by Wendy Williamson, Director of Study Abroad, Eastern Illinois University
This summer, I was invited to participate in the 2010 Educational Program for US Higher Education Institutions. This program is intended for study abroad program administrators and foreign language professors, who may be interested in creating and/or expanding faculty-led programs in Spain. Its primary goal is to introduce a select group of educational institutions in Spain to those who are not familiar with the opportunities they provide to study abroad students, as well as offer a first-hand experience to those who are considering Spain as a destination for their study abroad programs.
These programs are offered three times a year and are sponsored by Spain’s Institute for Foreign Trade (ICEX), EDUESPAÑA (platform for Spain’s higher education internationalization plan) and the educational institutions that are presenting themselves and their programs. They include round-trip airfare, hotel accommodations, city transfers, and meals, for one-week of activities. The itinerary is packed full of meetings with directors and presidents of some of the most prominent public and private educational institutions in the country, as well as scheduled visits to universities and schools in a select province, where current programs for foreign students are being offered. The province selected is different for every program offered and rotates around Spain.
My program was in the province of Madrid, and there were 18 participants in the group. The day after most of the group was scheduled to arrive, we spent speed-dating (20-minute back-to-back meetings) with 23 education institutions in Spain. It was a good experience, very tiring, and a blur, especially since most of us were suffering from jetlag. Fortunately, it culminated into a very nice dinner with wine. In fact, all the meals were very nice, with wine, a delightful Spanish custom. The next day, we visited a variety of institutions in the area: Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Universidad de Alcalá, Estudio Sampere, IH Madrid, Don Quijote, and Enforex ALL IN THE SAME DAY. In the evening we transferred to Salamanca.
One thing that was hard for me to get accustomed to in Spain is the late dinners. It is Spanish custom to eat dinner at a time when I am usually sleeping, and apparently our average 9:00-9:30pm dinners were even early for Spaniards! After arriving in Salamanca, I fell asleep and subsequently didn’t make it to dinner. While it was the only dinner I missed, I heard from other members of the group that it was the best, so I regretted my decision to sleep instead. On another night in Salamanca, a small group of us took a midnight stroll and photo shoot of the city. The golden city was spectacular against the dark sky…not to be missed if you have an opportunity to visit Salamanca. In Salamanca, we attended the Congress Comunidad ELE (a conference and exhibition for Spanish professors) and visited a variety of schools.
All in all, we spent three nights in Madrid and three nights in Salamanca, and then I decided to take a jaunt to Morocco, which was another great experience for yet another blog post. After returning from Morocco, I visited Málaga and then Córdoba and made it back to Madrid the night of the final match in the World Cup. I spent that evening watching the game on the streets and celebrating with Spaniards afterwards. It was an amazing experience like no other and the energy was explosive! To see the Spaniards wearing flags on their bodies (and faces), dancing in the streets, and so full of joy and life was breathtaking and without words. I left Spain with a much greater understanding and appreciation for the Spanish people and their culture.
EDUESPAÑA is an excellent model and more governments should consider it as a platform for the internationalization of their higher education. According to the IIE Open Doors Report (2009), Spain is the third leading destination for US study abroad students. For more information about the Educational Program for US Higher Education Institutions, contact them by email at info@SpainEdu.org or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, don’t forget to check out the variety of study abroad programs in Spain: college study abroad, faculty-led programs, high school abroad, degrees abroad, international dual-joint degrees, Spanish abroad, teach abroad, internships abroad, volunteer abroad, and more at AbroadScout.com.
Submitted by Wendy Williamson, Director of Study Abroad, Eastern Illinois University