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The school year's kicking off soon, and if you're considering the possibility of taking a course in a Spanish university, it may help to have a little information on the most interesting university locations. Remember, university life is not just about classrooms and libraries. This is a time to get out, meet people and explore the "cultural" life the city has to offer...
The following is our list, in alphabetical order (so we don't hurt any sensibilities), of the top ten Spanish university destinations, where you can enjoy a productive year… on all different levels.
Ever since the mythical Hercules founded this city, Barcelona has been a Mediterranean hub, and its wide variety of universities (public and private) covers all options imaginable. The city's cultural and animated social life speaks for itself: a stroll down Las Ramblas, a vistit to Parque Guell or a drink with friends in the Puerto Olímpico area will open up the doors to an enjoyable city and a unique atmosphere in which to study Spanish.
Considering the size of the city in which it's located, the University of Granada is among the top schools in Spain. The city itself is a giant campus, where the students, the monuments, and the places to hang out in all come together in a unique mix of life. Granada also offers something unusual: here you can go skiing in the morning (the Sierra Nevada ski station is just 40 minutes away), have tapas in the city (they're free!), and later that afternoon go down to the tropical coast (Motril, Almuñécar or Salobreña) to take a dip in the Mediterranean. The international flavor of Granada makes it a perfect place to learn Spanish, meet people and feel at home.
The old capital of the island of Tenerife is set on top of the depths of the old lagoon. This is a perfect city for taking relaxing walks along its colonial style streets, where you'll find plenty of spectacular monuments. The University of La Laguna brings together many students, who come not only from the Canary Islands, but also from the rest of Spain and Latin America. La Laguna is one of the most prestigious international astrophysics centers in the world. The permanent connection between the Canary Islands and the Caribbean produces the friendliness, the sweetness of the accent and the warm musical rhythms that all invite visitors to stay and learn Spanish while Salsa dancing in the bars of the Cuadrilatero neighborhood, right in the center of town.
The capital of Spain is in the geographic center of the peninsula. It's also a place where people from around the country come together to study in its many universities and other learning centers. The Complutense University, la Autónoma, la Politécnica... Madrid is a political, economic and cultural center. The Madrid of the Austrias invites us to explore this metropolis which still retains the characteristics of a small town, where going for walks through parks and neighborhoods is still an enjoyable experience. The fact that in Madrid, almost everyone comes from somewhere else, guarantees that Madrileños will make you feel comfortable and welcome to chat in Spanish with the "gatos" in its many historical and charming cafés.
One of the main Mediterranean port centers, Malaga has permanent connections to northern Africa, and a colorful population that joins the jet-set with less exclusive visitors. The University of Malaga offers a great variety of attractive options, most notably in marine science studies. This is the home of Picasso, whose imprint can be seen all over the city. A short walk up to the Alcazaba (Arab fortress) offers us views of the port, which gives us the perfect excuse to head right down to the port on Palo Beach to chat with Malagueños over a nice plate of fresh sea food. Later, hop over to Marbella (a drive away) to have coffee among the economic elite, and take a few Spanish classes in an international atmosphere.
The University of Navarra is one of the most prestigious private centers in Spain for health sciences. The old town area, with the aura of Hemingway floating about its streets running ahead of a raging bull, and the good natured Pamploneses are features of this city. You'll also find a combination of studies and the perfect simplicity of the most delicious vegetables you can imagine (Lodosa peppers, asparagus, artichoke…) and wine that describes the nature of the people of Navarra: robust and tangy, with a memory not easily forgotten, like the magical beech trees of Irati.
Style, that's Salamanca. A city dressed in the elegance of the Villamayor stone. Here you'll find one of the most famous universities in the world, not only for its age, but also for its prestige, and its distinction of having been the home of Spanish as a second language studies that it is today. Imagine an enormous museum, where you can walk through and discover hidden gems within the surprising monumental city's detailed decoration, which remind us that we're in the city of the Tormes. Here, bars seem to have come right out of a decoration and design contest, where contact with Salmantinos is not only easy, but inevitable.
If all roads lead to one place, that place is Santiago. For more than a thousand years, this wonderful city has been joining people on pilgrimages to different sights of interest: The Cathedral and the saint's tomb, the university and a jar of Ribeiro. The peacefulness here, along with the musical tone of the Galician way of speaking invite us to drift along the rúa Raíña and the Praza Roxa to meet these friendly people. After a long history of migration, they know how to take in outsiders better than anybody.
During spring time in Seville the aromas of incense and orange blossom speak of Holy Week, gardens in bloom and the Feria de abril. The University of Seville echoes the sounds of Carmen la cigarrera. The royal tobacco factory is one of the most evident buildings in the landscape of the capital of Andalusia. The benevolence of winter in Seville provides a great reason for studying Spanish in this city, which houses the Indias Archive and the main port connection with the New World. Flamenco music appears on every corner of the Triana neighborhood (almost an independent city) on the other side of the river, and in the bars in Santa Cruz. Here, cantaores fine tune their voices with a sip of fino or manzanilla while gazing out the window, taking in views of the Giralda, the magnificent bell tower of the biggest gothic cathedral in the world.
This is the capital of the Turia, crossed because of the spectacular vision that R. Bofill had of the riverbed, now the heartbeat of the city and the center of a university known for its architectural and technical studies. We can admire the talent the university produces by exploring the works of Santiago Calatrava in the City of Arts and Sciences. By going to la Albufera, checking out la Malvarrosa or wandering about El Carmen we will get to know Valencia, a town that's always been open to the sea –and to other people-, where if there's anything more impressive than the raucous ringing of firecrackers during festivals, it's the friendliness and smiles of the people.
Take advantage of the options that a combination course offers Spanish students. don Quijote allows you, if you like, to enjoy an almost entirely complete panorama of the most important university cities, while experiencing the esthetic and cooking pleasures that a richly diverse country like Spain has to offer.