IES Abroad (at the UGR)

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Carmen Miller
April 20, 2024

One of the cool things about the IES Abroad Granada program is that, in addition to IES-taught courses, you have the opportunity to take classes at the University of Granada. During the class registration period, we received a brochure with a list of UGR classes recommended by IES Abroad staff and previous students. While you generally aren’t limited to the classes in the brochure, the upside of the recommended classes is that the professors who teach them are willing to have IES Abroad students in their class. IES Abroad does have a language requirement to take UGR courses taught in Spanish, and even though I’ve taken some psych classes before having none of the psych vocabulary in Spanish made the first few weeks of class quite challenging – a lot of the time I could figure words out from context, but I also had to make liberal use of a dictionary.

Based on which of the classes that fit into my IES Abroad class schedule seemed interesting, I picked a Social Psychology class in the Sociology program to take as one of my electives this semester. In addition to my interest in the course material, it has been really cool to see up close the ways in which the Spanish university system is different from my experience at college in the US.

My UGR class meets on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 6pm to 8pm, and one big difference I noticed is the way the class is run in general. Most of my Haverford classes have mandatory attendance, and when a class meets twice a week the format is usually pretty similar on both days. For my UGR class, Wednesday classes are a traditional lecture, but attendance isn’t mandatory and lots of students don’t come to lecture. On Thursdays, we have “prácticas,” which usually take about an hour. These practical sessions consist of activities and discussions related to what we’ve been learning in class – for example, last week we had a questionnaire and then a discussion about cognitive dissonance to go with our unit on cognitive processing. I really enjoy these sessions – they’re an interesting supplement to the lectures and it’s really fun to get to hear everyone else’s viewpoints. 

It is common at the UGR (like at most Spanish public universities) to have really big classes, so with only about 20 students my Social Psych class is very small by UGR standards. I’m used to meeting new people in each class I take, so I was surprised to find that the UGR students have all their classes with the same cohort throughout their program. The students in this class have been together for a few semesters now, so they have pretty established friend groups which made getting to know the UGR students challenging. I have become friends with some of the international students in the class, including some ERASMUS students (a European study abroad program) and I’m actually working on a group project with some of them. 

Another big difference between the UGR and my experience at a US college is the grading. Spanish grading is on a scale of 1-10, with a 5 as the minimum passing grade. For my Social Psych class, 40% of the final grade is based on the activities during the prácticas, which mainly consists of a semester-long group project where we read a study, present it to the class, and make an educational video about it. The other 60% is based on the final exam – there’s no midterm, essays, or any other graded work. The weight on the final means that it’s really important to keep reviewing material from earlier in the semester, and we have periodic Kahoots in class to go over older material. The importance of the final is definitely stressful, especially since I’ll need to teach myself some of the material because I’m taking the exam early in order to get back to the US in time for my summer job (IES Abroad students taking UGR classes can stay in their housing until their last UGR exam). 

Overall, I think taking a class at the UGR is a really great way to add to my study abroad experience. Seeing the differences between the American and Spanish university systems has been interesting, and I’ve really enjoyed the challenge of studying a somewhat familiar subject in a language I’ve never studied it in. My UGR class has been a great cultural immersion experience, and meeting other international students who come from different university systems and comparing notes has also been really interesting. 

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Carmen Miller

I’m a Comparative Literature major at Haverford College with an interest in how cultures and stories interact with each other. I love baking, writing, hiking, and exploring new places. And I can never resist the siren song of a good library!

2024 Spring
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