Students learn Spanish during month-long trip abroad

York University students in Toledo, Spain
York University students in Toledo, Spain

Thirteen undergraduate students said “Adiós!” to York University’s Keele campus for four weeks this summer when they travelled to Ávila, Spain as part of a study abroad program.

York University students in Toledo, Spain
York University students in Toledo, Spain

The students enrolled in the SP2020 Intermediate Spanish Abroad course packed their bags and immersed themselves in the Spanish language and culture, using the palaces and city streets of central Spain as their textbooks and classrooms.

The Spanish program in the Department of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics, in collaboration with York International and the Catholic University at Ávila, offered the program. It ran for four weeks at the Keele campus, and four weeks of immersion in the medieval Spanish city.

Led by Professor Emirio Martínez-Osorio, the students stayed in the hometown of the 16th-century mystic Saint Teresa of Ávila, and studied the country’s culture and language in depth.

While abroad, students went on excursions to nearby cities like Segovia, Toledo, and Salamanca, and visited 12th-century mosques and synagogues. They also saw paintings by El Greco and took in the splendor of Spanish cathedrals.

Students visited the 2000 year old Roman aqueduct in Segovia, Spain
Students visited the 2,000-year-old Roman aqueduct in Segovia, Spain

“I would definitely recommend it to other students, as it has taught me so much about the Spanish language as well as culture,” said Hanna Kim, a third-year student double majoring in geography and education. “I believe it was an experience that I will never forget and was an absolutely amazing opportunity to learn a new language. Unlike learning in a regular classroom, this abroad course was able to teach me so much about the Spanish language in ways that I was able to retain the material being taught through the use of Spanish in daily interactions.”

The course combined the benefits of traditional classroom instruction with experiential learning opportunities and allowed students to explore topics as varied as the culinary diversity of Madrid, the Arab and Jewish heritage of Spain, and the development of alternative sources of energy in the Iberian Peninsula.

“Studying in an unconventional setting can be challenging, and in this way, SP2020 asks more of its students than your typical language course,” said Jessica Catalli, a fourth-year student majoring in English and professional writing. “However, it also offers so much more. The opportunity to practice your language skills is ever-present outside of the classroom.”

The trip abroad also presented the opportunity for students to connect with each other in a new environment.

Michelle Alfonso, a third-year psychology student, said celebrating her birthday in Spain was a memorable event.

“I celebrated my 20th birthday in Spain and all of the students got together to surprise me with cake during dinner one day. Even though I wasn’t with my family, they were my summer family and made my birthday a memorable one that I will always cherish,” she said.

For information about SP2020 for the summer of 2016, contact the co-ordinator of the Spanish program, Professor Michol Hoffman, at