Overview of Curricular Options

Academics: Overview of Curricular Options

Curricular option at a glance
Type of Program Type of courses Credits per course
Courses with American students Curso de Estudios Hispánicos (CEH)  Courses in the Humanities and Social Sciences with Americans              6  
Direct-enrollment options (courses with Spanish students) Asignaturas de grado Undergraduate courses for regular Spanish university students (at both the UC3M and the UCM)              6  
Cursos de Humanidades (CH) General education partial-credit courses for regular UC3M students             2-3  

VWM students may take regular Spanish university courses, asignaturas de grado, at either the Universidad Carlos III (UC3M) or the Universidad Complutense de Madrid (UCM). Thanks to a long-standing agreement between Wesleyan and the UCM (the Complutense), VWM students may enroll in courses at the UCM in fields not offered at the UC3M (the Carlos III). In the past, program participants have used this option to take courses especially in the Humanities (Art History, History, and Spanish and other literatures, studio art (Bellas Artes), and Natural Sciences and Math (for instance, Psychology and Biology). Bear in mind that the Complutense Psychology department is located on a separate campus (Somosaguas), about 30 minutes north of the main Complutense campus at the Ciudad Universitaria in central Madrid. That trajectory is covered by a Complutense shuttle bus. If you are taking a course at the Carlos III and the Somosaguas campus of the Complutense (in Psychology) on the same day, you will need to add at least 30 minutes to the normal commute time of 90 minutes. If you’re taking a course in the morning on one campus and in the mid- to late-afternoon or evening on the other, that should be no problem. However if there is only an hour between courses you’ll need to look for another course. Remember too that if more than one section is offered of your language course (the same level but on a different schedule), you can request that the language professors switch you if that makes it easier to fit all of your courses into your schedule. VWM students may also sign up for courses that enroll American students on other study abroad programs through the Curso de Estudios Hispánicos (CEH) at the Universidad Carlos III.

Curso de Estudios Hispánicos at the Universidad Carlos III 

The UC3M handles registration and transcripts for American university students through the office of the CEH. Some professors on the UC3M faculty as well as American program directors offer courses, primarily in the Humanities and Social Sciences, through this program. CEH also administers the language placement exam and staffs a full range of Spanish-language courses for foreign students. The language-placement exam is primarily meant for placement into the required language course, which all program students take unless they were schooled in a Spanish-speaking country. The language course carries 6 Spanish credits (1 Vassar or Wesleyan credit). That means you need only line up 18 more credits to meet the program’s minimal requirements: the 6 credits for the language course, the 2 credits for the orientation course in Santiago or Granada, and 18 credits for three grados or 18 credits for a combination of four or more courses made up of grados and partial-credit Cursos de Humanidades, as explained below). All courses offered by the CEH carry a 6-credit load and are graded. For a list of Asignaturas de CEH, click here. Course schedules for CEH courses are published separately. Click on the pdf for Horarios/Schedules. VWM students should rely only exceptionally on CEH offerings: you can take courses with American students, especially more highly-motivated ones, on our home campuses in the US. Program students who have met or exceeded our language requirements are expected to focus on the direct-enrollment options described below. They offer a far more authentic and rewarding academic experience and a far greater opportunity to meet and work with Spanish students than CEH courses. They are also far more likely to boost your command of the language rapidly. VWM students have, as a rule, done very well in them. However, there are exceptions to this rule, particularly CEH courses that make use of the city’s resources (museums in the art history course, service-learning for the Red Cross in the social justice course). You might want to have a good look at the program office’s course evaluations to see whether you can find a CEH diamond in the rough.

CEH course schedules: The CEH (unlike Carlos III and Complutense grados or the CH), exceptionally, does not publish its course schedules with the syllabi. Instead there are two ways to pinpoint CEH course schedules:

(1) Through the SIGMA registration system, the Carlos III´s on-line portal. Normally we walk you through that during the Madrid orientation after the Santiago or Granada session. However, the Carlos III now provides username, password, and instructions (for instance to find Carlos III course schedules, including CEH) directly to you by email well before arrival in Granada or Madrid. You can try that before arrival in Spain and track down CEH and other Carlos III schedules through SIGMA rather than through the Website. 

