Study Abroad Programs

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Notes and Recommendations

For Spanish majors, the best time to do an academic year study abroad program (fall, spring, or both semesters) is junior year, leaving the last year of registration to complete the advanced courses which can only be taken at the University of Iowa.

It is strongly recommend that students consult with the Study Abroad, as well as the departmental study abroad advisor, when planning their study abroad coursework.

UI-Sponsored Study Abroad Programs in Spanish

The University of Iowa directly sponsors a number of study abroad programs in Spanish-speaking countries, both during the regular academic year and during the summer. These programs primarily offer language skills courses and literature and culture courses, ranging from beginning to advanced.  Credit earned in these programs counts as University of Iowa resident credit (not transfer credit).

Spain: Academic year programs

The University of Iowa is directly affiliated with two sets of programs in Spain. Programs directed by the Council on International Education Exchange (CIEE) are located in the cities of Alcalá de Henares, Alicante, Barcelona Madrid, Palma de Mallorca and Seville. The University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC) has programs in the cities of Alicante, Bilbao, Madrid and San Sebastián.

The CIEE offerings in Alicante include three different levels: the Language in Context program, for students with 0 to 1 semester of previous Spanish language study, the Language and Culture program, for students with 2 to 3 semesters of previous Spanish language study, and the Liberal Arts Program, for students with at least 4 semesters of previous study in Spanish. All three programs offer courses in language skills as well as courses in Spanish literature, Spanish history and Spanish society; the content courses are taught in English or Spanish, depending on the program. The city of Alicante is located in southeastern Spain on the Mediterranean Sea. The program is smaller than the Seville program described below and students receive much individual attention. Classes are held at the Universidad de Alicante, which has a new, American-style campus.  Students may choose to live with host families or to live in a student residencia.

CIEE offers several programs in Barcelona, the capital of the Autonomous Community (Comunidad Autónoma) of Cataluña. The Business and Culture program is designed for students with less than 2 years previous college-level study in Spanish (0-3 semesters), and offers intensive language courses along with business courses taught in English. There are also a few courses on art and communication studies, some in English and some in Spanish. The Language and Culture program is for students with 1 to 3 previous semesters of Spanish, while the Liberal Arts program is for students who have had at least four semesters of Spanish (fall) or five semesters of Spanish (spring), and offers courses in literature, Spanish history and culture, and film.  Advanced students may also take regular classes in the Universitat Pompeu Fabra.  A special feature of this program is the opportunity to take beginning and intermediate language classes in Catalan. Students with at least 6 semesters of previous Spanish may participate in the Advanced Liberal Arts Program.

The Liberal Arts Program in Madrid, at the Universidad Carlos III, is exclusively for advanced students of Spanish; a minimum of 5 semesters of college-level Spanish is required, and 6 semesters are required to take the option of direct enrollment in regular university classes. The courses in this program are otherwise courses with other international students. Madrid, the capital city of Spain, is located at the geographic center of the country and is a large, cosmopolitan city of over 4 million inhabitants. Students live in apartments with Spanish hosts, who are professionals with a variety of backgrounds ranging from theater and film to business and engineering.

The Liberal Arts Program at the Universitat des Illes Balears in Palma de Mallorca has a unique focus on culture courses and on courses which examine globalization and international tourism, drawing on the central role which tourism plays in the Balearic Islands and the relatively high percentage of foreign residents (18%) in the city of Palma. As with other Liberal Arts program, the requirement is at least 5 semesters of college-level Spanish. Students live with host families.

The Liberal Arts Program is a semester-long or year-long program for students who have had at least five semesters of work in Spanish and offers a broad range of courses in literature, culture, history, art history, linguistics and social sciences. Advanced students in this program may also directly enroll in regular courses in the Universidad de Sevilla. This is a standard option for students in the Advanced Liberal Arts Program. A separate program, the Teaching Development Program, has core courses focusing on the teaching and acquisition of second languages, while elective courses in this program are chosen from the courses in the Liberal Arts Program.

