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Ten Elements that Make A Study Abroad Program Amazing

If you're going to Spain, you owe it to yourself to come back with some great memories and new friends. The most important parts of planning are choosing a program and choosing a city. After you've thought about how long to stay and what to look for, make sure that your program has the following ten features and you'll have a wonderful time.

  1. A critical mass of students -- Twenty or more is best, and there's nothing wrong with a school of 60. It's also best if a good number of these students are not living with families so that they'll have plenty of time to hang out.
  2. Young fellow students -- Make sure that the school attracts adventurous young people to spice up the nights. There's nothing wrong with an older set, but a healthy group of twenty-somethings will liven the atmosphere.
  3. Multi-national students -- Other Europeans will introduce you to the side of Europe you've always wanted to experience, and much more.
  4. A few key local members of the community -- Be they teachers or host families, every program needs a few locals who are in touch with their city's social scene.
  5. A great program director -- Your program director should want you to experience the culture of Spain and should take an active role in connecting students with each other and the greater community.
  6. A bar or café -- If the students have a particular hang-out spot in town that everyone goes to, that's a great sign that there is a strong community centered around the school.
  7. Student housing in a fun part of town -- Where you live will dictate what you do, so make sure that you're living near the beach, the nightlife or whatever it is that you're excited about experiencing. Avoid suburbs or private residential communities if you can help it, no matter how "nice" the school tells you they are.
  8. School-sponsored weekend trips -- A weekend trip with your classmates never fails to promote both bonding and debauchery. Going to visit nearby areas with a group is always more fun than solo adventures.
  9. A proper banquet -- A fun school will organize some sort of dinner for the students, which is a great way to figure out what Spanish food is worth eating regularly (like the cured ham!).
  10. The weather -- If it's too hot, humid, cloudy, or cold, the Spaniards just won't be as active, or they'll be off vacationing in some more pleasant part of the country. Make sure you go when it's pleasant to enjoy the culture at its peak. Seasons vary slightly by city, but spring is always your best bet.

If you haven't picked a city yet, start reading through our city guide.

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