(2) If you don’t want to bother with SIGMA before arrival, you´ll find all CEH course schedules in a pdf under Horarios/Schedules on the lower left side of the landing page for the Cursos de Estudios Hispánicos at the Carlos III.

Direct enrollment options 1 and 2: Asignaturas de grado at the Universidad Carlos III and at the Universidad Complutense

Asignaturas de grado are full-credit courses required of Spanish students in order to complete their undergraduate degree, or grado. During the Summer- and Winter-Break orientations before arrival in Spain, the director works with students to guide them through the four curricular options. By working carefully through the Academic links on the program website, students are expected to pick 10-12 courses from across the four curricula and review them with the director before landing in Spain. These courses should be chosen in the light of student interests and major needs or preferences, course prerequisites, language level, and the required language course’s schedule. The emphasis should be on the kinds of courses students are less likely to find in the US. After landing in Spain, students will finetune the study plan with the director in the light of any scheduling conflicts with the language course, the Carlos III’s undergraduate monitores’s advice, and program office course evaluations.

VWM participants may enroll in grados courses provided that they are in Spanish, are not categorized as semipresencial (i.e. courses that only meet a couple of times during the semester and assign work from home and online), any stated prerequisites have been met, and spaces are available. Unlike the Carlos III, the Complutense asks that we send petitions for grados by mid-July (for fall) and mid-December (for spring) to ensure spaces are available. However, bear in mind that our agreement with the Complutense covers 10 program students over the course of an academic year; beyond that, the program is happy to pay the modest tuition fee per course but it´s important to use the Complutense only for courses that cannot be taken at the Carlos III. Admissions deadlines for students over the quota tend to be earlier than the petition date. The Complutense has a very high opinion of our students and our program and has been extremely welcoming as a rule. 

For more general information including attendance policies and accommodations, please refer to the section Your Semester in Spain: Overview, the first item under the Academics link of the program website.

For a list of titulaciones de grados (majors) at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid,  click here. However, be sure to review the following explanations before you do the deep dive! Once you’re on the Carlos III grados page (you can google Carlos III grados through any browser if you find our link is broken), click on a major/department or double major (Grado or Doble Grado, Facultad or Departamento) that interests you. Then look for the Programa link, which provides a breakdown of courses offered in the major. Course descriptions are available by clicking on the course titles, which are live links to detailed syllabi (programa means syllabus in Spain). This course description indicates which campus the course is taught on: you should favor courses taught on the Getafe campus although the occasional course on the Leganés campus (about 10 minutes from Getafe by a university shuttle) is feasible. For even more detailed course information including schedules, click on the pdf calendar icon in the upper-right corner of the course description. For course grupos (or sections) and corresponding schedules, return to the department page and click on the Horarios link instead of Programa. In Spanish schedules (whether at the Carlos III or the Complutense), if you see a reference to teoría or magistral that indicates the lecture. All enrolled students are expected to attend that on the same schedule. The práctica and/or grupo refers to discussion sections, only one of which you’re expected to sign up for and attend (grupos are deliberately scheduled at different times to maximize access).

Bear in mind that Grado refers to a major and Doble Grado to a double major. Curso refers to academic year or the year in the sequence of the major (Curso 1 = first-year, Curso 2 = second-year, Curso 3 = third-year, up to either Curso 4 or, in some majors, Curso 5). Primer Cuatrimestre means the fall term, the Segundo Cuatrimestre the spring term. Obviously if you´re in Madrid in the fall term you should only be picking courses taught in the Primer Cuatrimestre; if you´re in Madrid in the spring term, courses taught in the Segundo Cuatrimestre. Remember that dates (in this case, for semesters) in Spain show the first class meeting date followed by the month rather than the other way around as in the US. If a course schedule is broken down into Teoría and Práctica meetings the former refers to the lecture, the latter to discussion sections or groups. Finally, you will notice that courses are often designed as either obligatoria or optativa: you can safely ignore that. It refers to required and elective courses, respectively, within a given major. As non-major international students, in principle you have access to both kinds of courses. However, you should NOT assume that just because you´re a foreign student you should be picking first- or second-year courses. Indeed, it´s generally a bad idea to take first-year courses. For more on this and related academic advice, see the section below entitled Considerations for choosing between CEH and Grados….

