Being a Small Part of Something Bigger While Studying Abroad

Posted on behalf of Sara Gagnon ’15, who recently returned from a semester on the Skidmore in Spain program:

I owe my great experience interning in Madrid, Spain to the staff on the Skidmore in Spain program, especially Luis Castilla and Chavela Olivares. They helped me find the Club de Madrid, a non-governmental organization that works to promote democracy worldwide through the experience of its membership made up of ex-heads of state and government. Luis and Chavela helped me to translate and prepare my Spanish résumé and were also very supportive—I was terrified about my first Spanish interview but now am extremely happy I did it!

Upon starting, I wasn’t sure how to be comfortable working in a Spanish office, but I was fortunate to work in a place where everyone, regardless of his or her position, is kind and always willing to help. I worked in the Programs department, which consists of four program officers and is headed by a program coordinator. My tasks varied from day to day, and included writing and translating documents and speeches. I was actually given the tasks of translating the first draft of a speech that former president of Spain José Zapatero gave at the UN, as well as a Spanish to English translation of his talking points for a later mission, which I was so excited to do and which proved to be very rewarding work. I spent much of my time researching political systems, current events, leaders, and political climates and examining social media for the program officers. I worked closely with an officer to produce briefing books, which the organization’s members used on their democratic missions. This meant collecting and organizing all logistical information regarding the mission, creating press summaries pertaining to the countries visited and addressed, and physically printing off and assembling the books. I also wrote for the Shared Societies blog, which involved researching and writing stories pertaining to social inclusion. There was an event held in Madrid which I was fortunate enough to attend and take notes on—I was able to meet the ex-president of Latvia and the ex-president of Uruguay, as well as other diplomats, and my boss Amir encouraged me to do some networking. I worked in organizing the event by contacting embassies regarding diplomats’ attendance, which turned out to be the most nerve-racking test (and practice) of my Spanish phone skills I’d ever had.

I loved these tasks because I felt like a part of the Programs department and the Club de Madrid. I wasn’t treated like a typical intern at the bottom of the ladder, who exists only to put information into Excel documents (which I did do on occasion and enjoyed nonetheless), but I was given challenging work and applicable and constructive feedback. My creativity was appreciated and encouraged, which, being a Skidmore student, was really cool. Often my research involved current events, which gave me the opportunity to be doing relevant work that was part of an effort to cause change where change was needed. It was gratifying and fulfilling to do meaningful work, and I learned so much. From the basics of working with a team in an office in a foreign country to the extensive knowledge I gained about international politics and specific countries, I learned so much (literally) every day. I feel more informed and experienced in the field of international politics in many of the world’s regions, which I will use going forward in my studies of Government and Spanish at Skidmore.

Most of all I was inspired by the good work of the people at the Club de Madrid. Their genuineness and commitment to helping people around the world has affirmed for me that I want to do something similar with my life. This internship gave me more than the chance to develop my skills and learn more about both the world and myself. It was an opportunity to be a real part of and give back to the Madrid community that has given so much to me. For that I am grateful.

-Sara Gagnon ’15

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The Early Bird Catches the Worm…

Greeting Early Birds!!

If you’re looking to study off-campus in the spring, keep in mind that some programs have very early deadlines.

For example, the following programs have OCSE deadlines in early to mid September:

If you’re interested in studying in Nagoya, Japan through IES – you must apply by July 15th!!

Don’t forget! You need to apply to OCSE at least two weeks before your program’s deadline. If you have questions about your applications over the summer, give us a call!

For info on all deadlines go here.

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Travel Seminar to Prague – Read along through Prof. Kate Graney’s blog!

Check out Professor Kate Graney’s blog, keeping us updated as she and Prof. Flagg Taylor lead a group of students throughout Prague!

From the airport to the excursions, get a sense of what it’s like when you take your learning outside of the classroom and into the city and streets you’ve been learning about all semester.

If you’d like to learn more about upcoming travel seminars, go here!

 

 

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Site visit to Cusco, Peru with IPSL

After a  L O N G day of travel, I arrived in Cusco, Peru. Cusco is at about 11,000 ft above sea level and the city rests in a valley surrounded by mountains. It is absolutely beautiful.

A view of Cusco from Saksaywaman.

A view of Cusco from Saksaywaman.

