by Liliana Marquez
East Los Angeles College is offering a chance for students to travel to Spain and spend a month in Salamanca during the summer as part of the Study Abroad Program.
The city of Salamanca is located to the west of Spain’s capital, Madrid and from June 28 to July 28, students who enroll in this program will have the opportunity to attend classes at the Pontifical University of Salamanca.
This opportunity was made possible because of a partnership between ELAC and West Los Angeles College.
During that month, the students will take Spanish instruction classes four hours per day, Monday through Friday during the mornings.
Any student at ELAC or any other community college in the Los Angeles Community College District can enroll in this program.
If students have never taken a Spanish class, they will be able to take an introductory course in Spain, therefore they don’t need to be fluent in Spanish nor be currently enrolled in Spanish courses.
The program has introductory, intermediate and advanced courses available. These courses tend to focus on language, civilization and culture.
This program will also offer students the opportunity to explore and travel around Spain during their free time as well as with the rest of the students in excursions to Segovia, La Granja, the El Alcazar Castle, etc.
“This is such a valuable experience. Many of our students have not traveled even just outside our city. They’ve had very limited experiences and this is going to open so many doors.
“Not only because they are Spanish speakers, but they are going to look at themselves as Spanish speakers in a different context in Spain,” ELAC Spanish instructor Norma Vega said.
Vega can relate to that, since she also studied abroad. She said that when she went abroad, she had the opportunity to appreciate more her Spanish because she had something to contrast it with.
She also said that students who decide to travel to Spain will also have the opportunity to separate themselves from their families and friends and meet people from different cultures, not only in a different country, but also in a different continent.
“There are many Latinos here in the United States, Spanish speaking Latinos, who don’t see themselves as an extension of the Spanish speaking community. They don’t see themselves as an extension of Latin America and studying abroad will bring that out,” Vega said.
Vega, who is the liaison between both colleges, said that WLAC has been offering abroad programs for a long time now, therefore they have experience on the matter.
“We have been working on the Study Abroad Program for at least three years, so when they (WLAC) approached us we are already talking about having a Study Abroad Program somewhere,” Vega said.
The talks about bringing this program to ELAC happened during the budget cuts.
“We were knocking units off and at the same time we needed units to apply them to the program, so this is why we were reluctant, but last year we had a couple of students go with West LA College and this year we are expecting about ten to 15 (ELAC) students,” Vega said.
Although ELAC is only promoting the summer program, WLAC also offers a fall semester program to Salamanca, Spain from August 31 to November 23 and if students are interested to participate, they can.
ELAC has been promoting the summer program more because the instructors want to create a culture of studying abroad on campus, before promoting the semester program.
Vega and her colleagues of the Foreign Languages Department hope that this program will awaken in students a deeper curiosity when it comes to language and culture in both Latin America and Spain.
For Spanish instructor Othon Olivas, students who decide to attend an abroad program get the unique opportunity to broaden their scope of other cultures around the world.
“They get to meet people from all over Europe and other parts of the world who are there for the same purpose: to study the culture and the language as well. This will enrich the student’s college experience to making them more open mined by broadening their sensibility toward other cultures and races.” Olivas said.
The department is also planning to promote this program at the local high schools that feed into ELAC, so that students know beforehand that this opportunity is available, so if they are interested, they can start making plans and saving money if needed to.
“I believe that it is important for students to take an opportunity like this because it will have a great impact in their lives. They will be able to experience many of the things they have learned in their classes or textbooks,” Olivas said.
In the future, the department would like to also offer study abroad programs to Latin America in countries like Costa Rica and Peru.
“Of course there is always Mexico. I keep telling my students and they laugh every time I say this, ‘I don’t want you to go to Guadalajara or to Mexico City and go end up living with your tia (aunt) out there.’
“I want them to experience something outside the reach of their family. Right now the instability in Mexico is a concern, but we are certainly open to it,” Vega said.
The Pontifical University of Salamanca, which is a private catholic institution, was established in 1940 and offers personalized attention and guidance to students as well as the best technological equipment for students and instructors.
Salamanca is a city with great architecture, culture, and history. It was declared a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage site in 1988. The city is also home to the University of Salamanca, which is the oldest university in Spain. The closest cities to Salamanca include Madrid, Avila, Segovia, and Lisbon, Portugal.
For questions or information regarding prices, or any other concerns, students can visit www.interedstudy.org or get in contact with the following instructors: Elva Hernández email@example.com, Norma Vega firstname.lastname@example.org or Lynn Vogel-Zuiderweg email@example.com.