My Study Abroad Experience, Part 3 of 5

Hi again! Today, I’ll be talking about the classes I took while studying abroad (SA) in Madrid, Spain in my junior spring semester.

I took 3 humanities courses and 2 major (Computer Science) courses.

  1. Spanish Language in Context: This was a Spanish language course required by my SA provider. The program did not have a language prerequisite, but required one Spanish course to facilitate our time in the country. Students were placed into classes based on their performance in the placement exam during orientation. We met twice a week for 1.5-hour long classes for lectures and discussions. This was offered by the SA program and counted towards my HSA concentration.
  2. Spanish Art and Architecture: We met once a week with a 1.5-hour long lecture and a 2 hour long visit to museums in Madrid. I appreciated that as I was traveling throughout Spain and Europe, I could see the art pieces that I would learn about in class. This was offered by the SA program and counted towards my HSA concentration.

    stained glass, columns, and ceiling inside the Sagrada Familia

    Seeing Antonio Gaudi’s modernist architecture in La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, which I learned about in my Spanish Art and Architecture class, was an amazing experience. Travel tip: Visit during sunset to see the changing light from the stained glass.

  3. The Iberian Peninsula: Cultures and Religions through the Arts: This interdisciplinary course between religious studies and art history covered the effects of Islam on Spanish art. We met twice a week for 1.5-hour long classes for lectures and discussions. This was offered by the SA program and counted as an HSA elective.

    Red-and-white alternating double arches and columns inside a Spanish mosque

    The Mosque-Cathedral in Córdoba was originally built as an Islamic mosque but was later converted into a Roman Catholic church after Christians reconquered the land. You can see the remnants of both religions: the Islamic prayer hall with Arabic red-and-white alternating arches and the Christian cross in the back. In the same city, exists a Jewish syangogue, representing the period when Islam, Christianity, and Judaism coexisted in Spain.

  4. Cryptography and Computer Security: We had two 2-hour long lectures weekly and occasional lab sessions, working with cryptography software. Grades were based solely on a midterm exam and a final exam. This was offered by the local university in English and counted towards my CS elective requirement.
  5. Artificial Intelligence: We had 2-hour lectures and 2-hour practical sessions weekly, pretty similar to the Core classes at Mudd, where we have in-class time to solve practice problems and ask questions to our professors. Grades were based on two midterm exams, a final exam, and a final group project. The final project was expanding on a pre-written program in the programming language Java that determined the fastest and least-expensive route for an imaginary pizza delivery man to deliver a pizza for a given map with restaurants and delivery locations. This was offered by the local university in English and counted towards my CS elective requirement.
classroom with blackboard and projector screen

The Cryptography and Computer Security class had around 100 students during the lecture sections! Pretty unusual class size at Mudd!

These courses were structured quite differently from my Mudd courses. The HSA courses that I took through the SA program had strict attendance policies and even grade penalties if a student exceeded the allowed number of absences. The courses at the local university did not assign regular homework or expected student participation in class, but rather assessed students only with exams. That meant I had more free time outside of classes, but I also had to spend more time on my own preparing for the midterm and final. Spanish classes are known to have a stricter grading system, where the average and the minimum grade to pass is around 50%. That being said, my SA program converted my grades at the end of the semester to match the American scale. Also, professors did not have designated office hours or tutoring hours like Mudd classes, so my program provided extra tutorial sessions for the participants, where we got to meet with professors in small groups weekly to review material and ask questions. Overall, my classes abroad weren’t as academically challenging as Mudd classes, but I appreciated that I got to learn in a different environment.

 four girls in front of a lawn, trees, and a brown building

Me with three friends from my SA program at the local university after a final exam.

Each SA program has its own academic curriculum, so it is important to do your research before you sign up for the program. By Harvey Mudd’s SA policies, students must receive a minimum grade of B for major courses and C for HSA courses to receive credit. However, these grades and credits only show on the transcript and are not computed into the Harvey Mudd College GPA.

Read about how I managed my academic courses while enjoying an urban lifestyle in my next post. ¡Adios!