all-inclusive student residence, or source a private flat with mod cons like a washing machine or WiFi.

Universities in Spain that offer Spanish language courses:

Prices, information and bookings:

To find out more about Spanish courses at Spain’s public universities, visit UniSpain’s website or contact us for inquiries and bookings. You can also find out more useful and practical information about studying at Spanish universities on our blog:

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