For a list of titulaciones de grados (majors) at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid and detailed step-by-step instructions for finding your way to course syllabi and schedules, see the dedicated sublink for the Complutense under Academics.

Direct enrollment option 3: Cursos de Humanidades (CH) at the Universidad Carlos III

All regular UC3M students, without regard to their major, must meet general education requirements by completing a certain number of 1-, 2- or 3-credit courses offered in the Facultad de Humanidades. These tend to be monothematic courses, more like those offered by American liberal arts colleges and universities than the Carlos III or Complutense grados. They are scheduled irregularly throughout the semester, starting anytime after the third week of classes.

VWM participants may enroll in CH courses provided that they are in Spanish, are not categorized as semipresencial (i.e. courses that only meet a couple of times during the semester and assign work from home and online), any stated prerequisites have been met, and spaces are available.

For more information about the Cursos de Humanidades, click here. You can also google Cursos de Humanidades Carlos III, click on the top link (or the one that starts portal.uc3m.es), look for the Alumnos de Grado heading, and then the Curso de Humanidades subheading. For course information, click on either the live link “por titulación” (courses organized by majors) or the live link “por denominación” (a list of all CH courses arranged by course title). The latter link makes it possible to look at all CH courses at once: it provides a list of all partial-credit Cursos de Humanidades at the Carlos III organized first by the fall semester (Primer Cuatrimestre), then by the spring semester (Segundo Cuatrimestre). The left-most link provides detailed course-information; the flag to the right of it indicates whether a course is taught in Spanish or English; the right-most icon and live link provides schedule information. The link itself is named for  the host department; a further designation in parentheses indicates the course is taught on a campus other than Getafe, such as Colmenarejo, which should be avoided.  If you see a “semipresencial” to the right of that right-most link, it indicates a MOOC course (i.e., part of it is taught by internet). The program only authorizes fully “presencial” courses.

PLEASE READ CAREFULLY BEFORE COURSE PLANNING: Considerations for choosing between CEH and Grados, between the Carlos III and the Complutense, and among first-, second-, third- (etc. to fifth-) year courses at both the Carlos III and the Complutense

Unless a well-recommended course is taught in the CEH program, program students should favor grados and CHs at the Carlos III and grados at the Complutense. One example of a well-recommended CEH course has been the art history course with frequent visits to Madrid museums, since grado art history courses in Spain can require detailed memorization. Since the Complutense requires us to submit petitions for courses early (by mid-July for the fall term and mid-December for the spring term), well before you will know your language placement and course schedule at the Carlos III, it´s a good idea to pick alternatives on very different schedules to avoid too many overlaps with your language course. Remember to check whether more than one section (“grupo”) of a grado is offered (especially at the Complutense), since this can open up scheduling options, and to pick courses offered in the appropriate term (primer cuatrimestre is the fall, segundo cuatrimestre is the spring). Remember too to track possible changes in a section’s schedule before the start of the term and avoid groups offered in English. Finally, bear in mind that some courses will list two kinds of course meetings, one teórica and the other práctica: the former means lecture meeting, the latter means a related discussion section.