The IPSL program incorporates service learning into the academic program. Students take courses at the Universidad San Ignacio de Loyola (USIL) as well as volunteer 10-15 hours a week at one of the handful of placements in the area. Classes are taught in English, with the exception of the required Spanish language course and a literature course, so students with varying levels of Spanish can do this program. The University in Cusco is a branch campus of the larger University in Lima. At Cusco, there are about 100 students at any given time from around the world.

While I was there, I visited 3 of the possible service placements:

  • The Huillcapata School, about 40 minutes outside of Cusco, where our students work in the classroom, help with agricultural projects, assist in maintaining and updating the facilities, and whatever other jobs are needed.
  • The Juvenile Home Maria Salome Ferro, which is in downtown Cusco, is a home for children that are orphans or come from homes that are unsafe. Students lead workshops, help with cleaning and cooking, and any other projects as needed.
  • The Clinic of San Juan de Dios, which is about 10 minutes from USIL, is a clinic for children and adults with disabilities. Our students organize activities for the kids, help with meals, cleaning, and general playtime with the children.

Within these placements and job tasks, students are encouraged to look at the needs of the organization and see what else they can realistically contribute to during their semester. IPSL facilitates reflection writing on this experience and hopefully helps our students examine what it means to be a study abroad student serving in the Cusco community.

I also got a chance to visit nearby cultural and historical sites in and around Cusco. Cusco is in many ways considered the historical and religious center of Peru. This was the capital of the Inca Empire and the center of Spanish colonization of the Andean world. You can see examples of Inca architecture throughout the city (including the  building you take your classes in!) as well as the churches and cathedrals that the Spanish built.

I fell in love with this city and hope to return to explore it further. Imagine having an entire semester to do just that?!

Here are a few photos from the trip. Please get in touch with me if you’d like to learn more about this program.

This is the courtyard of USIL

This is the courtyard of USIL

A street in Cusco

A street in Cusco

 

Pictures the children from Huillcapata painted!

Pictures the children from Huillcapata painted!

 

A road in Huillcapata village

A road in Huillcapata village

A llama! You'll become very familiar with llamas, alpacas, and Vicuñas.

A llama! You’ll become very familiar with llamas, alpacas, and vicuñas.

A field of Quinoa, something you'll eat a lot of in Cusco!

A field of Quinoa, something you’ll eat a lot of in Cusco!

The Sacred Valley - a day trip away

The Sacred Valley – a day trip away

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Saludos,

Eliza

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Skidmore en España

I am back from Spain and feeling so energized about our program in Madrid & Alcalá. During my week visiting the program, I was able to meet the faculty and staff at our centers and to catch up with our Skidmore students wrapping up their time in Spain.

Hearing how much Spain has become home to these students was probably the biggest takeaway of the experience. The people they met in classes, the bond that was created with their homestay families, the work skills developed in their internships, and the daily routines they each established with local gyms, cooking classes, favorite cafes and bars – it was clear that Spain was now a part of their identity. And did I mention their Spanish?! I was SO impressed with the confidence and ease at which these students communicated entirely in Spanish. Wow.

Other points:

  • The food in Spain is reason enough to study there. I ate my weight in olives, manchego, fresh seafood, and tortilla de patata.
  • Madrid is a large city that somehow manages to feel familiar almost instantly.
  • Alcalá is magical. The history, the people, and the crazy amount of storks that live in this small city made this one of my favorite spots.
  • If you go in the fall, you’ll be there for this and this. Plus, in the fall you can decided to extend for the full year…which you’ll totally want to do.
Alcalá is so beautiful.

Alcalá is so beautiful. Who wouldn’t want to live here?!

Alcalá

I tagged along for the Contemporary Spanish Art History class where we visited la reina sofia museum

I tagged along for the Contemporary Spanish Art History class where we visited la Reina Sofia museum

The Plaza Colón is right down the road from the Madrid center.

The Plaza Colón is right down the road from the Madrid program center.

Here's Professor Rangil with the same group in front of Reina Sofia!

Here’s Professor Rangil with the same group in front of Reina Sofia!

Olives and manchego at the Mercado San Miguel.

Olives and manchego at the Mercado San Miguel.

If you want to learn more about this program, feel free to email me or give a call. I’d love to tell you all about it…

Saludos,
Eliza

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Preparing To Go Abroad (Throwback Thursday)

As I prepare for an upcoming site visit to the Skidmore in Spain program (Yay!), I am reminded of all the thought and preparation that went into my own first study abroad experience. I remember feeling so overwhelmed by the unknown. No matter how much I read about South Africa’s politics, history, climate, culture – I just couldn’t picture it. I couldn’t picture  myself living there. I couldn’t picture who my friends would be or what my classes would be like. I had actually convinced myself that since I couldn’t picture it, it probably wasn’t going to really happen! I thought for sure, something last minute would come up and I’d never end up going.

