Hamilton College in Madrid
This program provides students with the opportunity to spend a semester or year in Madrid studying both through Hamilton College and directly through the Madrid University system. Students are encouraged to immerse themselves in Spanish life and studies in and outside of the classroom through homestays, group outings, program-organized internships and community service opportunities. All courses taught through Hamilton College are led by Spanish university faculty, and operate on a no-English speaking policy. Students will sign a pledge before arriving in Madrid agreeing to speak exclusively in Spanish. Most courses meet for three hours a week, and may be supplemented by use of Hamilton's Spanish writing center and language tutorials among other support systems. Fall and spring terms commence with ten-day orientation excursions to either Northern or Southern Spain (depending of the year), geared to ease students into Madrid and Spanish life. Eligibility for this program requires at least a 3.0 GPA and one college-level course in Spanish above the intermediate level.
Further info can be found at:http://www.hamilton.edu/spain
Academic quality was first-rate. Being used to Reed's high standard, I expected the bar to be lowered, but it was not in the slightest. Professors were all Spaniards, native speakers, and often high-achieving in their own fields. I was taught by several 'catedráticos' - the highest kind of professor in Spain. The workload was intense, but doable. Students differed in their housing situations, but all were housed with local families that provided food and took care of domestic matters. In general, people were very pleased with their families. Reed does not approve this program directly, so I received 0.833 per unit of study, I believe. This is a shame. Many of the professors who taught at HCAYS also taught at Middlebury and praised HCAYS superior academic rigor and standing. HCAYS provides a list of recent participants. Email them. HCAYS is a superior program and has my full recommendation, from their well-organized trips (more than 40 days traveling with the program, all paid with the program fee) to their academic seriousness, I think this program is tailor-made for Reed's philosophy. One particular matter is that most programs house in the International Student Building, which makes for an atmosphere with lots of English spoken. HCAYS is in a separate building, and maintains their Spanish-only rule with more rigor than the other programs. The programs I investigated were NYU, Duke, and Middlebury.
The academic aspect was fantastic! Although it wasn't as intense as Reed, it was rigorous and interesting. I learned a lot from all of my classes, and I feel like my eyes were opened to another culture through the academic window. My favorite class was definitely "Contemporary Spanish Female Writers" with Marcos Roca; he's one of the best professors I've ever had including at Reed. Although most students got along well with their host families, I did not. I wish I had requested a transfer to a different homestay. If you don't get along with your host family, talk to Christine Jensen about it IMMEDIATELY. Travel as much as you can. If you need help with anything Madrid or travel-related, ask one of the on-campus staff. They're very helpful and if they don't know the answer, they WILL call or email the person in charge to figure it out. I got answers from them not just about problems with my homestay and how to send my transcript to Reed, but also good restaurants, how to mail things back to the US, exchange rates for Morocco, and even the address of the nearest tea shop. Don't hesitate to talk to any of them, they're some of the nicest people you'll ever meet.