Spain: Language and Cultural Traditions

Focus on language acquisition and culture in Madrid and AndalucĂ­a on this immersive high school summer abroad program in Spain.

Rapidly improve your Spanish during a month of language immersion and historical and contemporary exploration through Spain. Begin your Experiment in Spain’s capital—Madrid—as you spend time at the city’s famous sites and museums, explore its neighborhoods, and sample Spanish cuisine. Then, travel to southern Spain, to the province of Andalucía, where you will engage in intensive Spanish language training.

This high school summer abroad program has two separate language groups. One group has Spanish training in the historic city of Granada, where, for four hours each day, the group will attend small-group, interactive language classes divided by language level at the Centro de Lenguas y Educación Intercultural. This group will learn inside and outside the classroom through music, film, city scavenger hunts, and field trips. After class, your group will have opportunities to meet up with Spanish students learning English and join them for sporting or cultural events. The program’s other group will have language classes and immersive arts training in Guadix. This group will participate in Spanish-language workshops focused on flamenco, ceramics, theatrical performance, and other arts, in addition to the language training. In Guadix, there are opportunities to learn about Romani culture and Gitano identity and to perform flamenco and traditional village dances with local community members.

No matter which group you are in, you will explore Granada’s sites—including the Alhambra, city gardens, and local museums—to better understand the city’s historical layers and contemporary culture. Your Spanish language and cultural immersion continues with a homestay in a small Andalusian town. Enjoy family meals and visit local markets, beaches, and cafés as you continue to enhance your Spanish through constant conversation with host family members. The program incorporates some outdoor activities such as trekking and excursions to the beach. Return to Madrid for final reflection and language practice before departing for home.

Language Certificate: At the conclusion of this program, participants will earn a language certificate noting how many hours of language classes they completed.

Orientation: Madrid, 3 days
Homestay: Guadix or Granada,* 10–12 days
Other Accommodations: Hotels, student residence

* Homestay locations can vary.

Days 1–3

Orientation in Madrid

  • Learn about the history and culture of Spain
  • Get to know other members of your group during activities and discussions
  • Visit famous sites and museums throughout the city
  • Explore diverse neighborhoods, navigate the metro, and sample Spanish cuisine in restaurants
  • Practice your Spanish language skills
  • Go on a daylong excursion to Toledo

During the orientation period, you and your group will stay in a centrally located hostel.

Days 4–16

Intensive Language Training in Granada

  • Attend small-group interactive language classes at the Centro de Lenguas y Educación Intercultural language school for four hours each day
  • Go on language-based excursions throughout the city
  • Participate in cultural events and attend a flamenco show
  • Visit the Alhambra, city gardens, and local museums

During this period, you and your group will stay in a centrally located hostel.

Days 17–27


  • Become fully immersed in the daily life of a Spanish family and community
  • Do activities with your host family
  • Explore your host community and the surrounding area with your group and with Spanish youth
  • Visit the seaside, hike in nearby nature reserves, ride on a fishing boat, and play water sports

During this period, you will stay in the home of a family. Sample host communities: Motril, Priego de Córdoba, Guadix

Day 28

Program Reflection and Wrap-up in Madrid

  • Reflect with your group on your experiences during the program

During the reflection period, you and your group will stay in a centrally located hotel.

Day 29


Please note: This itinerary is only a sample and is subject to change. Because of factors such as group size and availability of in-country offerings such as festivals, your experience — including sites visited and the number of days spent in each location — may differ somewhat from the one presented above.

Anne Huber

Anne Huber is an enthusiastic traveler from Bloomington, Minnesota. She graduated from Macalester College in 2014, majoring in international studies and Hispanic studies. Anne has participated in a number of study abroad programs. After an AFS summer program in Argentina, she decided to do a year-long Rotary Youth Exchange in southern Brazil before starting college, and while in college, she spent a semester in Spain studying at the University of Seville. Through these experiences, Anne learned how to live with different host families, travel to new places, and love trying new (and sometimes seemingly peculiar) foods.

During her time at Macalester, Anne served as a leader for new student orientation programs, as a writing mentor, and as a Portuguese language lab instructor. She also had the opportunity to spend a summer interning at the US Embassy in Lisbon, Portugal, in the Office of Public Affairs. Anne will spend 2015 working at a federal university in Brazil as a Fulbright English teaching assistant. When she is not traveling or studying, Anne is busy running, spending time with her family, reading, dancing, and going to concerts. One day, she hopes to join the Foreign Service and have two dogs.

