Contemporary Spain
Fall Semester

August 25 - December 16, 2022

Program Application

Immerse yourself in one of Europe’s most multi-cultural cities...

This multidisciplinary semester-long program offers students the opportunity to gain a deep understanding of today’s Spain, and the ways in which immigration, identity, public policy, sexuality and gender, and the environment all play a role, together, in shaping modern Spain. 

Courses integrate unique opportunities for research, internships, and community engagement, and open doors for students to further explore their own interests through the study of the language, extensive site visits, and meaningful co-curricular activities. 

With its focus on cultural and urban movements, migration and post-colonialism, and socio-political changes, courses are ideally suited to students in the following disciplines:  

  • History  
  • Political Science  
  • Sociology  
  • Art History  
  • Environmental Studies  
  • Women’s & Gender Studies, Queer Studies 


University of Pittsburgh students enroll through the Accent/University of California Education Abroad Program. Courses are hosted at the Accent Madrid Study Center. Class sizes are small, and students enjoy close relationships with faculty, who frequently accompany visits, tours, and excursions outside of the classroom. 

Courses encourage transdisciplinary reflection on complex topics in contemporary Spain. Instructors use the city as course material; classroom lectures are enhanced by site visits to various locations in Madrid which may include social and cultural institutes, NGOs, governmental agencies, world-class art museums, neighborhood landmarks, and private companies. 

All students take a required Spanish language course; all other courses in this program are taught in English. The Spanish language course is offered for beginning, intermediate, and heritage speakers. You will take an online language placement exam approximately one month prior to the start of the program. Elements of the city surroundings are also incorporated to lend authenticity to language instruction. Learning Spanish in Madrid, the city will become your own living language lab. Students enroll in four 3-credit courses, including one lower-division Spanish language course, and three upper division electives taught in English. 


In addition to coursework, students may enroll in an internship experience connected to one of the program electives. The internship placement relates directly to the core themes in the elective and the final course research paper is replaced with an internship research project based on the work at the sponsoring organization. Examples of past internship placements include:  

  • Human rights NGO focused on Central America  
  • National LGBT and HIV/AIDS advocacy organization  
  • Political media wing of national political party  
  • Research group focused on ecological restoration  
  • NGO advocating against human trafficking 

Course Offerings

Required Course

The Spanish language course is offered for beginning, intermediate, and heritage speakers. You will take an online language placement exam approximately one month prior to the start of the program. Elements of the city surroundings are also incorporated to lend authenticity to language instruction. Learning Spanish in Madrid, the city will become your own living language lab.

Elective Courses (choose three)

This challenging interdisciplinary course focuses on one of the most important recent developments in Spanish society, the onset in the 1990s of mass immigration from Europe, Africa, Latin America and Asia. Spain’s long history of expulsions enforced religious uniformity, colonialism, contending regional and national identities and loyalties, and the marginalization of the Roma minority, provides an obvious starting point from which to consider both migrant experiences in Spain, and the way migration is reconfiguring contemporary attitudes and identities in Spanish society. Against this historical background, the course will examine the dynamics and demographics of migration to—and again more recently—from Spain, and migrants’ integration or otherwise into the education system, the labor market, and social, political and cultural life more generally. Class discussions and readings will analyze the Spanish response to immigration, whether in the shape of laws and public policies, literary, cinematic and media representations of migrants, or public attitudes and behavior towards newcomers and ethnic minorities, including racism. The course will end by considering the impact of the ongoing economic crisis on immigrants, and the interplay between migration and current nationalist tensions within Spain (above all surrounding Catalonia and the Basque Country).

The aim of this course is to provide students with a general overview on how the Spanish artists in the 20th and 21st centuries seek for references and are influenced by religion, politics, identity, gender and popular culture while simultaneously re-appropriate historical icons and images to provide new readings and modify traditional interpretations. Students will be expected to analyze specific art works that have shaped Spain’s contemporary history and society such as Picasso’s “Guernica,” Dalí’s references to psychoanalysis and sexuality, or Miró’s multiple interpretations of Abstraction. Students will also become familiar with the role of the viewer in the 21st century, an active viewer that must interact with art works to decode their meanings via the study of Abstract Expressionists such as Tàpies or Saura, Abstract Geometric such as Chillida, political and social critics such as Arroyo and Grupo Crónica, more known contemporary artists such as García Alix or Plensa, as well as young artists who are just emerging in galleries. Either in Spain or in exile, Spanish contemporary artists connect their art with post-colonialism, the 1968 revolution, feminism and gender issues, the economic crisis, popular culture and migrations with an introspective look that uses Spanish Art Masters (El Greco, Velázquez or Goya) as sources when it comes to analyze the global situation from a local and micro narration perspective.

“Thinking spatially,” writes cultural geographer Doreen Massey, “means looking out beyond ourselves; [it involves] a recognition of others” that challenges the very notion of ‘identity’ itself. This course examines cultural, literary, and social histories of urban space in Madrid, in order to question how the city contributes to shaping identities—cross-cut by gender, sexuality, social class, ethnicity, citizenship, etc.—and in turn, how the urban milieu is negotiated by them. Students will engage in activities in Madrid that require them to map, observe, write, create, and discuss—in all, to think spatially—in order to critically question identities and the ‘self’ in relation to the urban landscape.

