Academics at SYA Spain

SYA Spain is committed to ensuring that students develop the knowledge and intercultural skills needed to fully grasp the experience: from mastering the language, to communicating in Spanish with a pen pal in another region, to hiking or kayaking in the Aragonese countryside, or heading out of town with the host family for an extended weekend.

All students are required to take six courses, including Spanish language, English and SYA Practicum.

Full course descriptions for 2019-20 can be opened below. You will also note that many of our courses are denoted as "FW" which means that the course involves a fieldwork element designed to challenge students in the broader community.


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2019-2020 Courses at SYA Spain

English (H) - 1 Credit

SYA offers a well-defined and comprehensive English course that prepares students to return to their home school prepared for their next class in English or to enter a competitive university program. The SYA English program is distinctly geared towards the study abroad experience and works in tandem with the overall program’s mission to create globally aware, divergent thinkers prepared for a 21st-century reality. The SYA curriculum is structured to reflect the various stages of the study abroad experience and facilitates a cultural immersion experience with a series of assignments and readings created with this goal in mind.

SYA English provides a home base for student intellectual and intercultural growth abroad and is specifically designed to complement the immersion experience presented by the host country. Chosen texts challenge students to improve their critical reading and analytical writing skills and cover a variety of literary movements. The readings engage with themes of alienation, isolation, foreignness or self-discovery, as well as the notion of place and identity, both geographic and internal. Texts selected also support the students in contextualizing both their collective and individual experience throughout the program. In addition to working toward becoming closer readers and more successful writers, SYA English students also reflect on the study abroad experience in a more explicit and sophisticated way, through both informal and formal journaling and expository writing.

SYA Practicum (H) - .5 Credit

The SYA Practicum is a place-based and experiential course designed to provide an environment in which students work towards the SYA Core Competencies for Learning Abroad. This interdisciplinary course begins with an in-depth immersion into the host city and region, focusing on the use of the unique resources of each of our host countries and their unique and challenging learning environments. Because the objectives are skills-based, the content of the course is not limited to traditional disciplines and works in tandem with SYA fieldwork courses and activities throughout the year, including study travel.

The course culminates with the signature SYA Capstone experience. The SYA Capstone is designed to provide students with an opportunity to showcase their evolving skills through a comprehensive project pursuing a topic chosen by students and based on personal interest and self-motivation. Above all, these projects are crafted with the intentionality of embodying the SYA mission, highlighting the student’s experience and relying on, and engaging with, relevant local resources.

Students who excel in this course are provided extensive opportunities to drive their own learning.


Guided by its Mission, the SYA mathematics courses combine in-class and online learning activities in a hybrid learning environment, with a focus on helping students build their independent learning skills as an integral part of learning mathematics. Students are expected to complete preparatory online activities outside of and prior to class, in order to be prepared to actively engage in mathematical problem solving and collaboration in the classroom. This approach to learning mathematics is quite different from the traditional instructor-led, lecture-based approach to which many incoming SYA students are accustomed. Read more about SYA math course expectations here.

NOTE: All SYA math courses incorporate extensive use of technology, helping students develop graphical and numerical analysis techniques in addition to the traditional algebraic study of functions.

Advanced Algebra with Functions - 1 Credit

This course is intended for students who have had one full year of geometry and one full year of algebra. Successful completion of this course prepares students to enter a standard Precalculus course when they return to their home school. Concentration is on functions and their transformations; the standard parent functions are studied from the perspective of shifts, domain and range, as well as multiplication and division. Preliminary results from rational functions, inequalities, exponents and logarithms are explored.

Precalculus - 1 Credit


This course is intended for students who have successfully completed an Algebra II course and who plan to return to their home schools to take a non-AP calculus or other math course. It is also appropriate for students who have been less-than-successful in an earlier Precalculus course. The course will review and extend the concepts related to functions, including linear, quadratic, polynomial, rational, radical, logarithmic, exponential and trigonometric.

Advanced Precalculus (H) - 1 Credit

This course is intended for very able math students who have been highly successful in a strong Algebra II program. Success in this course should enable students to enter AP Calculus AB/BC the following year. It covers all of the topics of the regular Precalculus course, spending less time on review of typical 2nd-year algebra topics to facilitate both greater depth in certain areas, such as trigonometry, as well as coverage of more advanced topics.

The core content areas included in the scope of Advanced Precalculus are: mastery of the properties and graphs of basic functions (polynomial, rational, exponential, logarithmic, trigonometric), as well as work with parametric equations, polar coordinates, and sequences and series.

AP Calculus AB - 1 Credit

This course offers a rigorous introduction to differential and integral calculus, covering all topics included on the Calculus AB topic outline. The course aims to have the students understand the theory that underlies the various rules and applications of differentiation and integration treated in the course. All major theorems are proved and their derivations discussed in class. Students must explore the calculus concepts from multiple perspectives: algebraically, graphically and numerically, and in the context of a variety of applications. Students are expected to be able to offer clear justifications of their work that show a deep understanding of the fundamental ideas. Students take the AP Calculus AB exam in May.

AP Calculus BC - 1 Credit

In addition, the following course may be offered if there is sufficient enrollment. Even with insufficient enrollment, this course may be offered online through our partner, One Schoolhouse.

This course is roughly equivalent to both first- and second-semester college calculus courses and extends the content covered in Calculus AB to different types of equations and introduces the topic of sequences and series. The course covers topics in differential and integral calculus, including concepts and skills of limits, derivatives, definite integrals, the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus and series. The course teaches students to approach calculus concepts and problems when they are represented graphically, numerically, analytically and verbally, and to make connections between these representations. Students take the AP Calculus BC exam in May.

