SIHS Program in Leon, Spain: A Perfect Way to See the Country and Improve Spanish Past Review

By (Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology, 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?
I gained a new understanding of what life is like in Spain in various regions because we traveled around so much. I love the Spanish language and culture and am happy to be doing Spanish as a secondary field.

Personal Information

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 workload for the program was moderate and the grading system was fair, based off of weekly assignments, participation, and a final exam. The teaching style for my art and architecture class was lecture-based and the teaching style for my Spanish grammar and composition class was more interactive and based around learning activities in which everyone participated. In all, the course structure and composition was similar to those at my host university.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The program director and his wife were with us every step of the way through the program and we saw them every day at school as well. The director is a native of Spain and works for Stanford University in Madrid. The size of the program was 40 students. I thought it was a very good size and all of my expectations for the program were met in full.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I lived in a sizable apartment with my host senora only about 5 mins walking south of the Centro de Idiomas in Leon. It was a perfectly safe neighborhood close to the river. My host senora was incredibly nurturing and helped me with everything I asked of her. She provided me with absolutely everything I needed during my stay. I love her! The nightlife in the city was about a 20 min walk away. Everything in Leon is pretty close proximity and definitely within walking distance.

* Food:

There is so much food in Spain. If you're willing to pay, you'll get excellent food. If you want to pay a little, you can still have good meals.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Everything was so memorable. We saw so many different regions of the country. We organized our own trip to Pamplona for the Running of the Bulls which I will remember for my entire life. It's really hard to pick out particular other things because everything was so memorable.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

Leon is a very safe city. It doesn't suffer from the same dangers of pick-pocketing and petty crime as there is in larger Spanish cities. I never felt unsafe, even when walking alone late at night through the streets of the city. Healthcare was made available to us in the form of health insurance during the time we were there. Doctors were readily available to see ailing students in the program. There are no prevalent health issues in Spain nor any necessary vaccinations in order to travel there.

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 really only spent money on the occasional snack/drink, going for tapas several times a week, and then going to bars on the weekends. Everything was fairly inexpensive. I probably only spent 20 to 30 euros a week if that.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? N/A


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Advanced
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Spanish 90tv
If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Language acquisition improvement?

Everyone. We were required to speak only Spanish. There was a no English rule in the program. I used Spanish to speak to my peers, my professors, my program director, my host family, my local friends, and in everyday interactions.

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?
  • Traveling
  • Great experiences with friends and host family
  • Great classes and professors
* What could be improved?
  • Nothing!
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Do it! If you're committed to really improving your Spanish in a short amount of time, take part in this program. It is such a great life experience. I loved it.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Spanish Syntax, Conversation and Composition

Course Department: Spanish 321
Instructor: Laura Llanos Casado
Instruction Language: Spanish
Comments: Yes, this course was challenging. We learned a lot of the intricacies of the Spanish language and colloquialisms relevant to the area of Spain we were in. The teacher was definitely knowledgeable and well-prepared for every class. She really made everyone in the class participate throughout the class. Therefore, I probably participated more often than in my Harvard Spanish class, since the professors here won't call on you and make you participate if you choose not to, although we are graded on participation.
Credit Transfer Issues: I am in the process of applying for credit now.
Course Name/Rating:

Spanish Art from Altamira to Picasso

Course Department: Spanish 241
Instructor: Isidro Yebra Prada
Instruction Language: Spanish
Comments: This course was also great. Isidro is unbelievably knowledgable about Spanish art and architecture throughout history. The course was very fast paced but we learned about the entire history of art in Spain from the Neolithic era through modernism and cubism. What was really great was that through the program, we traveled to various cities throughout Spain and got to see a lot of the famous buildings and pieces of artwork that we learned about in class. It was truly incredible. Because it was a lecture-based class, I didn't participate veyr much but Isidro was always open to questions.
Credit Transfer Issues: