Should I Study Abroad in Spain or Italy?

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Liberal Arts

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College Study Abroad

When weighing your study abroad options, it’s easy to get stuck on a few favorite destinations. We get it! After all, we offer a ton of different study abroad programs in some really amazing locations around the world.  

There are two countries that students frequently find themselves evaluating together – study abroad in Spain and study abroad in Italy. Read on as we outline the benefits and differences between Spain and Italy to help you decide which of these Mediterranean study abroad sites is best for you.  

Is Italy or Spain Better for Study Abroad?  

Studying abroad in either Italy or Spain guarantees an incredible experience. Both European countries offer world-renowned attractions, thousands of years’ worth of history, cultural excursions, delicious cuisine, and more.  

So, you can’t go wrong with either one. However, there are distinct differences between the two countries, as well as a mix of programming. You might find that based on these differences, one study abroad destination speaks to you more than the other.  

Consideration #1: Language Spoken  

The official language of Spain is Spanish, while some of the population also speaks Catalan, Galician, and Basque. So, if you speak Spanish, have some Spanish language experience, or want to learn it, a study abroad program in Spain might be the best choice for you.  

The official language of Italy is obviously Italian, though there are English, French, and Spanish speakers throughout the country. There might be slightly more English speakers in Italy than Spain, but it’s important to note that much of Europe speaks English or has a basic understanding of the language. So, whether you decide to study abroad in Spain or Italy, you’ll find spoken English scattered throughout each country.  


Consideration #2: Cost of Living 

According to The Global Economy, Spain has a slightly lower cost of living than Italy, although the two are pretty comparable. Both countries are considered less expensive than living in the U.S.  

When it comes to your study abroad program, we’re currently offering three- to eight-week Italy study abroad programs that range from about $4,000 to $7,000.  

We’re also offering six- to 21-week Spain study abroad programs that range from about $7,000 to $21,000. Accounting for the differences in program length, the cost of our study abroad options in Italy and Spain are also similar.  

barcelona spain students at famous colorful wall

Consideration #3: Travel and Transportation  

Spain and Italy are just about 800 miles from one another, which is a similar distance between New York City and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for reference. Therefore, traveling from the United States to these locations is almost equivalent, with a flight to Spain taking slightly less time than a flight to an Italy destination. But it’s negligible. To be specific, traveling nonstop from the East Coast of the U.S. to Spain is about a seven-hour plane ride, compared to an eight-hour plane ride to Italy.  

Both Italy and Spain have sophisticated public transportation systems. Spain is comprised of high-speed trains, buses, trams, taxi services, and more.  

Italy also offers high-speed train services, bus routes, taxi services, long-distance coaches, and other ride-sharing services, also available through mobile apps.  

Once you’ve figured out how to navigate the public transportation systems in these countries, you’ll be able to get around with ease (and travel to other European destinations too!).  


Consideration #4: Geographical Location  

Both countries have stunning Mediterranean coastlines, proximity to other European countries, and are roughly about the same size, with Italy’s total square mileage slightly less than Spain’s. But trust us, that doesn’t mean there’s less to discover!  

A few fun facts about Spain and Italy’s locations:  

  • Spain is the only European country to have a physical border with an African country: Morocco (although Italy comes close)  
  • Spain has a relatively high average altitude in Europe, ranking second after Switzerland 
  • Italy has the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites across the globe with Spain coming in at number three!  
  • Italy has more than 1,500 lakes 
  • Spain has more than 40 islands  

Spain and Italy are both beautiful countries with lots to explore – studying abroad in either one guarantees an adventure.  

italy country map with pin
spain country map with city pins

Consideration #5: Cultural Norms 

Each country has its own cultural norms. Take note of a few things you may encounter during a study abroad in Spain program:  

  • Tipping is not routine in Spain 
  • Spaniards are known for being welcoming and generous – make sure to follow suit especially when visiting someone’s home 
  • Meals are usually served at later hours throughout the day 

And during a study abroad in Italy program:  

  • Dress neatly when visiting Italy’s many museums and holy sites 
  • It’s typical for friends and family to greet one another with kisses on both cheeks 
  • It is considered improper to place your hands on the dining table and is impolite to eat while talking or walking  

Italians and Spaniards alike are kind and welcoming; a general rule of thumb is to be respectful and ask questions if you’re unsure of something. It may be helpful to purchase a guidebook before a study abroad trip to either Spain or Italy to gain additional insight into the country’s cultural norms and traditions. And we’re always available for questions, too.  

Consideration #6: Currency  

The official currency in both Spain and Italy is the Euro, which differs slightly from the U.S. dollar – right now, $1 USD is equivalent to $0.907 Euro based on a variety of economic factors. You’ll want to stay up to date on the valuation between the two ahead of embarking on your study abroad journey.  

There are several places you can convert American cash to the Euro:  

  • Local banks 
  • Credit unions 
  • Major banks with overseas locations like Chase or Bank of America 
  • International airports 
  • Some hotels 
  • Some tourist centers 

Travel pro tip: Conversion rates are usually higher at places like airport kiosks, hotels, and tourist centers than they are at financial institutions.  

