By Chelsea LoCascio
Students at the College were able to discuss their worries about studying abroad with students who are currently abroad — helping put their minds at ease.
“This event allowed me first-person perspective on the experience, or as close as I can get to it, while I’m still in this country,” said Ryan Eldridge, a sophomore political science and Women’s and Gender Studies double major.
Spanish professor Isabel Kentengian, with help from the Center for Global Engagement, ran a Skype conversation between students currently studying in Alcalá de Henares in Madrid for the semester and those interested in the program on Tuesday, March 24, from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Bliss Hall.
In addition, Kentengian, the faculty director for the spring 2016 program, served authentic Spanish tapas — finger foods such as a Spanish potato omelet — as the Alcalá students described their experiences.
Several students abroad attend the Universidad de Alcalá de Henares, a program hosted by the Instituto Franklin, where the wide range of classes also include several community-engaged learning opportunities. One course taught by Kentengian allows students to help Romanian immigrants assimilate to Alcalá by developing their language skills. There is even an opportunity for pre-med majors to shadow a doctor in a hospital, which is not possible in the United States.
Aside from classes, the Alcalá students talked about their initial disinterest in participating in a homestay. Once they went abroad, however, they learned about the language and country while making a new family along the way.
“In Alcalá, they are really into (homestay). They’re sharing their friends (and) they’re taking them out,” Kentengian said. “It’s up to the student to build a relationship.”
Taking Spanish 211 is a prerequisite to studying abroad through this program, which will better prepare students for the rich language and culture they will encounter, according to Kentengian.
“(The program) is designed to immerse students of intermediate level or higher and develop their fluency,” Kentengian said.
The Alcalá students agree: The program has gone beyond the College’s expectations by providing them with life experiences they could not find anywhere else.