University of California, Riverside

UCR Study Abroad - UCR Summer Abroad Program

2011 Madrid, Spain

An Encounter with Spain - Past & Present

Spain, a country of tremendous cultural resources, a crossroads of civilizations, and a contributor of consequence in all the arts, in literature, and ideas.

  • General Program Information

    Spend five weeks exploring the cultural resources of Madrid's unique cluster of great museums; see Velázquez's masterpiece "Las Meninas" in the Prado and Picasso's powerful "Guernica" in the Reina Sofia. The group will move outward from the city via weekly excursions and independent travel to see a very different Spain of castles, palaces, cathedrals, and surprising natural beauty. Students will learn about student life in Spain by living in a the Colegio Mayor Santo Tomas de Aquino. The program will be directed and led by Dr. James Parr, UCR Professor of Spanish Literature. Participants in this program must be proficient in Spanish. Students will earn 8 units of UC credit by successfully completing two 4-unit courses.

    Visit three of the great museums of Europe, within easy walking distance of one another. Independently, take in theater productions, films, and take trips on weekends on high-speed trains to visit other cities of interest, such as Sevilla and Barcelona. Weekly excursions are planned for the group (by chartered bus) to Toledo, a city of unending fascination; to Segovia, with its magnificent Alcázar, and then to a summer palace of the Bourbons at nearby La Granja; to the unique palace built by Philip II, El Escorial, from which he ran the Spanish empire; to Ávila, the city of Santa Teresa, and Salamanca, with its great plaza mayor and university. Students will be housed, with meals included, in the Colegio Mayor Santo Tomás de Aquino on the campus of the Universidad Complutense, along with the director and his wife.

    The classroom will seldom have four walls but will be all of Madrid and as much of the outlying area as time permits students to visit and study. Travel Study participants are more likely to meet in the Prado or the Reina Sofía or the Palacio Real-or in Toledo or Segovia-than in a traditional classroom.

    An Encounter with Spain, Past and Present is a five-week course which requires Spanish language proficiency in order to participate.

  • Accommodations in Madrid

    The Colegio Mayor is situated in Ciudad Universitaria in the CIty of Madrid, Spain at Calle Leonardo Prieto Castro, 6. It is easily accessible by metro, taxi, or bus from the center of the city and airport. Special thanks to Director Javier Fuertes and his staff for providing wonderful accommodations to the UCR Summer Study Abroad program and for helping to organize some of the excursions, providing classroom space, as well as other important amenities that add comfort to the participants' stay.

    Arrangements have been made for students to stay at the Colegio Mayor (C.M. Aquinas) during the 2011 summer term. Students will be given dates to plan their arrival and departure. The program fee includes three on-site meals each day during time of residence at the C.M. Aquinas.

    Each student will have their own dorm room (shared bath.) You may visit the C.M. Aquinas website by clicking below the picture. The college amenities include:

    * swimming pool on premises
    * tennis courts
    * snack bar
    * beautifully landscaped grounds and common areas
    * air-conditioned classrooms
    * free high-speed Internet access available in all rooms
    * laundry facilities available on site

  • Courses & Syllabus

    An Encounter with Spain, Past and Present consists of two undergraduate courses, Spanish 103 and Spanish 190, worth four units each. Graduate students may enroll in two courses, Spanish 290 and Spanish 291, worth four units each.  Course Description

    Spanish Culture and Civilization in Spain (4 units) SPN 103:

    Spanish culture and civilization from the earliest times to the present. This is the classroom component of the program. We alternate among three air-conditioned multi-purpose classrooms at the colegio mayor on MWF from 9-1. Textbook assignments are supplemented by lectures, handouts, videos on history and literature, occasional guest lectures, and films chosen to illustrate key aspects of the topic under consideration as well as the work of outstanding directors (e.g., Buñuel, Saura, Almodóvar). At the end of the course, there are student reports on leading authors, artists, directors, or historical figures. There are opportunities for supplementary visits to zarzuela and flamenco performances, festivals, and other cultural activities, at each student’s discretion.

    Special Studies (4 units) SPN 190:

    This course has three components. One is the daily journal that each student maintains, which is handed in for comments and assessment once a week. Students are graded on improvement in grammar and orthography based on where they began, not on an absolute scale.