Consideration #7: Top Programs in Spain and Italy

We offer a ton of exciting study abroad programs in Italy and Spain.  

In Spain, our currently available programs take place in six different cities! Each of our programs include thrilling cultural excursions like bike tours, wine tastings, flamenco dancing classes, discovering historic Spanish towns, a gastronomical adventure (tapas anyone?), and tons more.  

Liberal Arts in Barcelona 

If you want to dive into a variety of disciplines and you’re passionate about life in a lively and beautiful city like Barcelona, look no further than our Liberal Arts program.  

  • Program Length: 14 weeks 
  • Credit: 12-15 semester hours / 18-22.25 quarter hours 
  • Eligibility: 3.0 Overall GPA  
  • Featured Course: International Marketing (taught in Spanish)  

If you’re interested in business, economics, marketing, communication, history, psychology, STEM, and more, our International Business + Culture program in the lively city of Seville is a great opportunity for you.  

  • Program Length: 19 weeks 
  • Credit: 15-18 semester hours / 22.5-27 quarter hours 
  • Eligibility: 2.9 Overall GPA 
  • Featured Course: Intercultural Communication and Leadership  

Open Campus Block in Madrid  

Design your own study abroad journey with our Open Campus Block program in Madrid, where you can choose between one, two, or up to three consecutive six-week blocks where you’ll learn all about Spain’s history and significant sites.  

  • Program Length: Six to 18 weeks 
  • Credit: 6-7 per Block semester hours / 9-10.5 per Block quarter hours 
  • Eligibility: 2.5 Overall GPA 
  • Featured Course: Spanish Masters in Madrid Museums  

Liberal Arts in Madrid  

Madrid is a multicultural marvel. If you’re passionate about humanities, social sciences, journalism, communications, and more, our Liberal Arts program in this energetic city is your best bet.  

  • Program Length: 19 weeks 
  • Credit: 15-18 semester hours / 22.5-27 quarter hours 
  • Eligibility: 3.0 Overall GPA 
  • Featured Course: Spanish Language: Proficiency  

Advanced Liberal Arts in Seville  

Walk the winding streets of Seville and receive an enviable education with our Advanced Liberal Arts program where you’ll have the option to take thorough courses in a magical setting. 

  • Program Length: 21 weeks 
  • Credit: 15-18 semester hours / 22.5-27 quarter hours 
  • Eligibility: 2.5 Overall GPA 
  • Featured Course: Strategic Issues in International Manufacturing  
study abroad student group tour

Language + Culture in Barcelona  

Discover a wide variety of disciplines in one of Spain’s most popular cities with our Language + Culture program.  

  • Program Length: 14 weeks 
  • Credit: 12-15 semester hours / 18-22.5 quarter hours 
  • Eligibility: 2.75 GPA 
  • Featured Course: Branding and Cultural Icons: The Case of Barcelona  

In Italy, we currently offer spectacular programs in Rome, but also have exciting new programs coming to Florence and Milan in 2024! You’ll have the chance to partake in cultural excursions like the open-air museum in Florence and other incredible museums featuring historic sculptures and paintings, take an authentic Italian cooking class so you can really learn how to make pasta and pizza (from scratch), visit Italy’s natural wonders, and much more.  

Get a head start on your career with our Global Internship program where you’ll gain a competitive edge and learn more about our interconnected world in the heart of Italy.  

  • Program Length: Eight weeks 
  • Credit: 6 semester hours 
  • Eligibility: 2.5 Overall GPA 

Create your own study abroad program in Rome with our Open Campus Block option! Your program length is up to you, and you’ll get to explore Rome’s food, art, culture, and history at every turn.  

  • Program Length: Six to 18 weeks 
  • Credit: 6-7 per block semester hours/ 9-10.5 per block quarter hours 
  • Eligibility: 2.5 Overall GPA  
  • Featured Course: Exploring Rome, the Birthplace of the Modern Museum  

Spend part of your winter in The Eternal City!  

  • Program Length: Three weeks 
  • Credit: 3 semester hours / 4.5 quarter hours 
  • Eligibility: 2.5 Overall GPA 
  • Featured Course: Food, Nutrition, and Culture  

What better place to spend your summer than in Rome? Visit the city’s many museums, study food, nutrition, art, cinema, history, politics, and just about anything with our Summer in Rome program.  

  • Program Length: Six weeks 
  • Credit: 6-7 per Block semester hours / 9-10.5 per Block quarter hours 
  • Eligibility: 2.5 Overall GPA 
  • Featured Course: Economics of Wine  
rome basilica student tour

The Choice is Yours 

No matter what you choose, a study abroad program in Italy or a study abroad program in Spain, you’re guaranteed to have an exciting experience. Both countries offer history, beautiful sites, out-of-this-world cuisine, stunning architecture, and more.  

Our advice? Take a close look at our program offerings to determine which location makes the most sense for you and your academic career.  

If you’re eager to really learn in a new language, Spain is your best bet. But if you’re itching to dive into the history of cuisine, Italy is perfect.  

Having a clear understanding of your academic or career goals will help you decide between these two amazing countries.  

Buena suerte! Or should we say, buona fortuna? Either way, good luck!