Taking Spanish Midterms Abroad: It’s Just About As Difficult As You Think

Audrey Glas
October 27, 2021

I just finished taking midterms for a full load of courses completely in Spanish. Taking midterms abroad is a completely different experience from taking midterms at my home institution. Here, the exams are in topics I’m not used to, in another language, in another country, and during a pandemic.

Midterm exams have been particularly stressful because my abroad grades count towards my GPA back at my home institution and my peers have a different experience. Most of my classmates have a pass/fail policy with their home institutions where as long as they pass the class here, the credits will transfer without a particular grade. But my school mandates that the grades follow us home. This makes it a more stressful experience that doesn’t allow us to explore and have as much experiential learning. However, the professors are very reasonable and acknowledge the difficult of learning new things in a different language than we are used to.

Exams here are extra difficult not only because they are not in my first language, but also because the style of exams is different than what I’m used to in the US. I’ve gotten used to personal research essays on topics I’m interested in becoming my midterm and final exams. In Spain, I’ve had to remember a lot more specific information as I transition back into exams where I have to recall smaller details to answer multiple choice questions, identify sculptures and buildings, and respond to essay questions that expect a particular result.

Until I came to Spain, I had never even considered taking an architecture course and it's far from anything related to my majors (Political Science and Spanish). Anyone else know what a bóveda is? Because I definitely didn’t think I would ever know, that is until I started hearing about bóvedas every day in my architecture class. If you’re in the majority of people that don’t know what it is, a bóveda it’s a type of architectural feature with some stuff sticking out of the ceiling. It’s hard to explain when I’m not super clear on a definition in English, I just know what it looks like. It’s super interesting to consider how I’m learning things in Spanish that I’ve never learned before so I don’t know it in English—and I probably never will. If I ever return here with my family, I can’t really show off what I’ve learned about architecture because I only know the words in Spanish and my family only speaks English. This really makes me feel like I’m learning things in another language and improving my Spanish, and it finally feels real that I'm here: in Spain.

As far as I can tell, midterms went pretty well despite the challenges they brought, but now I can say that I’ve survived my first exam season in Spain, and that I’m learning a lot of things for the first time in another language.

Audrey Glas

<p>I am a student at Gettysburg College '22 studying Political Science, Spanish, and Peace and Justice Studies. Studying abroad in the Madrid - Language and Area Studies Program Fall 2021 is my first real experience abroad and I am excited to engage with the cultural experience I will have access to exploring Spain! In my free time I enjoy baking, cooking, listening to every genre of music, hiking, and other outside activities. I'm so excited to take a break from my small historical battlefield college town and move to a big capital city in a new country with a whole different history!</p>

2021 Fall
Home University:
Gettysburg College
Harrisburg, PA
Political Science
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