    Second are the excursions. On Tuesdays we go as a group, by metro, to major museums or on walking tours of other points of cultural interest in Madrid. This is a half-day excursion. On Thursdays, we go for a full day to nearby cities or other sites that have played a significant role in Spanish history.

    Third are individual reports to the director and his assistant on visits to smaller museums or other sites of cultural relevance in Madrid. Graduate students will enroll in Directed Studies, SPN 290 (4 units) and Individual Studies in Coordinated Areas, SPN 291 (4 units).

  • Faculty Letter

    An Encounter with Spain - Past & Present

    Dear Prospective Student:

    My wife Patricia and I cordially invite you to join us for an unforgettable five weeks in Madrid this summer. This will be our sixth consecutive summer session. We build on each previous session in attempting to make the current version the best yet.

    Participants and faculty are housed in a self-sufficient colegio mayor on the campus of the main university in Madrid, the Complutense. We take meals together in the light and airy dining room, with an excellent view of the extensive and well-manicured grounds. The colegio is in a very quiet area, so you are not aware of being in a large city. Bus and metro stops are within easy walking distance. The staff of the colegio is very congenial and accommodating. They will make you feel very much a part of their world.

    On site are classrooms, a modest library, a dedicated study room, a computer room, and other amenities such as tennis courts, a soccer field, swimming pool, a gym, a lounge and snack bar. There is a large and inviting veranda adjacent to the snack bar, overlooking the grounds and recreational facilities. You will have a private room (although some might have to double up for the first few days), equipped with high-speed internet connection. Wi-fi is available in the common areas. You are urged to bring a laptop if you have one, not just for e-mail and Skype but also to facilitate completion of some assignments.

    We provide a library card granting access to the excellent holdings at the International Institute (C/ Miguel Ángel, 8), which is easily accessible by bus or metro. Graduate students will also be able to use one of the most important libraries in Spain, the Biblioteca Nacional. Undergraduates will enroll in SPN 103, a culture and civilization course, unique to the summer program in Spain, and SPN 190. Both receive letter grades. Graduate students will enroll in SPN 290 and 291, both of which are graded S/NC. SPN 290 and 291 can be custom-tailored to individual needs and interests.

    Our normal routine for each week is to have lectures, discussions, and view audio-visual materials at the colegio on MWF. Tuesdays are set aside for excursions within the city, mainly to major museums and other sites of cultural and historical interest. Thursdays are for excursions by chartered bus to places outside Madrid, such as the Escorial, Toledo and Aranjuez, Segovia and La Granja, Ávila and Salamanca. These visits complement the course work and are places you will never forget.

    There is sufficient unstructured time for visits to the numerous smaller museums in the city, to enjoy a play, or movie, to go shopping, take in a soccer match or bullfight, and, on weekends, to take short trips to other nearby sites of interest, for instance Cuenca or Alcalá de Henares, or to experience the huge Sunday-morning flea market in Madrid known as the Rastro. Night-life in Madrid is legendary, but students in the program are expected to indulge only on weekends. Behavior that reflects well on UCR is expected at all times, and academic standards must be maintained, but Patricia and I will be available to you 24/7 and will go out of our way to accommodate your special needs, to give you personal and travel advice on request, and make these five weeks a time you will remember with pleasure for a lifetime.

    Space is limited. We can accommodate no more than twenty participants, so please make your reservation in a timely manner. If you do not have a passport, be sure to begin the process now, since it takes several weeks to get one. We will provide information once you have enrolled about cell phone options in Spain, flight arrangements, saving money on public transportation in Madrid, exchanging dollars for euros, health precautions, insurance, and other matters of possible interest or concern. Most participants now communicate with family and friends via Skype.

    We are, of course, happy to respond to any questions you may have now about the academic program or life at the colegio mayor. You can reach me at any time at, while Patricia, my wife, is available at Your main source of information about the necessary steps to be taken in preparing for this unique experience is, however, Mely Fitzgerald in Summer Sessions ( An information session will be announced soon on the web page.

    Hoping to speak with you personally very soon,

    James A. Parr

    Distinguished Professor of Hispanic Studies, UCR

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University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

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Education Abroad
0321 Surge Building

Tel: (951) 827-4113