Harvard Summer Program in Madrid, Spain

In light of the significant and prolonged uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, Harvard Summer School is suspending the operation of our 2021 summer study abroad programs. For further travel resources, please visit the Harvard Global Support Services website and Harvard’s coronavirus website which is frequently updated and contains the latest announcements, guidance and resources. Students interested in related coursework for summer 2021 are encouraged to consider enrolling in a course at Harvard Summer School. Updated Summer course catalog information will be available at the end January 2021.


De Madrid, al cielo ("From Madrid, then to heaven”)

Study Spanish language, history, and culture in Spain’s dynamic, elegant, and hip capital city.

Designed for students at the intermediate level of Spanish language study, this 8-week immersion program focuses on the history, culture and languages of urban, insular and rural Spain. Based in Madrid, the program will expand your appreciation and understanding of the diversity of Spain through excursions to nearby Toledo and Segovia, as well as a weekend in Mallorca and a week in Galicia—two regions of the country with distinctive histories and cultures. The program operates in cooperation with San Pablo CEU University, and includes faculty from the University of the Balearic Islands and the University of Santiago de Compostela, as well, offering you a wide range of academic exposure throughout the summer.

The program provides rigorous, comprehensive training in spoken and written Spanish through classes, host families, and direct engagement with the extensive history, unique cultures, and different languages (catalán, gallego and castellano) of three distinct and significant regions of Spain.

Program structure

The program will guide you in making rapid progress toward fluency in Spanish. Intensive language instruction is combined with exploration of the culture and history of Madrid and other parts of Spain through the lenses of art and architecture, literature, politics and ethnography.

Morning class sessions integrate language instruction with cultural materials and readings. Afternoon and evening sessions include a weekly writing workshop, lectures and conversations with scholars and artists, visits to the Prado and other museums, the Retiro Park, the Hermitage of San Antonio de la Florida, the Barrio de las Letras, and other emblematic neighborhoods, and a night at the theater.  All afternoon and evening sessions are directly related to classroom study and assignments, and provide students with greater exposure to the cultural life of the city.


SPAN S-DM counts as one full-year course (8 credits) of degree credit and as two half-year courses towards the foreign language citation. It also fulfills the Harvard foreign language requirement.

SPAN S-DM Study Abroad in Madrid: Spanish Language and Culture, Past and Present (34709)

Johanna Damgaard Liander
8 credits
UN, GR Limited enrollment.

This is a second-year-level course in Spanish language and culture which moves students toward fluency using grammar review and language instruction combined with an in-depth study of the culture and character of Madrid through history, art, architecture, literature, and ethnography. The course focuses on five periods: when Madrid became Spain's capital (1561) and before; the theatrical boom of the seventeenth century through the enlightenment of Charles III; the vast contrasts of the nineteenth century; the civil war, subsequent dictatorship, and transition to democracy in the twentieth century; and Madrid's place in Spain, in Europe, and in the world in current times. Students engage with Madrid directly, living and studying there for seven weeks, and gain a deeper understanding of the city in the greater context of Spain by comparing the capital to smaller cities (Toledo and Segovia on day trips) and to the culturally, geographically, and linguistically diverse regions of Mallorca and Galicia, each of which we visit for several days.

Students expand and strengthen their linguistic skills and learn about the history and culture of Madrid by participating in language sessions, instructional excursions, writers' workshops, lectures, and community service, and viewing centuries of art and architecture. The course provides students with numerous occasions to speak Spanish with native speakers from diverse backgrounds. In class, students compare levels of formality in both written and spoken language. Students become familiar with the vast and fascinating lexicon of Castilian Spanish, develop their written and spoken academic Spanish, and attain an advanced linguistic level by the end of the course.

Prerequisite: Harvard students must have completed Spanish 11, Spanish 15, or Spanish 20 (but not higher than Spanish 20), or received the equivalent score on the Harvard University placement test. Other students must have completed one year or one accelerated semester of college-level beginning Spanish.

Where you live and study

Madrid is an extraordinarily welcoming city, a relatively young European capital (founded in the mid-16th century), in which students will quickly feel at home. After all, most madrileños, while living proudly in their spectacular capital city, will also identify with their pueblo (small town) where they, their parents, grandparents or great-grandparents have their roots, and where they spend holidays, or often simply retreat. Thus, in order to truly understand Madrid, students, as well, will visit several parts of Spain, besides its capital. Toledo and Segovia recall Jewish, Moorish and Roman history, whereas Mallorca holds medieval and twentieth century art and letters, and international island culture. In Galicia, we will travel part of two of the medieval Caminos de Santiago, meeting other pilgrims, visiting the Cathedral where Saint James is said to be buried, later visiting border towns on both the Spanish and Portuguese coasts of the Miño River, as well as a monastery, the kitchen of a local chef, vineyards in Ribeira Sacra, a replica of Columbus’ Pinta, Finisterre (thought to be Europe’s most western point), besides hearing bagpipe performances, engaging with other local artists, and maybe singing together in gallego.


In Madrid, you will live and take meals with a local host family. Host families all live within a short distance of the Universidad San Pablo CEU in the Moncloa neighborhood of Madrid, where classes are held.  This lively, walkable area is filled with students and a diverse array of other residents, and is well connected by Metro and bus to all other parts of the city.


Each program has unique requirements included in the online application. Beginning your application early is the best way to ensure that you have sufficient time to review and complete the application requirements by the deadline. 

You may apply to no more than two programs; if applying to two programs, you will be asked to rank your two applications in order of preference (first and second choice). Any applications submitted in excess of the maximum of two will be automatically withdrawn. You will be notified of your admissions status in each program by late February. 

A complete online application includes:

  • Basic personal information
  • A statement of interest
  • Your most recent transcript
  • Program-specific requirements (if applicable; may include letters of recommendation, audio or video submissions, etc.)

Interviews may be requested at the discretion of the program.

Harvard College students applying for funding from the Office of Career Services (OCS): Please note that the OCS funding application is separate. OCS funding awards are tied to a specific program, and cannot be transferred to another program.

If you have questions about the application, please contact the Harvard Summer School Study Abroad Office by email at summerabroad@summer.harvard.edu, or by telephone at (617) 998-9602.

Cost & Expenses

The program fee includes:

  • Tuition
  • Accommodations
  • Scheduled program activities
  • Some meals (the program will provide further details)

You will also need to budget for a number of expenses not covered by the program fee. The amounts listed below for these out-of-pocket expenses are approximate, and you may incur additional expenses not noted here. Your actual expenses will depend on a number of factors, including personal spending habits and currency exchange rates. Note that for 2021, expense categories--especially airfare--may be subject to significant fluctuations.

  • International airfare ($1,300 - $1,600)
  • Ground transportation ($200)
  • Meals ($500)
  • Personal expenditures, communications, course materials, and miscellaneous ($700)

If you have specific questions about personal budgeting, please contact the program directly.

See Funding and Payment for information on how to submit payments and funding options.

Additional information