Having just wrapped up my final exams for my two University of Granada classes, my semester has officially come to an end. I took Demographic Analysis and Social Structure of Spain, both in the university’s Sociology Department. I’ll lay out for you the good, the not so good, and everything in between to hopefully give you a better sense of whether taking University of Granada classes is right for you! So without further ado…
The first day of class I walked in and immediately was struck by how the students already knew each other and were friends. This is because at the University of Granada (or UGR) the students take mostly the same classes in the same order together. That means that by the time the students are in their third year of sociology classes they are all very close with each other. It was a surprise coming from the US system where often few people know each other on the first day of class. While at first I felt like this made it really hard to make connections in my classes, I found that over time I felt increasingly welcome and comfortable. I appreciated that it was the same group of students in each of my classes. One day, when one of our teachers didn’t show up for class, my classmates invited me to a nearby bar and I got to know them on a deeper level, which was wonderful.
Aside from meeting local students, it’s fun to go to a different part of the city for classes a few days a week. There are UGR buildings all around the city, instead of a traditional campus like many have back home. The Sociology building was just minutes from my residence hall.
The not so good:
My classes at the UGR were definitely tougher than IES Abroad classes. It really depends on the classes you take, but especially for Demographic Analysis I had to spend a lot of time studying. It was often hard for me to learn the material in the classroom, because the pace was too fast for me as a non-native speaker. I ended up learning a lot of the material from the textbook, which took time because I already read slowly in English, and I read extra slowly in Spanish.
You’ll have to take your finals early. I took my finals on the last two days of UGR classes. This firstly meant that I missed some of the lecture material because I took one of my finals before the last unit was taught. This also meant that not too long after my IES Abroad classes finished, it was time to start studying for round two of finals. While I would have loved to spend my last days in Granada soaking up the sun at the olive grove and wandering through my favorite neighborhoods, I still appreciated the extra days I got in Granada after most of my friends from the program had gone home.
The everything in between:
Taking classes at the UGR allows you to see firsthand the Spanish education system. This system is definitely more focused on tests and end of semester projects than I was used to. My class on demographic analysis was graded 100% on tests, with the final being worth 50% of your grade. Social Structure of Spain had a group presentation and essay that counted for half of the final grade. Whether this is good or bad will really depend on the person.
Also something to know about grades is that IES Abroad has a special grading scale for UGR classes. You need to get a 5 out of 10 to pass (UGR uses a 10 point scale where 5 is passing). Getting a 5 equates to a B- on your transcript, and with each point your grade increases. So 6 is a B, 7 is a B+, etc. This definitely took some of the pressure off when it came to taking difficult classes.
It can definitely be hard to follow along in classes taught in native-pace Spanish. On the flipside, it’s a huge opportunity to improve your listening skills. One of my professors had a particularly thick accent, and talked fast. At first I could only understand about 20% of what was said, with the rest flying right over my head. By the end of the semester the amount that I absorbed each class at least tripled. I became more comfortable participating as time went on, and I noticed a big improvement in my Spanish over the course of the semester.
While there are certainly ups and downs to taking classes at the University of Granada, if I could go back and do it all over again I wouldn’t change a thing. I loved getting the local student experience and seeing firsthand what college is like in another country. It was a great way to get credit towards my Sociology major while also improving my Spanish. At the end of the day, there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to whether someone should take UGR classes during their time studying in Granada. I would say, however, that if you are interested, go for it! Taking local classes is a unique, unforgettable experience to add to your time studying abroad.
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Jaden is a sophomore studying Sociology and Spanish at Tufts University. He loves the beach and lakes, hiking, biking, cooking, and playing video games.