Finally, the Business and Society Program is a specialized program for students in economics and business. Students take a number of courses on economical and financial issues in Spain and in the European Union, as well as having the option of taking advanced language skills courses. This program requires previous coursework in economics, accounting, finance, management or marketing, and most of the courses in the program do not apply to the Spanish major or minor. A separate program, International Business and Culture, is oriented to students who have 0 to 4 semesters of college-level Spanish.

Students in all of these programs generally live with host families; there is also the option of living in student residencias. Seville is located in southwestern Spain; it is the capital of the Autonomous Community (Comunidad Autónoma) of Andalucía and is an important historical and cultural center of Spain. The Universidad de Sevilla was established in the 16th century, and many of the classes in the CIEE programs meet in the historic Tabacalera or in the CIEE Study Center, located in a renovated palace built in 1725.

The programs directed by the USAC Program in Spain (University Studies Abroad Consortium) all offer four tracks, ranging from Track I for students with little or no previous knowledge of Spanish to Track IV, for students with six or more semesters of previous work in Spanish. Besides language skills courses, there are courses in Spanish literature, Spanish art history, the history of Spain and varying electives in the humanities and social sciences.  Each program site also has course offerings which are specific to that site.  Visit to learn more about USAC programs in Spain.

Two of the programs are in the Autonomous Community of Euskadi/País Vasco, on the Cantabrian coast of northern Spain: Bilbao, the capital of the province of Vizcaya, and San Sebastián, the capital of the province of Guipúzcoa.  Classes in the Bilbao program are actually held on the Leoia campus of the Universidad del País Vasco; Leoia is a “suburb” of Bilbao located near the estuary of the Nervión River. This program also offers courses in international business, taught in English. Classes in San Sebastián are offered on the San Sebastián campus of the Universidad del País Vasco. In both Bilbao and San Sebastián, students may take courses in Basque Cuisine and Basque Folkdance, and the San Sebastián program also offers beginning language classes in Basque.

The USAC program in Madrid offers classes at the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, a relatively new public university in Madrid. This program offers the possibility of a four-day field study trip to the region of Galicia in the fall, and to the Basque Country in the spring. The program in Alicante (in southeastern Spain, on the Mediterranean coast) holds its classes on the campus of the Universidad de Alicante and offers—in addition to the language, literature and culture classes—courses on tourism business management and planning; these are taught in English.

In all four programs students have the option of living in apartments with other students, including students from other European countries and Spanish students or of living with families. Students can study for a semester or for a year.

Spain: Summer programs

In the summer USAC directs month-long programs available at Alicante, Madrid and San Sebastián. Students can earn 4 credits (one month) or 8 credits (two months); the course offerings are similar to those of the regular academic year, although more limited in number.

  • CIEE offers summer programs in Alcalá de Henares, Alicante, Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca and Seville. These programs are generally 6 to 8 weeks in length and offer courses at all levels of Spanish proficiency. Students can typically earn from 6 to 9 semester hours in these programs.
  • In addition, the University of Iowa directly sponsors the Iowa Regents Summer Program in Valladolid, Spain, which includes five weeks of classes and one week of travel. Students should have completed at least four semesters of college-level Spanish (the equivalent of the General Education sequence) to participate in this program, and earn 7 credits in Spanish. Classes include grammar and conversation, culture and literature. Students live with host families in the city of Valladolid, located in the Meseta Central of Spain, approximately 120 miles northwest of Madrid
  • Cultures of Spain is a UI resident-credit summer course held in Madrid, Spain that offers participants an overview of the cultural landscape of Spain through an interdisciplinary approach to its history. The course consists mainly of field trips within Madrid and its neighboring regions and cities. This four-week course carries 3 semester hours of credit and is taught in English (no foreign language proficiency is required). “Cultures of Spain” is approved to fulfill the following for University of Iowa students: Values, Society and Diversity or Values and Culture (whichever is applicable) CLAS Core requirement; 2000-level course for Spanish major or minor (fulfills Culture requirement for Spanish major or Culture/ Literature/ Linguistics requirement for minor); and the study abroad requirement for the International Business Certificate. More information: 

