Your semester in Spain: Overview

Introduction to Spain: Lengua y Civilización Españolas in Santiago de Compostela (August) and Granada (January)

The VWM fall term begins in August in Santiago de Compostela, the spring term in January in Granada. Students enroll in a 12-day (approximately) course, Lengua y Civilización Españolas, designed to prepare them for their semester or year of living and studying in Spain. These cities (in Galicia and Andalucía, respectively) were chosen for their exceptional historical, artistic, and cultural importance, for their renowned beauty, and for the picture of Spain’s (physical and cultural) diversity they offer VWM program participants. A team of local student advisors (monitores) helps VWM participants make the most of their first on-site orientation in these chosen locations. A program of cultural activities is designed to help students maximize their learning experience in cities that are living, material expressions of Spanish culture in all its diversity. The program staff runs information sessions aimed at preparing students fully for their home-stay in Madrid and for their course registration at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M).

The Orientation session bears 2 of the 26 credits students are expected to earn during the semester and are graded. As indicated on the “VWM Pledge,” students are expected to participate fully in all activities organized by the Program.

Orientation in Madrid: Homestays and Registration for Classes

During the first week in Madrid students attend orientation sessions run by the Program staff as well as by the Universidad Carlos III. Orientation activities have both a curricular and a social component. They are designed to help students adapt to the Spanish university system (university structures, teaching styles, and learning strategies). They are also aimed at helping VWM participants adjust to life in Madrid, inside and outside of their homes.

During orientation students register for courses a the UC3M and receive their UC3M ID card. They are also advised regarding curricular options and registration procedures at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid (UCM). The program Director and Assistant Director provide careful guidance and are supported by a team of peer guides or monitores. These regular UC3M students participate actively in various orientation activities and remain connected to our students throughout the semester.

As indicated in the “Pledge,” VWM students are expected to participate fully in all aspects of the orientation session, including activities led by monitores.

Classes and Finals

Classes start a week after arrival in Madrid. During the orientation session students are given access to the UC3M academic calendar, which will clarify the dates for final exam periods. Finals for Curso de Estudios Hispánicos classes are generally scheduled during the first week in December (fall term) and the first week in May (spring term). Final exams for regular UC3M courses are usually scheduled 2-3 weeks thereafter.

During orientation students will also receive the program calendar, listing the dates for various cultural activities and field trips in which they are expected to participate.

VWM participants will adhere fully to the academic calendar and attend all classes. For their own benefit, they are strongly advised not to make travel plans of any kind prior to receiving the UC3M and program calendars.

Attendance Policy

Policies regarding evaluation of attendance in class are set by professors in all curricula (Grados, CH, CEH).  It is essential that you find out what they are from each professor directly.  The Bologna process (which has aimed to reform and standardize pedagogical criteria across Europe) places a great deal of emphasis on presence and participation.  Indeed, the Carlos III has communicated to program directors that, in effect, the policy across the board is “zero tolerance” for absences.  In practice, this may vary from professor to professor.  However, you should take this aspect of your class performance very seriously. Even with CEH (the program for foreign students), we are effectively guests at the Carlos III, you are all students at the university, and we must honor the local (Spanish) expectations and rules established by faculty. The CEH language professors always announce at the beginning of the term that absences must be channeled through program directors.  This is sometimes misunderstood by students.  All this means is that they do not want to have to evaluate absences by themselves.  If we have taken you to the hospital or know through your host families that you are seriously ill, we can communicate this.  We have no authority to excuse you from class because you report you are not feeling well.  However, we certainly want you to tell us immediately if you are ill and need medical or psychiatric care (your host families should also be able to help in this regard).  Pepa can let you know which hospitals, clinics, and doctors are near your host families.  In addition, as you know, we are very much available to discuss any kind of issue that might arise.  We are prepared to help you in every way and especially to ensure your academic success (by the latter we mean that you [a] understand the expectations and [b] are in a position to meet them).  We have, however, no authority over grading.  If you have a documented disability and need accommodations, please see the item below about this.

Disabilities Accommodations

Program directors are not behavioral health experts and we must follow guidelines provided by on-campus staff responsible for disabilities accommodations and behavioral health issues, especially as they bear on your academic performance (for behavioral health resources see the program links under Life in Madrid, then Health and Safety). Disabilities accommodations must be established in writing by the administrator responsible for this on the student’s home campus. The acccommodations officially authorized must be provided as early as possible in writing (e.g., by email attachment) to the program director and assistant director and to Alvaro Escribano and Leonor Prado at the Universidad Carlos III. The protocols and contact persons for the primary consortial partners are as follows:
Vassar:  Students must contact MaryJo Cavanaugh (Director, Accessibility and Educational Oppotunity,, tel. 845-437-7584, to establish disabilities accommodations and/or to communicate official accommodations to the Madrid program staff and the Carlos III authorities. The Vassar Accessibility and Educational Opportunity office will normally communicate official Vassar accoomodations by email attachment to the Madrid program and Carlos III staff. However, this process must be initiated by the student.
Wesleyan: Students must contact Accessibility Services ( to establish disability accommodations with the Madrid Program staff and the Carlos III authorities. The Accessibility Services office will provide the student with accommodation letters that can be shared with the Madrid program, however this process must be initiated by the student.
For more detailed information regarding Disabilities Accommodations, see the Grades, Excused Absences, and Disabilities Accommodations link under Academics.