This course takes the contemporary city of Madrid as its point of departure, in comparison with Lisbon, New York, London, the suburbs, etc., and examines case studies that address the entanglements among urban spaces, politics, and identities from modern and contemporary history.

Prerequisite: In this conceptually and empirically challenging course, we will explore the relations between Latin America and Spain in the post-colonial period as constructed in the capital of the former Empire. We will begin with the Indian insurrection (grito de dolores) and the criollos war against Napoleonic Spain in 1810 and we will end with the present-day migratory movement from Spain to Spanish-speaking countries in the Americas due to the economic crisis. Post-colonial criticism is understood—in this context—both as a theoretical framework and as a subject matter. By critically examining the cultural practices, literary productions, political concerns and economic relations of the Spanish American newly formed nations and Spain since the beginning of the independence, students will gain an understanding of the historical relations between “de-colonized” states and “non-imperial” Spain as well as of contemporary political and cultural relations. 

By taking a Spanish perspective on the history of Latin America, we will necessarily be required to consider how the production and dissemination of historical knowledge have been shaped by domestic concerns and developments in the former metropolis. In this way, as much as about Latin America this is a course about Spain, and the evolution of Spanish politics, culture, and identity since the independence of its former colonies. The course will devote the first week to discuss “the Black and White legends” of Imperial Spain. Subsequently, sessions will focus on the period after the independence. By drawing examples from a variety of political issues, economic relations, cultural practices and literary texts, students will be encouraged to interpret the dynamics of these “Hispanic Transatlantic” relationships characterized by a continuous fluctuation of both a merger of and antagonism between the cultures of the modern Spanish American nations—once colonized, and that of Spain—the former “madre patria.” Special attention will be given to issues of cultural displacement but also to the role of linguistic, religious, and cultural affinities that bring these nations together. 

This course will compare the political ecologies of two regions of the world, Spain and California, with significantly different environmental histories, political systems, and socio-economic and political actors but strikingly similar Mediterranean type ecosystems. Not surprisingly, many of the most salient environmental issues in both regions coincide and offer multiple opportunities for fruitful comparison. In particular, this course will focus on two crucial environmental issues for both these regions—water and land use—and how these have emerged as central items in the political agendas in both regions. In this course, for instance, we will explore the nature of the so-called “water wars” in California and Spain and how both regions have attempted to reconcile conflicting public and private interests over water use rights. we will also look at landscape planning and how urbanization has often ignored crucial ecological disturbance processes such as landscape fires with unforeseen and often catastrophic consequences. As part of the course student will visit a politically powerful public company that provides water to the Madrid region, the Canal de Isabel II and meet with representatives of the Ministry of the Environment .To analyze these two key environmental politics arenas, the course will employ a Coupled Human and Natural Systems methodological approach in order to give students an idea of both the political and biophysical complexity of the issues at stake and provide them with the conceptual tools necessary for their analysis. 

  • Internships require a supplement of $500.00. 

In all courses, instructors use the cities as course material, so classroom lectures and discussions are enhanced by walking tours and visits. Courses are taught by professors from local universities who are passionate about their subjects and about their cities. Their infectious enthusiasm and knowledge of the cities amplifies your experience, making the information-packed semester quickly fly by. 

Key program themes that may be of interest to students are: 

  • Spanish language acquisition, the value of bilingualism  
  • Climate change and environmental impact  
  • Art as reflection of society and as social criticism  
  • Sexual identities, national identity, and intersectionality  
  • Migration and social integration  
  • Post-colonial relations, globalization, and world crises  
  • Possibility to intern at local companies/organizations 

Program At A Glance

    Program Price: $11,200

  • 12 - 15 Course credits
  • Double room in shared student apartment with other UPITT students or single room in homestay with breakfast and dinner daily
  • Pre-departure and overseas orientation program, with a practical walking tour of areas in Madrid around the Accent Madrid Center
  • Madrid transit pass
  • Overseas Accent on-site staff support in each city
  • 24-hour emergency and counseling support
  • Transferable college credit through University of Pittsburg

Unique Study Opportunities

  • Small class sizes, close relationships with faculty who accompany frequent visits and tours outside classroom
  • Interview immigrants and refugees at local refugee centers to understand their lives’ stories
  • Explore Spanish natural spaces, and learn how to create Google Earth-based maps
  • Meet with local artists and interpret their work in light of past influences and personal interests
  • Intern and conduct research at local organizations in projects connected with one of your courses

Optional Co-curricular activities

  • Spanish cooking classes
  • One-Day Study Tour to Toledo - A trip back in time to the Middle Ages to witness the Spanish cultural heritage: Roman, Muslim, Jewish, and Christian
  • Weekend Study Tour to Andalucía (Sevilla, Granada & Córdoba) - A region that exemplifies how Spaniards fuse tradition and modern lifestyles
  • Intercultural Competence Workshops
  • Monthly coffee house and gallery visit
  • Introduction to the Art of Bullfighting conference, followed by optional bullfight
  • Language exchanges with local students
  • Flamenco dance performance at local “tablao”
  • Optional Study tours
  • Evening City Tour of Madrid - First taste of the city, its history, and its most emblematic sites

Students on the fall Madrid program have the option to live in a student residence or in a homestay with a Spanish family. The rooms in the residence are double-occupancy with a shared bathroom and access to communal kitchen facilities. Includes a half-board meal plan of two meals/day.