Brian Long

A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Brian Long graduated from Georgia State University in 2007 with a BA in Spanish and completed his Master of International Business there the following year. After finishing graduate school, Brian worked for the Omar Dengo Foundation, a nonprofit in San Jose, where he procured funding for grants that aided micro-entrepreneurs and underprivileged children. Next, he traveled to Seoul, South Korea, to teach English for a year, learning basic Korean along the way. In 2009, he returned to the States to begin work as a Spanish teacher in Tampa, Florida. In between positions, Brian has led seven different groups of teenagers abroad to Europe and Central America, including a group of Experimenters to Spain in 2014. When not traveling, Brian spends time with his two dogs and enjoys hosting trivia nights at a local restaurant.

Jessica Ryan

Jessica RyanA native of the Berkshires, Massachusetts, Jess was bitten by the travel bug in high school when she traveled to France and Spain on a cultural immersion program with classmates. Jess graduated from Smith College in 2008 with a BA in Spanish after spending her college summers volunteering at wildlife centers in Ecuador. Upon graduation, she completed a teaching fellowship in Spain awarded by the Ministry of Education. Her next adventure was a three-year stint with the Peace Corps in El Salvador, where she served as a youth development volunteer and regional coordinator.

Inspired by her transformative experiences abroad, Jess decided to pursue her master’s degree in international education at SIT Graduate Institute. She is currently completing the practicum phase of her degree, working as the assistant field office director with Semester at Sea. As part of this practicum, Jess will set sail in spring 2015 with Semester At Sea’s “Around the World” semester-long voyage.

Kristi Syrdahl

Kristi Anne Syrdahl is a native of Brooklyn, New York. She graduated from New York University in 2000 with a BA in Latin American studies and economic development and from NYU again in 2008 with an MA in higher education and student services administration, with a concentration in international education. In addition, Kristi earned a certificate to teach English as a Second Language from The New School in 2005 and a certificate of completion for the summer peacebuilding institute at SIT Graduate Institute in 2013.

Kristi began her overseas travels as a child, visiting family in Scandinavia and later participating in high school exchange programs to Spain and Argentina. As an undergraduate, Kristi studied in the Czech Republic, and as a graduate student, she participated in short-term research trips to Puerto Rico and Israel. Kristi has taught English in Rome, Italy, and Wroclaw, Poland, and she current serves as director of the International Student Services Office at Elizabethtown College.

Kristi is married to Hernan, who comes from Peru, and they speak “Spanglish” at home. She loves all animals — cats and elephants in particular — is nuts about reading historical fiction, enjoys new languages and cultures, and is an avid cook and cheese lover.

My name is Dana Wilson and as a first time Experimenter, I would like to thank you for the wonderful experience you gave me this summer. This summer, I participated in one of your programs in southern Spain. Without a doubt, I can say it was the most enriching and cultural five weeks of my life. Your program's perfect mixture of letting the student observe the country and live like one of its occupants, gave me the once in a lifetime opportunity to really say that I've explored Spain. I've been able to visit Madrid and Barcelona, as have many other tourists, but I can also say that I got to live with a Spanish family- eat with them, talk to them, and feel like a part of them. I've had to catch the bus in the morning, go pick up something at the grocery store, or get ice cream with my host sister and her friends before we hung out in a royal garden- things that the average Spaniard does every day. I've also learned about the history and culture not just by looking at old monuments, but through experience. For example, going to a flamenco show that was kept alive through family tradition, or exploring an ancient Moorish castle. As a result of going deeper than the surface, I really came out of this journey with an education and admiration of Spain and its customs. Moreover, I've made amazing friends with both American and Spanish people. Within the program, there was such a unique blend of students like myself, and supportive group leaders who were always there to help. I can't fail to mention my fantastic host family, which welcomed me with open arms and within a matter of a week made a big foreign city full of strangers feel like my home. They showed a lot patience, teaching me about their way of life and showing interest in mine at home. I formed a great bond with them and have kept in touch with them since I have returned. I would have never imagined myself hiking in the Pyrenees, walking through the Olympic village, or having a picnic on a thousand year old palace ground. I've learned to open my mind towards other cultures and to be more willing and patient with new things. I've also thought a lot of returning to live in Spain for a period of time in the future. Mainly, this program has given me so much more than just something to do during the summer, but great memories in the past and the desire to create new ones.

Dana Wilson