At the crossroads of Europe, Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Atlantic, Spain has a fascinating history and a wildly diverse culture. There are five official languages – Catalan, Galician, Basque (Euskara), Aranese and Spanish – and a variety of local cuisines, lifestyles, festivals, architecture and music. Embrace the diversity and get to know Spain as a local.
As an AFSer in Spain, you’ll live with a host family while studying at a local high school in one of three curricula: Science, Humanities, or Technology.
Your local chapter may organise get-togethers for AFS students or trips to other cities or regions in Spain. Also, over the course of the program, AFS staff and volunteers will hold orientations to help you evaluate your progress, help with your cultural adjustment, and make sure things are running smoothly.
Spain has five official languages – Aranese, Catalan, Galician, Basque (Euskara), and Spanish. As Spain is a multi-lingual nation, AFS places students in all communities, including those in which Spanish is not the primary language spoken at home or in school. If you are considering Spain primarily to improve your Spanish, be aware that you will be speaking other languages quite often as Spain boasts many different regional dialects.
70% of the students hosted in Spain are placed in bilingual communities where Catalan, Basque, Galician or Valencian is the primary language spoken in school and by your host family. Despite the multi-lingual nature of Spain, Spanish-language study is compulsory in all schools and many people are bilingual so you will still have the opportunity to practice your Spanish.
The ability to speak these languages, or Spanish, is not a prerequisite for the program, but we suggest that you learn as much as possible prior to departure.
Host Family & Community
Host families in Spain, like all AFS host families worldwide, are not paid. They open their homes to students in order to share their community and culture as well as to enrich their own family lives.
Spaniards are more inclined to identify with their particular region than with the country as a whole.
Spanish families are typically open and welcoming, eager to make a good impression. Spanish families—including the extended family—tend to be close-knit, visiting each other frequently and sharing in large weekend gatherings.
Family roles are modernising in Spain, as they are around the world, and more and more women have jobs outside the home; but traditionally, the mother manages the household while the father works outside the home. Because homes and apartments in Spain tend to be small, siblings often share rooms.
After school, Spanish teens often attend lectures, concerts and sporting events. Soccer (or futbol) is easily the most popular sport.
Perhaps because of the climate and long daylight hours, Spaniards begin socialising later in the day and end later at night than their European neighbours. On weekends, teens often stay out late, going to movies, parties or hanging out together at the local café or town square.
While each region of Spain has its own food specialties, Spanish cuisine reflects the country’s many historical influences. Generally speaking, Spanish cooking is Mediterranean in style with liberal use of olive oil, garlic, onions, tomatoes and peppers.
In keeping with European tradition, lunch is the main meal of the day and is served around 2 or 3 p.m. Dinner is at 9 p.m. or later, and most families eat together.
Fish and seafood are abundant, but Spanish cooking emphasises red meat and pork which are eaten nearly every day. Applicants who require a vegetarian diet will be difficult to place.
You will most likely be enrolled in a public high school in one of three curricula: Science, Humanities, or Technology. AFS students are normally placed in 4º ESO, 1º Bachillerato, or 2º Bachillerato, which correspond to 10th, 11th and 12th grade. Your placement will depend on your age and your studies at your home school.
Depending on the region in which you are placed, classes will be taught in Castillian Spanish, Catalan (in Catalonia), Galician (in Galicia), or Euskara (in Basque country).
Students attend school Monday to Friday, 8:00 am to 2:30pm or 3:00pm, depending on the school.
Orientations & Activities
In addition to the orientations that you will participate in domestically, you and your fellow AFSers will have several orientations while abroad.
These required orientations are intended to help you maximise your AFS experience, reduce culture shock and to gain knowledge, skills and a global understanding.
In addition to the orientations, many local chapters organise activities for students and host families throughout the year. These will vary from chapter to chapter but may include parties or excursions to other cities or regions in Spain. Unlike the orientations, these activities are optional and are not included in the tuition.