Latin America: Academic year programs

USAC [University Studies Abroad Consortium] has five program sites in Latin America: Puebla, Mexico; Santiago, Chile, and Heredia San Ramón and Puntarenas, Costa Rica.  Like the USAC Programs in Spain, there are four tracks of language skills courses, ranging from Track I for students with little or no previous knowledge of Spanish to Track IV, for students with six or more semesters of previous work in Spanish. Other courses focus on Latin American history, culture and literature. The program in Puebla also includes courses in English on Mexican archaeology and on Mexican indigenous cultures, and offers the opportunity to participate in field studies in southern Mexico and the Yucatán (fall) or in central Mexico (spring). At the Costa Rica sites, there are also a number of courses on tropical biology and ecology.  In the Santiago program, students can participate in an optional 7-day field study to northern Chile in the fall and southern Chile in the spring. (Remember that the seasons in Chile are the reverse of those in the United States!)

In all of these programs, students can study for a semester or a year. Most students choose to live with families; however, there is also an option of living in a student residencia or of renting an apartment with other students.

There are also various CIEE programs in Latin American which are sponsored by the University of Iowa. Three of these programs are for students with at least 6 semesters of college-level Spanish or equivalent. In these programs, students may take advanced Spanish language classes and classes which focus on the history and culture of the country at the CIEE Study Centers; however, much of the course work in these programs is direct enrollment in regular university classes at the host universities. The CIEE program in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is hosted by the Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO); students may also take classes at the Universidad de Buenos Aires and at the Pontificia Universidad Católica Argentina. The focus of this program is coursework in the social sciences. Students may choose from two CIEE programs in Chile, one in the capital of Santiago and the other in the coastal city of Valparaíso. Classes in the Santiago program are held at both the Universidad de Chile and the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, and students may choose from a variety of departments (facultades), including history, linguistics and literature, international relations and political science, art, philosophy and others. Valparaíso classes are held at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, and include courses in business, education, history and literature. In all three programs students live with host families. In Buenos Aires, students also have the option of living in student residencias, with non-U.S. roommates.

CIEE also has Liberal Arts programs in the Dominican Republic (Santiago and Santo Domingo), Guanajuato, Mexico; and Lima, Perú for students with 4 to 5 semesters of previous course work in Spanish; in all of these programs students live with host families. The program in Santiago, Dominican Republic also has a service-learning option. Finally, students with 2 to 4 semesters of previous work in Spanish can improve their language skills in the Spanish Language program in Guanajuato, Mexico and in the Language and Culture Program in Lima, Perú.

Advanced students of Spanish may also study in Latin America through the International Student Exchange Program (ISEP); many UI students have studied through ISEP in Argentina, Mexico and Uruguay. More information and application materials can be obtained from the Office for Study Abroad.

Latin America: Summer programs

The University of Iowa is one of the participating institutions in the CIC Summer Program in Guanajuato, Mexico, which is primarily designed for students with six or more previous semesters of Spanish. The program lasts six weeks and students receive six to nine credits, choosing from courses such as Spanish American culture, Mexican history and literature, introduction to linguistics, and advanced composition and conversation. Guanajuato is a small, non-industrial city located 230 miles northwest of Mexico City in the mountains, and students live with host families.

Students may also study for one or two months in the USAC Programs in Costa Rica, Mexico and Chile (remember, it will be winter there!).   Students can earn 4 credits (one month) or 8 credits (two months).  Course offerings are similar to those available during the academic year, although limited in number.

General information on study abroad

Students may also choose to study abroad through a program sponsored by another U.S. university, in which case the credits earned will be transfer credits, subject to limits on how many transfer credits can apply toward the major or minor.  Information on both UI-sponsored programs and others is available at the Study Abroad office, 1111 University Capitol Centre, or by visiting their website.  At the web site or at the office, students can also get information on steps for planning study abroad and how to get financial aid for study abroad. Students may also consult with the Study Abroad Advisor for the Department of Spanish and Portuguese for advice on course planning for the study abroad experience.