Our department encourages students to study abroad and to experience Hispanic cultures first hand. Most of our majors and minors take advantage of this opportunity and spend a semester or summer in a Spanish speaking country. Here are some of their stories:
This summer, I travelled to Cochabamba, Bolivia, to study the educational services that nonprofit non-governmental organizations are providing to youths. Bolivia is the poorest country in South America, with an average income of about $2200 per year. Families live in houses they've built themselves, children are forced to work in the streets, and social protests arise in response to extreme income inequalities. As an Economics and Sociology double major, I had an incredible opportunity to expand upon the knowledge I had gained in the classroom by going abroad. I stayed with a host family, interacted with the local population, conducted interviews, and volunteered as an instructor for two NGOs. I worked in schoolhouses and assisted with homework in math, English, social studies and even Spanish grammar and vocabulary. My Spanish improved rapidly, and my eyes were opened to a way of life that I didn’t even know existed when I first arrived at the college. This immersive cultural experience left me with friends that I still speak with regularly, and allowed me to leave the United States for the first time in my life. And none of it would have been possible without the Spanish Summer Research Grant, and support from the Spanish department at F&M!
During the spring semester of 2013, I studied in Madrid, Spain through Syracuse University. As part of the program, all students travel on a two-week seminar before classes officially start. My seminar was called “Mare Nostrum,” and we toured several cities across Spain, learning about the country’s unique history and roots. Once we arrived in Madrid, I enrolled in five classes, all of which were taught in Spanish. My favorite class focused on contemporary Spanish cinema, but I also enjoyed learning about the “15M” movement in my Spanish pop culture class. Aside from classes, I stayed with a host family, which the program mandates. Although it might seem nerve-racking at first, there’s honestly no better way to improve verbal and listening skills than living with people who cannot speak English. But don’t worry! The host families are incredibly patient with the students. All in all, Madrid is an awesome city. Whether you’re into the touristy areas like Sol or the more historical sections such as Anton Martín, there is always something to do or see. As a sports fanatic, I attended several Atlético games. Spanish football is amazing, and I highly recommend going to at least one game. Overall, the people are kind and accepting. Unlike New York, they actually hold the door open for you! Lastly, I would suggest exploring every bit of the city. It’s easy to get content with some of the more popular venues, but there are neat attractions everywhere. So if you plan on studying in Madrid, get accustomed to the phrase “Vale,” prepare for the occasional discussion about the current economic and political crisis, and cheer for Atlético!
During the summer of 2013, I studied abroad in Argentina for six weeks with IFSA-Butler: Summer Language and Culture at the Universidad de Buenos Aires. I stayed with a host mom in the city and took a class on Argentine culture and another one on Argentine History. In addition to the classes, the program organized various dinners, tango lessons, and trips to local sporting events so that we could fully experience the Argentine lifestyle. The program also took us across the Río de la Plata to spend a weekend in Uruguay! Since the classes at the university met Tuesdays through Fridays, I planned several long-weekend trips with my friends so we could explore other unique areas of Argentina. Our first trip was to Mendoza where we toured vineyards and the gorgeous Andes Mountains. Next we went to Iguazú Falls on the border of Argentina and Brazil to see the breathtaking waterfalls. During the last week, we spent some time in Salta, a province in northern Argentina, where we experienced a dry, desert-like region of the Andes Mountains with indigenous lamas, donkeys, and gauchos. While we were there we also got to see "Las Salinas Grandes", huge salt flats in the middle of the mountains at an impressive altitude. The summer program was a wonderful opportunity to learn and travel without having to miss out on anything that F&M offers during a regular semester!
Choosing to spend a college semester studying abroad in Arica, Chile has certainly been one of the most intelligent life decisions that I have ever made. Not only did my Spanish language skills exceed any level that I had imagined possible, but living in Chile afforded me the opportunity to grow as an international citizen. Living in a foreign country, with a foreign culture, foreign food, and a language that was not my native language, taught me how to respect a lifestyle completely different from that which I had grown up with, and how to enjoy a way of life that was completely new to me. Forming strong bonds of friendship and connecting with Chileans while speaking a second language was certainly the most rewarding aspect of the entire trip. I returned to the United States with a new-found confidence that I can reach across language borders to connect with people all across Latin America, and that if given the opportunity, I can contribute to the lives of my family and friends who live in Latin America. If living in Chile has taught me one thing, it’s that my life will always be richer for the time that I have spent abroad.
In the fall of 2012, I spent four months studying abroad in Madrid, Spain with IES: Language and Area Studies. Through this program, I had the opportunity to take Spanish courses in a variety of disciplines including Spanish history and politics, international business, and Spanish literature and film. In addition to my classroom experience, I participated in two extracurricular programs: one where I was matched with a Spanish university student to practice our Spanish and English speaking skills, and another where I volunteered teaching English in a kindergarten and first grade classroom. I was also able to live with a host mother, or "señora," which allowed me to develop a new level of comfort with the Spanish language skills I have been cultivating here at F&M. During the semester, I traveled to many other cities throughout Spain, developing a love for the unique culture of each place and finding out how diverse Spain really is. Even considering all my travels, Madrid really became my home. In just four months, I felt that I became a Madrileña and developed a global perspective that has stayed with me upon my return to the U.S.