She jumps out of bed and scrambles to gather her things but arrives at the gate right as the plane is taking off. She missed it. The gate agent tells her all the other flights to Barcelona are booked, so Emily tries the train station in the middle of town. At 8:30 a.m., the virtual kiosk shows no available seats on any train to Barcelona. She approaches the help desk and explains, in Spanish, her dilemma. A few clicks on the computer reveals one last window seat on the 8:50 a.m. train.
Emily sits gratefully on the train, watching the Spanish countryside pass by her window. She’s one of 11 Eckerd students testing their limits and enjoying adventures in the first group to spend a full semester at the College’s Seville Study Center in Spain.
The International Studies Abroad study center in Seville, Spain
More than Language
Professor of Spanish Yanira Angulo-Cano, Ph.D., is the inaugural faculty leader of the program, which has significant differences from the College’s London Study Centre. The logistics are made possible through a partnership with International Studies Abroad, an organization that has offered global education options to American and Canadian students since 1987.
Eckerd students can take courses at one of two local universities in Seville. The ISA Study Center offers classes taught in English, and the Universidad Pablo de Olavide offers Spanish instruction. The list of course offerings is extensive and diverse, which allows the Center to accommodate many different majors.
Angulo-Cano teaches two courses—a mandatory Spanish Seminar that involves going into the city to learn more about the history and culture of Seville, and a course her students design pertaining to their discipline. This semester, the students have been collaborating on a blog to document their experiences.
Students who chose to study at the Seville Center are living with one other Eckerd student in a host home.
“Home stays are a great opportunity for language and cultural immersion,” Alicia Jones, associate director of global education at Eckerd, says.
Host families come in all shapes and sizes, she adds. Some live in apartments or townhomes, while others live in houses farther from the city center. Some have children and some are empty nesters. There are so many advantages to living with a host family. It gives students an automatic sense of safety and security. They are part of a family as soon as they arrive in Spain, which can make the transition less jarring. They have a guide to show them around, recommending restaurants and sights to see. There’s even the possibility of excursions with the family. It creates an opportunity to see the city through a local’s perspective.
Eating traditional homemade meals with their host families gives students a real sense of home when their roots seem so far away. Kait Kennedy, a junior environmental studies student from Beverly, Massachusetts, loves to cook, so she’s been having fun learning how to make traditional Spanish dishes.
Eckerd students stand with Professor of Spanish Yanira Angulo-Cano in Seville.
Meeting the Demand
The Seville Center came to be because Eckerd students were showing significant interest in studying in Spain. Surveys in the Office of Global Education revealed that many students were planning independent trips to Spain with ISA and other study abroad organizations. Associate Dean of Global Education Thandi Dinani, Ph.D., wanted to find a way to bring Eckerd into these experiences and capitalize on the existing interest. Eckerd has had a strong relationship with ISA for many years, and ISA already had a strong presence in Seville. The partnership came naturally, and ISA has helped Eckerd hone many of the trip logistics. They have relationships with host families and have shared their academic facilities with Eckerd College.
Those partnerships translated to days drinking café con leche, exploring ancient ruins and speaking lots of Spanish. Commuting to class means passing colorful buildings and narrow streets lined with cafés. Eckerd students spend their free time combing the gorgeous city for hidden gems.
On the short walk to class, Emily stops by a local pasteleria (cake shop) for breakfast. She visits often enough that the workers know her and her order of a napolitana de chocolate and a café con leche.
Alex Faragher, a junior biochemistry student from Smyrna, Delaware, enjoys stopping at Parque de María Luisa for a quiet place to sit. She admires the flowers, archways and waterfalls it has to offer.
On a solo afternoon, Hannah Keltner, a sophomore environmental studies student from Tallahassee, Florida, stumbles upon Hospital de los Venerables while on her daily walk. Coming off the bustling street, she is surprised to find a quiet oasis and blown away by the ornate details and natural lighting in the chapel.
“It is indeed an empowering experience for our students to live and study in a different country,” Angulo-Cano says, “navigating the nuances of another culture and its traditions.”
Weekend travel is common for students to take full advantage of their time abroad. They have been galavanting all across Europe and northern Africa—sometimes independently, sometimes with ISA and sometimes on Eckerd-planned adventures. The Eckerd cohort has already traveled to Switzerland and will visit Gibraltar, Córdoba and Granada before semester’s end.
On one weekend trip, Kait returns to middle school. Towering in front of her is the Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar in Barcelona. This is the same building she once built a replica of for a history-class assignment all those years ago. She knows from its exterior she has seen the architecture before, but the inside is magic to her. With its circular stained glass reflecting reds and greens and blues, it looks nothing like her cardboard replica.
“Remembering how, late at night, I was up building that tiny model was a cool reminder of how much work was put into this building,” she says.
Martha Pisacano, a senior animal studies and Spanish student from Lexington, Kentucky, spends a life-changing week in Morocco on an ISA excursion. A beautiful collection of tents shelter travelers from the desert elements, and their days are spent riding camels, surfing dunes and playing cards. Martha loves connecting with the locals and other students from ISA programs all around Spain.
Looking Forward to the Next Class
As far as Eckerd faculty go, Angulo-Cano has been dedicated to conducting diverse education programs in Spain for many years. Jones says Angulo-Cano was a natural leader in the development of this program because she was motivated by student interest as she structured a lot of the academic components. The next Eckerd faculty leader will teach and serve as a liaison between the two hosting institutions in Seville while living in faculty housing.
Angulo-Cano has previously traveled to Seville for various reasons, but this is her first time visiting with students.
“It has been most rewarding to see them fall in love with this vibrant and colorful crossroad of civilizations,” she says. “The best part has been watching my students become familiar and comfortable in their new city.”