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Health Care in Spain: A Cross-cultural Exploration of Illness and Wellness


Tarragona, Spain

Program Description

In this course health students will explore the health care system of Tarragona, Catalonia, Spain, through a partnership with the Faculty of Nursing at Universitat Rovira i Virgili. Through an international lens, students will learn about the nursing profession and related health fields, as well as the unique culture, history, and language of the Catalonian region of Spain.

Students will explore the ways that Spanish health professionals address health needs in both acute and community care settings in the context of the national health system, and will compare and contrast this with their knowledge of the U.S. health system approach. This immersion experience includes a possible home stay with a Spanish family, meeting Spanish university students, and additional language study. Prerequisite: Spanish language skill.

Location Description

The Mediterranean coastal city of Tarragona, capital city of the Catalonian province of Tarragona, is home to about 135,000 people. Barcelona, Spain’s second-largest city, is an hour north, and Valencia is to the south. Tarragona is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its rich ancient Roman history. It is also a thriving industrial port city and part of the sparkling Costa Dorada. Tarragona is the capital of an entire region full of culture, beauty, history, and learning opportunities.

As part of this Study Abroad program, students will learn in partnership with faculty at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV), the premier location for higher education in the Province of Tarragona. Due to its emphasis on interculturality and international education, URV is renowned for high quality education and research. According to URV’s website, Tarragona “offers the perfect combination of culture, study and leisure in a safe environment.” Students will be able to advance their Spanish language skills, as well as learn Catalan, which is its own distinctive language.


Erika Metzler Sawin | | Nursing


Students will live, usually in pairs, with a Spanish family, in conjunction with a Tarragona-based agency. Homes are within Tarragona city limits, enabling easy bus and train access, within walking distance of the Tarragona campus.

- All meals are included with the program cost
- Breakfast and dinner will be with the host families
- Lunch is eaten at the university cafeteria.
- In the event of travel to surrounding areas, students will be given a meal stipend to use at their own discretion
- There will be at least two group meals.

Additional Items to Consider

- Immunizations as required for both nursing department and foreign travel, laptop with Internet capability required.
- Students will have emergency access to faculty cell phones.
- Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Spain will likely administer an online language test to determine all students' abilities


May 20– Arrive in Tarragona
May 22 - Meet host families
May 21-22 – Orientation at Universitat Rovira I Virgili (URV); Overview of course expectations. Overview of clinical sites. Initial overview of health system, politics, and culture. Historical walking tour of Tarragona.

Next three weeks (M-F) : Mornings – Clinical work in local facilities such as Joan XXIII Hospital (acute care), local Primary Care Centers (perhaps Salou) and other clinics as noted by URV faculty. Afternoons: language class, clinical and academic site visits.

Weekends: Course faculty will organize some visits, for example beaches at Salou, Tortosa, and Montserrat.

June 10 (Friday): Wrap-up in Tarragona, despedida.

June 11 - 15: course culminates with a Barcelona visit.

Applicant Criteria

Applicants must have a GPA minimum of 2.5

SPAN 232 or equivalent, as students will be practicing clinically with health care professionals and families.

Geared towards nursing students at all levels, but students in other health professions (PT, SLP, Pre-Med) are more than welcome to apply.

Junior or senior standing

Application Process

(Program Open)

This list serves as an application preview. To apply, students will need to complete the following:

  • Study Abroad Online Application ($25 fee)
  • Short essay 
  • Faculty letter of recommendation
  • Resume
  • Interview with Program Director
  • Official transcript required for non-JMU and first semester transfer students.

Further details and instructions about these application requirements will be available upon log-in. 

apply now 

Application Deadline


All dates are tentative and subject to change


NSG 490: Special Studies in Nursing: Health Care in Spain- A Cross-Cultural Exploration of Illness and Wellness (4 credits)

Courses listed here are to be used as a general guideline for program curriculum. *All courses are considered pending until approved by the Academic Department, Program, and/or College.