Incredible Cultural Immersion in Leon, Spain Past Review

By (Social Studies, Harvard University) for

Summer Institute of Hispanic Studies (SIHS): Leon - Summer Institute of Hispanic Studies

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Absolutely. I learned so much about the culture and my spanish definitely improved. I want to continue traveling and studying abroad this summer and next year.

Personal Information

If you took classes at multiple universities, list those universities here: University of Leon
How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 2 weeks - 1 month

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The classes were amazing. The workload was relatively light, as it was focused on immersion and experiential learning. The professors were AMAZING and some of my best friends. The grading is a little different and I wasn't sure exactly what we were being graded on, but my university only accepts pass/fail for study abroad so it wasn't a concern. I highly recommend the art history class, as I learned so much and really understand what makes "good art" good and how it varies from other art/architecture during that time. It definitely was not just memorizing paintings and buildings, but put the art and architecture we saw throughout the trip in historical context.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Great classes, a little too large but the other students were great, great opportunities to travel and see other places. My only criticism is that I wish there was more planning and assistance for the internship portion of the program. I highly recommend SIHS, but I would suggest either finding your own internship in a major city outside of SIHS or traveling after the main program ends instead. The internship portion was definitely not worth it.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I LOVED my host family during the main portion of the program. Everything is within walking distance of the school, nightlife, etc... and we didn't need anything (they cooked for us and did our laundry). The family was amazing and treated me like family. I learned so much from them about the culture and spanish people.

* Food:

I stayed with 2 different families (1 for the main part of the program and another for the internship part). The first family served delicious food and I loved everything the mother made. The second family cooked a lot more fried food and a lot of the same foods over again, which I didn't like as much.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Met so many Spanish people at bars, etc... saw amazing sights throughout the country and just had an absolutely incredible experience. We did see a lot of churches, so be ready for that...

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

I didn't have any problems. Health insurance was included in the program. I didn't have to get any special vaccines.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? I spent about $2000 in addition to tuition (paid for by Harvard) and flight (about $1200). That number also includes a weekend in Barcelona, a couple small trips during the internship, and a week in Paris. You can get away with spending just a couple hundred if you don't do any additional traveling, and even less if you don't drink.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Be careful about drinks in bars. It's much cheaper to get a bottle of wine in a grocery store. You can also usually get discounts if you order as a group or make friends with the bartender.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Intermediate
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Spanish 40
If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Language acquisition improvement?

We took a language pledge, though people did speak English on occasion (the most common was a sort of spanglish mix). I had to speak only Spanish at home and in class, however.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
  • Hotel
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Home stay
  • art history class
  • Traveling
* What could be improved?
  • internship portion
  • other students could speak spanish more
  • better organized before the program and more information beforehand
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Go into the program ready to take risks and really immerse yourself in the culture. Don't go if you'll just want to eat McDonalds and speak English. If you put the effort into it, you will have an unbelievable experience you will remember for the rest of your life.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Advanced Spanish

Course Department:
Instructor: Maria Jose
Instruction Language: Spanish
Comments: Great class. I learned a lot of nuances of the spanish language and Maria Jose is absolutely hilarious and really passionate. Highly recommended.
Credit Transfer Issues: Same as above.
Course Name/Rating:

Spanish Art History

Course Department:
Instructor: Isidro Yerba
Instruction Language: Spanish
Comments: AMAZING class. I highly recommend it. Isidro knows literally EVERYTHING and is a great teacher. See comments above.
Credit Transfer Issues: It was complicated to get citation credit. Make sure you get copies of the syllabi and final exams before you leave Spain because it is a hassle to get them afterwards and you need them for citation credit.