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History comes alive with Spain study abroad program

November 06, 2012

The School of International Letters and Cultures’ study abroad programs are among the longest running and most prestigious at Arizona State University. Founded in 1981, and directed by knowledgeable, world-class faculty, the programs offer students the opportunity to experience and study international humanities and learn languages firsthand while earning credit toward their degree.

One of the most successful and esteemed programs, “Spanish Language, Literature and Culture in Seville, Spain,” was founded more than 25 years ago by the late Professor Miguel Flys. The program is currently directed by Spain native and ASU Spanish professor Carmen Urioste-Azcorra.

Along with learning the language, students in the program directly experience the cultural and historical richness of Spain: the three cultures/religions that shared the country for centuries (Jews, Christians and Muslims), the Flamenco dancing, the superb food, the museums and architecture, and most importantly, the people.

With a goal of total immersion in Spanish culture and language, the five-week program gives students the opportunity to live in and explore, with experienced guides, one of the most monumental and fascinating cities in Spain.

Within Seville’s large downtown are three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Catedral de Santa María de la Sede with its famous tower, La Giralda, the world-class Alcázar, a great Moorish and Catholic palace, and the General Archive of the Indies designed by Juan de Herrera and home to historic documents from the Spanish Empire. The city is also home to a very well conserved Jewish quarter, the Plaza de España, more than 15 museums, countless churches, and serves as guardian of traditional Andalusian culture and the elements that define Spain in popular imagery: flamenco, tapas, and bullfighting.

Students in the program are housed with carefully selected Seville host families who live within 20 minutes walking (or public transportation) distance from the facility where classes are held, and who provide them with three meals a day and internet access.

“The most memorable experience I had was the time I spent with my host family,” says Hilary Delph.  “My Spanish mom was amazing!  The long dinners that went until almost 11 o'clock at night because we just sat around the table and talked are something I will remember forever.”

“My host family was really great,” says Eric Gill. “They were accommodating and gave my roommate and me plenty of privacy. I enjoyed the food even though I have a strict diet. Never once was it a hassle for them.”

In addition to tours of Seville, the program includes three field trips: a one-day trip to Córdoba, a weekend trip to Granada, and a three-day trip to Madrid.

In Córdoba, students visit the renowned Cathedral-Mosque, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the historic Jewish Quarter and Córdoba Synagogue.

The weekend in Granada is full of activities: students visit La Alhambra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the Cathedral, pantheon of the Catholic Kings (Isabella and Ferdinand); and a Flamenco performance in a typical Sacromonte cave.

About the experience, Chad Sharrard, an undergraduate from the School of Sustainability, says, “Never did I think that at 20 years old I would be able to say I attended a local gypsy Flamenco show in the mountainside of the Andalusian town of Granada. The experience was so surreal and genuine…”

Finally, during the three-day trip to Madrid, students visit various Spanish cities along the way such as Toledo, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its Muslim and Jewish quarters, Segovia with its Roman aqueduct, and El Escorial, the historical residence of Phillip the Second, King of Spain.

In Madrid students visit the Royal Palace, the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family, and the Museo del Prado, which houses one of the world's finest collections of European art with works by Velázquez, Goya, Rubens, El Bosco, and many others.

“The most exciting part (of the program) was the connection between the classroom and the field trips we took,” says Delph. “It was incredible to learn about an artist or ruler from the 17th century, and then see the original work of art or the king and queens tombs. I have never had an academic experience like that and it really made the history and culture come alive.” 

Students in the program take a minimum of six credit hours in Spanish language and culture, consisting of two classes to be selected from Spanish Conversation and Composition (SPA 313 and SPA 314), Introduction to Hispanic Literature (SPA 325), Spanish Literature (SPA 425), and Spanish Civilization (SPA 473). Individualized instruction is also offered in the program (SPA 499).

The “Spanish Language, Literature and Culture in Seville, Spain” program, which is open to all students who have completed five college-level semesters of Spanish and have a 2.0 GPA or better, is a great opportunity for students to explore Spain while gaining a firm grasp of a language that is sure to be beneficial to their future. 

Spoken in 21 countries with over 500 million speakers worldwide, Spanish is the second most studied language in the world.  In our globalized business environment along with the fact that Hispanics will account for 29 percent of the U.S. population by 2050, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, Spanish language learning has even broader cultural and commercial significance. In fact, two-thirds of world executives speak at least two languages and the average pay, per hour, of bilingual professionals is nearly 15 percent higher than of their single-language counterparts.

About the program in general Gill says, “Everything was just simply perfect for me. It was hands-down one of the best experiences of my life. I highly recommend it.”

Sharrard says, “traveling to Sevilla, Spain over the summer of 2012 with fellow ASU students has forever changed my life.”

For more information about the “Spanish Language, Literature and Culture in Seville, Spain” study abroad program contact Professor Urioste at

Applications accepted through the ASU Study Abroad Office.

The School of International Letters and Cultures is an academic unit of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.