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 and English. Please note that courses can change from year to year. Full course descriptions can be opened below.

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2018-2019 Courses at SYA Spain

English (H) - 1 Credit

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. Focused on challenging students to improve their critical reading and analytical writing skills, texts read cover a variety of literary movements and engage with themes of alienation, isolation, foreignness or self-discovery, and the notion of place and identity, both geographic and internal. Texts selected also support the students with contextualizing their own experience.

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 complex way, through both informal and formal journaling and expository writing.


SYA offers a set of well-defined, rigorous mathematics courses which are delivered using a hybrid (in-class and online) approach. The four SYA campuses share a common curriculum which is supported via the Canvas LMS. Each course is independent-learner focused with an emphasis on two of SYA’s core student skills: independence and interdependence, and critical and creative thinking. It is likely that this approach to learning mathematics will differ somewhat from the approach students are familiar with, as the skill of learning to become a self-motivated and independent learner of mathematics is a primary focus of the SYA math curriculum.

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 shows a deep understanding of the fundamental ideas. Students take the AP Calculus AB exam in May.

Students learn how to use technology to help solve problems, experiment, interpret results, and support conclusions.

AP Calculus BC - 1 Credit

In addition, the following course may be offered if there is sufficient enrollment

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.

Students learn how to use technology to help solve problems, experiment, interpret results, and support conclusions.

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

This course begins with reading short stories and finishes with novels, all from the 20th and 21st centuries. 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. Toward the end of the year, students decide in groups which topics most interest them for their final reading.

As preparation for writing, students practice observation, imitation and creation. Analyzing literary works throughout the year prepares students to become better writers. In addition, and as support to the creative process, guest speakers (often a writer whose work has been read in class) visit the class to discuss the craft of writing. At the end of the year students write their own short stories.

AP Spanish Literature and Culture - 1 Credit

The AP Spanish Literature and Culture course uses a thematic approach to introduce students to representative texts (short stories, novels, poetry, and essays) from Peninsular Spanish, Latin American and United States Hispanic literature. Students develop proficiencies across the full range of communication modes (interpersonal, presentational and interpretive), thereby honing their critical reading and analytical writing skills. Literature is examined within the context of its time and place, as students reflect on the many voices and cultures present in the required readings. The course also includes a strong focus on cultural connections and comparisons, including exploration of various media (e.g., art, film, articles, literary criticism).

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

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

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.

Contemporary Art and Its Roots (H) - 1 Credit

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. Students learn 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 studios of local artists all complement  the classroom work and form an essential part of the course.

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 at the end of each semester.

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.

Media Literacy and Journalism in a Global Context (H) - 1 Credit

This course examines different modes of communication (from newspapers to Facebook) and teaches students to learn from media in an analytical and critical way. Once a year the class produces its own newspaper, El Guiño, researching contemporary themes and practicing a variety of journalistic genres.

In this course, students learn communication theory, analyze information that appears in Spanish media and learn about current events in Spain. In addition, they learn from politicians, journalists and other guest speakers who visit the class throughout the year. The goal is to reinforce and encourage creative thinking, intellectual curiosity and, ultimately, mastery of Spanish by understanding the oral and written language while actively examining current events in the region.

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

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

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

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.