You can read about Spanish culture for hours on end. You can study conjugation charts, memorize new vocabulary and practice with textbook activities and smartphone apps.
But the best way to learn a new language and culture is to step outside of the classroom and live it.
For the 29 Spartans who traveled to Madrid, Spain, this summer, learning Spanish often involved eating tapas, navigating the metro, dancing flamenco and yelling “GOOOOOL!” at a soccer match.
The UNC Greensboro Summer in Spain program – led this year by Dr. Ignacio Lopez and Dr. Alejandro Hortal – is a five-week, faculty-led study abroad program that dates back to the late 1970s, making it one of the university’s longest-running programs. Undergraduate students take six credit hours in Spanish language and culture from UNCG faculty, in addition to participating in planned weekend excursions to cities such as Toledo, Segovia and Seville.
The program has found the right balance of structured programming and free time, allowing students to engage with locals in an authentic way and put to practice what they’ve learned in the classroom.
Ultimately, students return home not only with increased cultural competence and linguistic ability, but with a new sense of self.
“I’m open to more experiences and getting out of my comfort zone because of this program,” said junior Marykent Wolff, an English major with minors in Spanish and women’s and gender studies.
Wolff, who has her eyes set on graduate school, is also starting to think differently about her professional goals.
“Before, I didn’t think about Spanish as something I could use in a career. But now, I see that regardless of the field, Spanish will be beneficial,” she said. “Even as an English major, Spanish has helped me improve my understanding of English grammar. Learning one language expands your capacities in other languages.”
According to Heidi Bretz, assistant director of study abroad and exchanges for UNCG’s International Programs Center (IPC), it’s this kind of global experience that is making a tangible difference for Spartans when they graduate and begin their careers.
“It may sound cliché, but there are hardly any jobs or industries today that do not interact with other cultures or nations on some level,” she said. “Studying abroad gives students a competitive edge in an increasingly global workforce.”
IPC offers students a variety of faculty-led programs, as well as exchange opportunities through its partner institutions. Whether it’s a 5-week or 5-month program, students of all majors have the opportunity to study abroad.
“Our university is committed to getting students abroad, and it shows,” Bretz said. “Students can study abroad for a semester or year for the same tuition they are already paying. Plus, students on semester programs, as well as shorter-term opportunities like Summer in Spain, can use their financial aid if they’re eligible. I can’t tell you how many students say they chose to come to UNCG specifically for the study abroad opportunities.”
UNCG’s Fall Study Abroad Expo will take place Aug. 22 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the lobby in front of the Elliott University Center Auditorium. To learn more about study abroad opportunities, visit international.uncg.edu.
Story by Alyssa Bedrosian, University Communications
Photography submitted by Amanda Terrell