Juliana Mesa with Advanced Language and Culture - Spain students in front of the Colegio Mayor Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe where the IES Madrid Center and IES classrooms are located

Going through my site visit checklist, I felt the nervousness and excitement that comes with traveling abroad. My first destination during my site visit was Madrid, where I would be visiting the onsite provider and students participating in the Advanced Language and Culture IES program. Being a small town girl, I always feel awkward going to big cities because I am concerned about getting lost or overwhelmed by the noise and hecticness. To my surprise, Madrid was incredibly welcoming and easy to navigate. Before heading over to the meeting spot with Chloe Collon, one of the CGIS students in the semester-long program, I took a nice walk at Parque del Oeste, which is right across from the IES Abroad Center and the campus of the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. It was a great way to unwind as I was fighting the jetlag.

Then I headed over to Panaría where Chloe and I met to enjoy a nice batido as we chatted about her time in Madrid. I really enjoyed listening to Chloe's insightful perspective on studying abroad and how she's truly taken advantage of her experience. Her hard work and discipline are reflected in her outstanding academic performance as well as her understanding of being a global citizen. You may check out my interview with Chloe by going to this link.

The next day, I got to experience firsthand how it feels to be a student at IES abroad Madrid. I visited the Colegio Mayor Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe where the IES Madrid center (i.e., staff offices and classrooms), as well as one of the residence halls of this program, are located. Students also have the option of living in apartments with other IES students for a more independent experience. In this program, students get to challenge themselves (and their Spanish) by taking at least one course at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Spain. You will definitely find the reward of studying with other Spanish and international students.

If you are like me and a smaller city sounds like your go-to for a full semester abroad, CGIS also offers the Advanced Language and Culture program in Granada. But don’t get me wrong, small does not mean less in Granada! This historical city has all the necessary ingredients to fall in love with studying abroad. This was evident in the happy faces of the Winter 2023 cohort who together with the IES on-site staff gave me a tour of the city, the IES center and even their homes (homestay and residence halls). To find out more about their semester abroad, check out this interview with four of the Granada students. We had a very enjoyable conversation over coffee and tapas right outside the IES center before their class with U-M faculty member, Professor Juli Highfill.

All I have to say is that our semester-long customized program in Granada has the perfect combination of dynamic coursework, interesting cultural activities and one in a lifetime field trips (e.g., Morocco). The on-site staff (i.e., IES Abroad Granada) and your peers will feel like family. In other words, Granada will win your heart over (at least, it won mine!).

Juliana Mesa (second from left) smiling with CEA CAPA faculty in Granada, Spain

If you are excited to start your experience abroad in Granada but you are a bit new to Spanish, you do not need to wait that long to explore this southern city in Spain. CGIS offers a Spanish 230 program every summer in Granada as well as two other locations in Latin America (i.e., Buenos Aires, Argentina and San Jose Costa Rica). In Spanish 230 in Granada, you get to complete your third and fourth semesters of the LSA language requirements while getting to visit the Alhambra, walk around the Albayzin and try out some tapas. By the way, tapas in Granada are free!! You just need to purchase a beverage (e.g., water, soda, coffee). and you are all set. All in all, I would say this Spanish program is a win-win.

While in Spain, I also visited the providers of our two Advanced Spanish summer programs. You can opt between a traditional Spanish town in the heart of the Galician region to a laid back Mediterranean city in Valencia. Students who are interested in earning a dual degree in Spanish and in art, history, or anthropology may hit the jackpot in Santiago de Compostela. Your local professors will be world renowned researchers in the history of El Camino de Santiago, but your ultimate guide on this trip will be Santiago de Compostela itself.

In the other corner of Spain, Alicante also has some cultural landmarks to offer as well as a modern setting and a beautiful, spacious campus at the University of Alicante. Picture yourself reading a book and completing your course assignments at the beach. Homework doesn’t sound too bad, don’t you think?

While abroad on our summer and semester-long programs, you will have the support of our providers who have years of experience in the field of international education and are very committed to your professional and personal development. I am very grateful to each and one of them for welcoming me into their town and giving me a sneak peek of how our programs work on site. Some programs also offer you the opportunity to stay with a host family, which is the best way to experience living like a local. Of all the families that I met on my visit, one piece of advice was unequivocal: students should immerse themselves in the culture and engage in conversation with their host family to take full advantage of their time abroad.

As for my advice to students reading this blog, I invite you to take the opportunity to travel the world while in college. While studying abroad, you get to explore a new city, culture, food, education system, and most importantly, yourself. Once you start searching for a program, you give your life a new course into the unexpected. Open your mind to learning new things and set your sights on new adventures abroad. As we say at CGIS, “get to know the world before you change it.”

*Schedule an appointment with Juliana to talk about the Spanish language programs in Spain and Latin America.