But I did go. And within no time Stellenbosch became a second home to me.

So now I’m making a packing list for Spain, freshening up on my Spanish, reading about the current events, and trying to imagine myself stepping off the plane in Madrid. It’s not the same as preparing to put down roots in new country for a semester or year but it brings up those same feelings of excitement and the unknown.

It was so lovely to see all of the students going abroad next semester at last night’s  pre-departure orientation. Please keep us posted on your adventures abroad! We love getting emails and photos or postcards.

And I’ll keep you all posted on my visit to Spain next week!

-Eliza

Oh…and in the spirit of throwback Thursday – here are a few photos of some of the OCSE staff from when we first studied abroad.

Cori in Spain

Cori in Spain

Kendra in London

Kendra in London

 

Eliza in South Africa

Eliza in South Africa

Tina in London

Tina in London

 

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Deadline Extended for Travel Seminar to Puerto Rico!

The travel seminar, Puerto Rico and the United States: Culture and Colonialism, is now accepting applications until May 5th.

This is a  2-credit, 200-level travel seminar (TX 200B 001) that will travel to Puerto Rico during winter break 2014–2015 (January 8–18, 2015), focusing on the social, political, cultural, and economic impact of the U.S. on Puerto Rico, and Puerto Rican responses to it. It is the companion course to LA 251B.

You can read more about it here or stop by OCSE for more information.

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A Glimpse of Paris

Sophie Dodd ’16, continues to remind us through her photos and adventures that we all wish we were in Paris. Check it out here!

And if you want even more of a sense of the Paris program, swing by the photo exhibit and reception happening tonight at 8pm in the Spa!  There will be photography on display that was taken by students studying on the Skidmore in Paris program!

Among the many options you have for courses in Paris, students are able to take a traditional black & white photography course, utilizing a film camera and developing photographs in a darkroom.

Here’s just a few photos that will be on display:
France- Michael Brennan- Light Bridge

Olga Mikhailiv Photo4-Maubec France 2008-2009

France- Amanda Roddy- The Eiffel after Dark

France - Matt Rothenberg - Louvre Museum, Tilt Shift - 2011

 

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In a word (bubble): Skidmore in Spain

The Resident Director for our Skidmore in Spain program is coming to visit next week and I’ve been going through past evaluations to try and learn as much as I can about this program. I’m a visual learner and so after reading three years’ worth of quotes from students I decided to cut and paste the whole thing into a word bubble generator. I think this image says a lot about the program:

spain bubble three

The part that really stood out for me was the sense of community these students all seemed to have – with their host family, the staff, the other students on the program, and the people they interned and volunteered with.

Here are just a few quotes on the homestay experience:

“The home stay rocked my world. I loved the language immersion part of the program. I will always recommend to people to study abroad with a home stay because this is how my language improved leaps and bounds. Also, it was so nice to have such a caring host mother. She made me transition and my entire experience so comfortable and enjoyable.”

“The housing was wonderful and I loved having meals at home and having the stipend for meals in the city. I loved this part of the program! I loved my host mother and we had an awesome relationship. We would watch movies together, go grocery shopping together, eat meals together, etc. She was so helpful for learning the language and getting to know the city.”

 
“The home stay was the best part of my experience. This program truly immersed us in the Spanish language and culture, and my host family was the highlight of this immersion.”

 
“We were very well taken care of in Spain. My host mother was amazing and really enhanced my experience. The program center was a great place in a great location. The staff there were very friendly and helpful with whatever I needed in Spain. The program was very centered in Spanish immersion and creating a community within our program.”

“The best aspect, BY FAR, was the host family. When I look back on my experience, I think of my host family, how wonderful they were to me, how kind and generous and loving, how they treated me like family, and of course how much Spanish I learned living with them.”

Want to learn more? We’ll be hosting a Meet & Greet with Susan Sánchez Casal on April 2nd from 4-5pm in Starbuck 202!

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A new course for study abroad students!

If you’re planning to studying abroad next spring, you should think about enrolling in the new fall course FL 275: “The Study Abroad Experience“. This one credit course is designed for students who intend to study abroad in a non-English speaking country.

For more information on the course, contact Professor Cindy Evans!

 

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