May 2008 issue

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Everything in Andalucia

Spain’s sunny southern region of Andalucia has lots to see, do and experience and with friendly locals, fantastic cuisine, lively nightlife and awe-inspiring landmarks.

Andalucia’s only drawback might be that students need a holiday when they get home, relates Amy Baker.

Andalucia is “typical” Spain with its whitewashed villages and hot sun, flamenco and party culture, sangria and paella. A relaxed lifestyle and gorgeous beaches add to the allure: as Erin Corcoron at Don Quijote puts it, “Andalucia is the Spain that [students] have seen in books, movies and travel posters”.

Where to study in Andalucia is possibly the most difficult decision that students will have to make, as once they are there, most of the language schools in the area seem to offer plenty of activities to take care of any student’s free time. “School afternoon activities often include a walk through a local neighbourhood or a look at a particular aspect of local culture,” relates Corcoran. “Even the morning coffee break in a local bar exposes students to local culture and people.”

Don Quijote has a school in Granada and partner schools in Marbella, Seville, Málaga and Cadiz. These cities represent much of the best of Andalucia, overflowing with culture, history and life. Cadiz, with its location jutting into the sea, is a striking town with impressive history and architecture. Marbella is well known as a playground of the rich and famous with a glitzy port nearby (Puerto Banus) and casinos, clubs and golf courses as well as beaches.

Granada is one of the cherries on the Andalucian torta – first settled in prehistoric times and the last Muslim city in the region to fall to the Christians in 1492. As well as an old Moorish quarter El Albaicín and an ancient cathedral, this exuberant orange-roofed city with a lively university population attracts tourists chiefly because of the Alhambra. A series of palaces and gardens built at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, the impressive Alhambra stands imposing over the city and is a fascinating place to explore, with a summer palace, fountains and gardens within its boundaries.

Malaga has put in a bid to be European Capital of Culture in 2016 and it is proudly becoming an up-and-coming city in touristic terms, with the Alcazaba (fortress), Gilbralfaro Castle, Picasso Museum, ancient bullring, great beaches and lively Semana Santa festival in the town centre making Malaga an attractive proposition.

Quite a number of Spanish language schools are in the city. A busy city as well as a tourist destination, it successfully blends real life and leisure into the Spanish study experience. “The beach is obviously the favourite activity for students,” relates Boelo van der Pool of Babel Idiomas there. “But our school is in the centre of town as well, so students visit most monuments in town and like to hang out in the centre and have a drink with their friends.”

Real life in Malaga inevitably involves tapas and socialising over a drink or a bite to eat. Bob Burger of Malaca Instituto relates that students enjoy eating tapas, paella, fish and seafood including local boquerones (whitebait) that are typical to the region: “So many boquerones are eaten in Malaga that someone born here is called a boqueron!”

Beer, sangria and wine are all keenly sampled by students too, as Sjef Bexkens of Malaga Si! underlines. “Because of the many parties, social activities and lower prices, students drink more alcohol than they do at home,” he relates. “They drink the Spanish beers and especially the girls like Tinto de Verano (red wine and lemonade).”

Aside from socialising at night, students like to explore the historic cities and local landscape as well as go to the beach and enjoy the weather. Corcoran lists the national park at Doñana, Europe’s most important wetland, as intriguing for students as well as the Sierra Nevada mountain range, the Alhambra at Granada, the Mezquita (Roman Catholic cathedral) in Cordoba and Seville’s Alcazar (royal palace). “The Alhambra was recently a finalist in a highly publicised contest for the New Seven Wonders of the World,” she notes.

At Instituto Picasso in Malaga, Ursula Holthausen agrees that, “All of our students want to go to Granada and the Alhambra; some of them want to see the Sierra Nevada, Cordoba and Sevilla.” She adds that “typical white villages like Nerja, Frigiliana and Mijas Peublo and gorgeous landscapes like the mountain lake ‘El Chorro’” are high up on the to-do list for students.

Centro de Idiomas Quorum is located in Nerja itself, one of the many charming villages that are situated in Andalucia. “Here in Nerja we have the Nerja Caves,” relates Jose Mendez at the school. “They are an incredible natural formation that is not so well known among those that come to the town. We also have walks up the Chillar River, that lead to a set of waterfalls in an incredible setting – part of a natural reservation,” he relates.

A fan of Andalucia because “it has so much to offer”, Mendez points to one overlooked attraction in his opinion: Almeria on the eastern edge of Andalucia, with its fantastic Tabernas Desert. “Almeria offers incredible contrasts and it is an undiscovered country,” he says. “The beauty of the natural reserves, the beaches and the only desert in Europe make Almeria a place not to forget.” The desert has been used as a filmset for films including A Fistful of Dollars and The Magnificent Seven.

Seville is the capital of Andalucia and more than two thousand years old – certainly a contender for most historic city, along with a few others. Frederic Parilla at Clic-IH attests that Seville itself is a key attraction of the region, and has many festivals such as the Bienal (festival) of Flamenco and the European Film Festival. The city’s Feria de Abril is another example. Originally a cattle-trading event dating from 1847, now the week-long party features flamenco, bullfighting and general merriment. A more modern attraction is the Alamillo Bridge, which spans Seville’s canal and was completed in 1992, when Spain hosted Expo 92. It is an arresting sight and has a single pilon that counterbalances a 200-metre span bridge.

With so much to see and do, Andalucia encourages activity and interaction and many schools point to the friendliness of the region. Holthausen says, “Many students cry when they leave, as everything here seems so easygoing and even a reserved character does not feel isolated.” And Jose A. Candela at Proyecto Español in Granada observes, “Andalucia has a great street culture and [it is easy] to build relationships with friendly people in bars or taperias (tapas bars)”.

Agent viewpoint

“We recommend the region for four reasons: the beauty and the history of Seville and Andalucia; the excellence of the school we are dealing with (in this case it’s Clic-IH); the real kindness of the Spanish people in this part of Spain; and the reasonable prices. The history of the cities are very important to our clients.”
Françoise Gourjault, La Route des Langues, France

“Japanese people’s images of Spain are of sunshine, flamenco, olive oil, bullfights etc. Andalucia has all these elements. Many Japanese girls want to learn flamenco in Andalucia. Some of them go to flamenco school. I think Andalucian people are friendlier than in Madrid or Barcelona. And of course, Andalucia has many exciting and interesting places, but to understand real Andalucia, it’s better to talk, have a lunch and drink with people who live there.”
Hideo Yonekawa, InterSpain, Japan

“Andalucia is a very popular region because of its natural beauty, sunny climate, nice beaches and unique cultural heritage. The region offers a great variety of picturesque villages, long sandy beaches, beautiful landscapes and historical sites like the Mezquita in Cordoba or the Alhambra in Granada. Students like to relax on the beach, learn flamenco, or enjoy tapas and wine in one of the bodegas.”
Christopher Thebing, Kolumbus Sprachreisen, Germany

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The following language schools, associations and accommodation providers advertised in the latest edition of Language Travel Magazine. If you would like more information on any of these advertisers, tick the relevant boxes, fill out your details and send.





Britannia Student
Sara's New York
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Languages Canada  
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Centre Linguista
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Bell International
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CES Swandean
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      World Organisation  
Kaplan Aspect 
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LAL Language and
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Carl Duisberg
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International House
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ISI Language
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Idiomas Sí!  
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Global Immersions
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Zoni Language
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