Most students who study abroad share common goals. We want to discover a new culture. We want to travel to a new destination. Sometimes, we also want to learn a new language. The standard sixteen weeks that Arcadia in Granada offers students provides enough time to achieve all these goals and more; however, I’m not your standard student. I wanted more. After a quick overview of the Arcadia in Granada site, I discovered the optional pre-session course which allows students to participate in a three-week intensive Spanish course. I didn’t need to think too hard and I decided to apply for the pre-session course during my application for Arcadia in Granada. After about a month and a half of living in Granada, I’m so glad I chose the pre-session course. In fact, I think that any student applying for the Arcadia in Granada program should consider the pre-session course.
If you’re anything like me (or my mom), then the first sentence you notice while reading about the optional pre-session course on the Arcadia in Granada website reads, “This course takes place prior to the start of the regular semester, and involves additional tuition and housing fees.” For many students, including myself, the “additional tuition and housing fees” which totals $1,750 exceeds the amount of money you can afford to pay in addition to regular tuition and fees. However, do not get discouraged. Your financial aid department may cover this expense if you’re receiving academic credit from your host institution. I would recommend talking to both a financial aid advisor and an academic advisor to find out if you can get this expense covered by financial aid. Another option is to seek outside scholarships, or better yet, apply through Arcadia University for one of their internal scholarships! Whichever option (or combination of options) you choose can help overcome the financial obstacle associated with the pre-session course. After months of talking to various departments at my host intuition, I combined scholarships and grants to cover my pre-session fees. Still, as a pre-session participant, I can definitely say that the additional tuition and housing fees do not come close to the valuing the pre-session experience.
At first, I doubted how much Spanish I could learn in three weeks. I began at a high Beginner level of Spanish, and at the end of the pre-session course, I ended with a low Intermediate level of Spanish. Outside of all the technical terms, I could sense a difference in my conversational Spanish skills, and I had one enlightening breakthrough about the difference between the imperfect and preterit past tenses in Spanish. The structure of the pre-session course puts every student on track to advance at least one Spanish level. You take two classes, Spanish Grammar, and Spanish Speaking and Writing, each lasts two hours a day, and you take both classes back-to-back Monday through Friday. While that schedule sounds tortuous, the hardest part involves waking up at seven in the morning (it only lasts three weeks). The professors make the classes fun and engaging and they schedule a fifteen-minute break in between the four-hour block of classes. The professors ensure that everyone in the class speaks Spanish every day and despite your language level, they teach the classes entirely in Spanish. This complete language immersion helped me feel more confident speaking and understanding Spanish. Additionally, the pre-session course helped me live my everyday life in Spain because you have no choice but to speak Spanish while living in Granada.
Besides providing me the opportunity to speak my American-accented Spanish, the pre-session course also gave me the chance to discover Granada. Since I had a three-week head start to the semester, I had adequate time to settle into my new home. I went to the popular phone company, Orange, and purchased a pre-paid card (now I have a cool Spanish number to contact locals). I joined a local gym, Yo10 (pronounced yo-diez here in Spain). I mastered the metro system and learned how to get to the Sierra Nevada shopping mall. I discovered about ten different ways to get to and from class from my homestay. Oh, and I also experienced the Spanish healthcare system (but that’s a story for another day or blog post). As I look back, I am amazed by how much I accomplished in three short weeks, and while I can not call myself a local, I am comfortable calling myself a Granada adoptee.
In case you needed yet another reason to leave your home country to study abroad in Spain, then consider the pre-session course your avenue for getting started early. In the United States, they say, “The early bird gets the worm,” but as a Granada adoptee I say, “The early bird gets to enjoy the Spanish siesta.”