• Business Professor Andy Ross and Spanish Professor Katy Ross are taking students to Granada, Spain, this summer.
    Business Professor Andy Ross and Spanish Professor Katy Ross are taking students to Granada, Spain, this summer.

This summer Southwestern students will take Spain and Costa Rica by storm with two new study abroad programs. To replace the previously offered trip to Guanajuato, Mexico, 17 students will travel to San Joaquin de Flores, Costa Rica, and 24 Spanish and business majors or minors will explore the city of Granada, Spain. These two six-week programs emphasize growth in both language proficiency and cultural awareness.

As part of the curriculum for the Costa Rica trip, students will receive credit for Spanish III and IV, with courses taught by Costa Rican professors. “Students are motivated by the opportunity to do the courses over the summer, but also being able to learn Spanish in a native speaking environment,” says Sue Mennicke, director of intercultural learning at Southwestern.

The location of San Joaquin de Flores offers a unique cultural experience in a small-town setting. “It is in a location where students will really be speaking Spanish on a day-to-day basis. It is intentionally not in San José where there is access to more English, because it is such a tourist destination. It is a smaller town that has a slower pace,” says Mennicke.

The 17 Southwestern students will be a part of a greater cohort of college students from across the country, but will participate in weekly reflection meetings, specifically as a part of the Southwestern curriculum. In addition to academic classes, students in Costa Rica and Granada will live with host families in their respective locations. Living with host families prevents students from speaking English with their peers, immersing them into a pure cultural environment with as much exposure to language and culture as possible. “In observing how a family interacts and how they participate in their culture, one gets a much more grounded sense of cultural values,” Mennicke says. 

Students going to Costa Rica are from varied majors and disciplines, but there is a more targeted audience for the advanced Spanish program in Granada. Since the incoming requirement is a four-semester proficiency in Spanish, most students are either Spanish majors or minors, but what is unique about the program this year is the added business component. In addition to one advanced Spanish course, students will choose between “Cultures of Spain” offered by Spanish Professor Katy Ross and “International Business” offered by Business Professor Andy Ross. The “Cultures of Spain” course will function as an advanced Spanish literature and culture study, and “International Business” will take a deeper look at the function of the European Union, globalization and its affect on Spain, Spain’s current financial challenges, and a broader look at how Spain interacts both economically and socially with the rest of the world.

Katy Ross said she and her husband decided to offer the program in Granada after visiting the city with students during a 2007 trip to Spain.  “Granada is a university town, much like Austin,” she says. “A large percentage of the town is college-aged, it’s situated close to both the mountains and the beaches, and it’s much more intimate than Madrid. In Granada, stores still close for siesta, the main meal of lunch is still eaten with family at home, and students will really have the opportunity to interact with their host families and other Spaniards. Granada also offers a deep history of both the Moorish and Christian traditions that helped shape Spain’s culture.”

Sophomore Daniella de Peña says she chose the trip to Spain because it works out perfectly with her business major and Spanish minor. “Since I’m double majoring, it is hard to study abroad and I was lucky that Professor Ross was offering an international business course along side his wife who is teaching a Spanish course,” de Peña says. “And why not polish up on some Spanish?”

Mennicke says she sees a growing interest in interdisciplinary trips that combine multiple areas of study and allow students to glean more from their study abroad experience. “The Granada trip is a nice model, and it is one that we might be able to replicate with other departments in the future,” she says. “We are always looking for good ways to cleverly combine things. Institutionally we are looking at the concept of interdisciplinary learning, and this is a nice way to blend that with what we are doing with study abroad programming.”

Part of Southwestern’s educational philosophy is to “gain a macro-view of the world” and as Mennicke says, “The fact that these summer programs are much more than doing a trip abroad is huge. The importance of studying abroad is that you are actually learning in a structured way with a curriculum that provides a foundation for your experience where you are being asked to critically reflect on what is going on.”

For more information on semester and summer abroad experiences, visit the Office of Intercultural Learning website.

Rosalie Bonner


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