AP Spanish Language and Culture - 1 credit

The AP Spanish Language and Culture course emphasizes communication (understanding and being understood by others) by applying interpersonal, interpretive and presentational skills in real-life situations. This includes vocabulary usage, language control, communication strategies and cultural awareness. The AP Spanish Language and Culture course strives not to overemphasize grammatical accuracy at the expense of communication.

The AP Spanish Language and Culture course engages students in an exploration of culture in both contemporary and historical contexts. The course develops students’ awareness and appreciation of cultural products (e.g., tools, books, music, laws, conventions, institutions); practices (patterns of social interactions within a culture); and perspectives (values, attitudes and assumptions).

Preparation for the Proficiency Diploma in the Spanish Language (DELE) (H) - 1 credit

This course is designed to prepare students for the Diploma del Español como Lengua Extranjera (DELE) exam, an internationally-recognized measure of proficiency in Spanish. Faculty members use college-level language texts, as well as a variety of materials and techniques, such as fiction and nonfiction readings, papers, oral reports, listening-comprehension activities and films. Intensive focus is put on advanced vocabulary, grammar, colloquialisms and complex wordplay in order to achieve the Effective Operational Proficiency level C1 (or Vantage one, B2). This course exceeds in scope and professional ramifications the Advanced Placement exam offered by the College Board.

This course is limited to students who have already taken AP Spanish or demonstrate a high level of Spanish at the beginning of the program. Permission to enroll must be granted from the Resident Director.

Spanish Literature: From Reading to Writing (H) - 1 Credit - FW

This course involves reading different texts from the Middle Ages through the 21st century. Reading a variety of genres helps students better understand the complex reality of the Hispanic world and exposes students to a variety of writing styles. Students will also choose their own texts, and as they gain more confidence and independence, will direct more of their own learning.

For the writing portion of the class, students practice observation, imitation and creation. Analyzing literary works throughout the year prepares students to become better writers and at the end of the year, students write their own short stories. This course involves a field-work element designed to challenge students in the broader community.

Spanish and Latin American Theater: Analysis and Performance (H) - 1 Credit

This course combines literary analysis and performance. It exposes students to Spanish literature from both sides of the Atlantic and hones their language and acting skills in a fun and participatory way. In addition to a standard literature class in which students read and discuss contemporary Spanish and Latin American plays, students in this course are required to participate in two dramatic productions -- one in December and one in May.

Students rehearse and are responsible for all aspects of production: scenery, costumes, music, lighting, and programs. Classes are held during the regular weekly schedule, and additional meetings are added for rehearsals as the date of a performance approaches. No prior experience in theater is required.

Contemporary History of Spain through the Lens of Its Cinema (H) - 1 Credit - FW

This course aims to teach students about Spain’s rich and multicultural history, while getting to know its intense and unique cinema. Students analyze key political movements in Spain, focusing on the 20th and 21st centuries and discover their relationship with the rest of Europe, Latin America and northern Africa. This course also covers the history and evolution of Spanish film making, from its inception to today’s movies, with emphasis on the works of Spain’s leading directors: Buñuel, Saura, Almodóvar and Amenábar. The class watches and analyzes 10 movies that are particularly representative of the evolution of Spanish cinema. Student work is assessed through essays, exams and independent projects.

Spanish Civilization and Culture (H) - 1 Credit - FW

In this course, students explore the historical and modern context that is the city of Zaragoza and the country of Spain. Through a look at Spanish history, primarily focused on the arts, and through a focus on modern topics like nationalism/patriotism, conquest and invasion, world challenges, immigration and international relationships, students will be challenged to understand others’ cultures and point of view while questioning their own. This course involves a significant field-work element designed to challenge students in the broader community.

Contemporary Art and Its Roots (H) - 1 Credit - FW

This course lays a foundation of art periods up to the time of Goya during the first semester, while second semester focuses on more than 20 contemporary art movements (e.g., Impressionism, Post-impressionism, Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism, Italian Futurism, Abstraction, Dadaism, Surrealism) that began as reactions to or revivals of these prior movements. We  are learning to approach Contemporary Art with an open mind and appreciate the freedom that it offers us. Field trips to cities, monuments and museums, workshops and studio visits of local artists are complements to the Classroom work, and form an essential part of the course.

Applied Sociology: Spain and Street-Level Politics (H) - 1 Credit - FW

In this course students learn core concepts of sociology through the interactive and collaborative study of the city of Zaragoza and its people. Designed as a project-based course, students are expected to engage in sociological fieldwork on a regular basis and present their findings in a variety of ways. Though this structure students will also advance their language skills through real-world interaction with locals.

Macroeconomics and the Global Consumer (H) - 1 Credit - FW

This course introduces students to the basic principles of macro- and microeconomics and their application to national and international public policy. Students examine the development of the contemporary economy and use basic theoretical tools to analyze current issues. Classes consist primarily of discussions, although the course also employs role-playing, films, lectures, case studies and student reports on term projects. This course does not directly prepare students for the AP Microeconomics or Macroeconomics exam in May.

Environmental Science (H) - 1 Credit - FW

This is an interdisciplinary course that examines how the world works and how people can alter the delicate balance of the earth’s life-support systems. It is set up to appeal to a wide range of student interests, relevant to their everyday lives, both in Spain and at home. The dual goal is for students to analyze current environmental issues both globally and locally and to design and implement small-scale scientific investigations using an inquiry-based lab approach with Zaragoza and the environs as the laboratory.

Through lectures, readings, videos, field trips, discussions and debate, students learn about important environmental issues while conducting scientific investigations. The course is organized into four modules: geosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere. Special topics of interest include natural dynamics, local and global resources, natural hazards, anthropogenic environmental impacts, global changes and sustainable management. Students who would like to use this course to fulfill a science requirement at their home school are advised to check with their school’s Academic Office.