The Complutense has welcomed interest from our students and recognizes we will petition for more than we can actually enroll in because of the Carlos III language courses. Nevertheless, the Complutense coordinator needs to clear petitions with each department separately after confirmation of a student’s language level by the program director. This is to avoid oversubscribed courses, which favor majors. Students who have met our language requirement will be capable of taking most grados at the Carlos III or Complutense, but the program director will need to confirm this with the Computense coordinator. Since you will be taking your language course at the Carlos III, you might well need to adjust your plan to allow for the up to 90 minutes it can take to reach the Complutense from the Carlos III. Psychology courses are offered at the Complutense’s Somosaguas campus, which is north of the city center and therefore still farther from the Carlos III. We have had students take courses successfully in studio art (Bellas Artes) at the Complutense as recently as fall 2021, but remember that as on our home campuses access can be limited in studio and production courses because of high demand and constraints on facilities and materials. Also bear in mind that some courses are through-year (12 credits rather than the usual 6), that first-year courses in many cases are reserved for full-time student majors, and that there might be unstated prerequisites especially in highly structured sequences in the sciences, math, languages, and studio art. If a department that interests you exists at the Carlos III, you should first seriously consider taking a course there rather than at the Complutense to avoid the problem of the long commute to your language course. If not, however, the Complutense might well be a viable option and you should look carefully into its offerings. 

In no case will you need to take more than 3 grados since each carries 6 Spanish credits, the language course counts for 6, and we do not require more than 24 Spanish credits each term (plus the 2 for orientation). Just as first-year courses might well be off-limits, it’s important to remember that upper-level courses do NOT necessarily assume you have taken a first- or second-year course (Primer Curso means first-year, Segundo Curso means second- or sophomore-year, etc. of the major’s fixed study plan). In other words, you should never assume there is an unstated requirement that you take a lower-level course as a prerequisite for second-, third- or fourth-year courses. If that were the case, most of our students in the past would not have been able to take a grado at all. Indeed, you might find second-, third- and fourth-year courses easier than first-year courses. As a rule, first-year courses at both the Carlos III and the Complutense tend to be the most difficult and demanding in the major because (1) they are used to weed out first-year students in oversubscribed majors and (2) as surveys, they tend to cover more subfields in the discipline with different lexicons and conceptual frameworks than a more thematically focused and specialized third- or fourth-year course. This is in marked contrast to the purpose of introductory courses in the US, where students do not declare a major until their second year of college (unlike every other country in the world!). Introductory courses in the American context must draw majors and non-majors alike and persuade first- and second-years to commit to the field. Therefore, in Spain a second-, third-, or fourth-year course in a major in many cases will be easier to follow than earlier courses in the sequence because you will not be moving rapidly among different vocabularies and conceptual frameworks. And, because of its unique focus, the upper-level course might well stand on its own without depending on knowledge or skills taught in earlier courses. You should, of course, doublecheck this by looking to see whether a specific course is explicitly required as a prerequisite on the course syllabus. This might be the case in the more highly structured fields such as fine arts, math, the sciences, and languages. Grading, moreover, might well be less demanding in upper-level courses since they are not used to weed students out unlike the first-year surveys. Otherwise, you might need to brush up on this or that topic if you have not studied it before but that would be equally true of courses on our home campuses. Finally, because of their more specialized thematic focus, third- and fourth-year courses will probably look more like courses on our home campuses than the first-year surveys. In our experience, as a general rule program students interested and committed to a grado at the Complutense or the Carlos III have done well whether the course is a second- or fourth-year course so long as any explicit prerequisite has been met, including our program’s requirement for language level. This counter-intuitive and indeed polar opposite difference between American and Spanish assumptions about the purpose of a first-year course can serve as a metaphor for study abroad in general: even supposing you are the most open-minded person in the world, if you lack a key bit of insider information it will be impossible for you to make sense of other ways of doing things. Indeed if you apply American assumptions to an incident, behavior, custom, or institutional difference that baffles you in Spain you will almost certainly misunderstand it. In academic as in all other matters, you should resist the impulse to pass judgment prematurely and, instead, ask questions and inform yourself. That will enable you to grasp the reasons for the unexpected, confusing, or even frustrating difference. Once you learn patience and active curiosity you will be prepared to welcome the unexpected as a liberation from the prison of habit.