Homestays offer students the opportunity to not only help with language learning but also provide local support as you get acquainted with life in a new city. Homestay accommodations are single bedroom in homestay and include breakfast and dinner daily.

All apartments are equipped with the following:

  • Washer
  • Wi-Fi
  • Fully-equipped kitchen or Kitchenette
  • Bathroom and Bedroom Linens
  • Heating
  • Microwave and/or oven

Classes will be held at the Accent Madrid Study Center, a hub for instruction, advising, and activities for multiple Accent programs in Madrid. It is located in Chamberí, a traditional Castilian neighborhood in the center of the city. The nearby 19th-century plaza and local market keep alive the Madrileño style of slow, relaxed living. You won’t see many tourists here. The locals are a combination of international students, people who have always lived here and would never leave, and young professionals who fell in love with the area and stayed longer than they intended.

The Accent Madrid Study Center is located in the kind of area where locals will make an extra effort to get to know you. While the neighborhood is traditional, the Accent Madrid Study Center offers modern classroom spaces, a computer lab, two multi-purpose study rooms for cultural activities, as well as ample common space to work on group projects and assignments. Watch the Accent Madrid experiential video.

  • Application due: with first payment
  • Second payment due: May 27
  • Final payment due: June 16
  • Departure from U.S.: August 24
  • Arrival in Madrid: August 25
  • Overseas orientation: August 26
  • Classes begin: August 27
  • Fall break: October 15 - 23
  • National Holiday: (TBC)
  • Return to U.S.: December 16

All participants must check in at the designated arrival point on August 25, 2022 between 9am and 8pm (Note: most transatlantic flights arrive one day after their departure date). Airfare is not included in the program fee. All participants will receive a transit pass.

The Contemporary Spain Program is open to students who are at least 18 years of age at the time of application, have at least a 2.5 GPA and have sophomore, junior or senior standing. There are no prerequisite courses, and no minimum language requirements but a maximum of 3 semesters university-level Spanish.

Program space is limited. Students should complete the online application with the $500 non-refundable first payment as soon as possible. Upon receipt of your application and first payment, Accent will provide you with additional application and enrollment forms. Applications must be received by June 1, 2022. Beyond June 1, limited enrollment is allowed when space permits.

  • Round-trip airfare
  • Optional Internship supplement of $500.00
  • Optional day and weekend excursions
  • University of Pittsburgh fees
  • Personal expenses, passports, visas, books, and anything not listed as included
  • Meals, other than described
  • Required medical insurance
  • Travel and Personal property insurance

The health and wellbeing of all students, faculty and staff are paramount to Accent Global Learning. Accent has worked with a Medical Advisor following WHO and local health authority guideline to put protocols in place. Students will learn about Covid-19 related protocols, health resources and local regulations through pre-departure materials and in on-site orientations.

All participants are required to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Many European sites, restaurants, museums and other venues require proof of vaccination in order to enter.

Should a participant test positive for Covid-19, they will be required to self-isolate at their own expense.

Payment Schedule

Non-refundable first payment – $500
Second payment due May 27, 2022 – $5,350

Final payment due June 16, 2022 – $5,350

The payment schedule is the applicant’s contractual obligation. Failure to make each payment when due shall automatically cancel participant from the program one week after payment due date. All payments are effective the day they are received by the Accent U.S. Office. Accent, in its sole discretion, may reinstate an applicant subject to availability of space and late enrollment fees. Accent charges a $30 bounced check fee for each check received that is not promptly paid by your bank in the normal course of business. The program participant shall be the client of Accent for all purposes. The program price is based on 15 participants, the price may change depending on final enrollment.


Cancellation Fees:
70 days or more prior to start of program: $500
45 – 69 days prior to start of program: $3360
15 – 44 days prior to start of program: $5600
0 – 14 days prior to start of program: no refund
All cancellations must be made in writing to Accent and the University of Pittsburgh and are effective the date of receipt by Accent. Participants are liable for payments until written cancellation is received by Accent.

Ready to spend a semester in Madrid?

Program Application

Accent Global Learning is not responsible for airline delays of any kind, or for expenses or loss incurred as a result of such delays. With regard to transportation/travel, regardless of the type of vehicle, Accent acts for the passenger as agent only. Accent assumes no liability for accident, injury, damage, or loss in any vehicle, or as a result of default by any person or company engaged in transporting the passenger. CST #1013432-40.