JONESBORO, AR (News release) - A group of Arkansas State University Honors College students and two professors have embarked on a journey that may be life-changing -- not only for the students themselves, but for the community in which they will study and the university as well.
In early November 2013, A-State Chancellor Dr. Tim Hudson sent Rebecca Oliver, director of the A-State Honors College, and Dr. Yvonne Unnold, chair of the Department of World Languages and Cultures, on a weeklong, fact-finding mission to Spain to explore the possibility of a study-abroad program and language-learning program for Arkansas State students.
The result of that trip has been the establishment of a study-abroad program for 18 Honors College students in Lanjarón, Spain, a small town at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
“Lanjarón is the ‘Hot Springs’ of Spain,” Oliver said. “It’s known throughout the country for its natural spring water; people flock there to take advantage of the therapeutic water–some by prescription. Its beautiful location at the base of the Sierra Nevadas is breathtaking! At the end of the week, we knew Lanjarón could deliver the experience we wanted our students to have.”
Lanjarón, she noted, is a village with a population of around 3,000. In preparation for the students’ arrival, the villagers and A-State students learned basic English and Spanish phrases so they could begin to communicate immediately.
Students are engaging in the life of the village, its volunteer opportunities and festivals and become more fluent in the language, which is the second-most spoken language in the world. These Honors students will also be earning 15 hours of college credit during the semester. Oliver said the hope is A-State students will unite with the people of Lanjarón, changing both for the better.
Dr. Dee Dee Hudson, director of A-State’s Study Abroad program, worked on the logistics of establishing the program in Spain, drawing on her contacts––from government officials to olive growers––within the country.
“With a remote but accessible location, small, close-knit community and generous and welcoming residents, Lanjarón is the perfect site for Arkansas State’s first Global Learning Village,” Dee Dee Hudson explained.
The global learning village allows students to understand the common experiences they share with cultures very different from their own. Through this immersive experience within that new culture, they will become citizens of a world community, with experiences in developing leadership abilities, as well as awareness and appreciation for cultures other than their own.
Also, two Honors faculty members, Dr. Kate Krueger and Dr. Steve Weimer from the Department of English and Philosophy, are accompanying the students and will teach during this trip. They worked with Dee Dee Hudson and Oliver to prepare a curriculum for the students that would be challenging and enlightening.
The group departed the U.S. earlier this month and will be in Spain for 12 weeks.
Time will be spent studying the country’s literature, and social and political philosophy. The professors will team-teach the course, “From Tourist to Traveler.” There will also be peer-to-peer learning among the students. The group will take excursions to Granada, Cordoba, Malaga and Madrid to learn more about Spain’s religion, architecture, art and culture, all while learning the language from native speakers.
“We hope these students will know more about Spain by the end of the trip,” Krueger said, “but we expect they will be more confident, informed global citizens who will have the skills to move through––and make a larger impact in––the world.”
The students will also blog about their experiences in Spain; the A-State website will highlight blog posts by the students during the semester.
“The transformative power of Study Abroad is being played out in the lives of our students and faculty as they challenge themselves academically, grow as individuals and embrace their global citizenship while sharing life in this beautiful village,” Dee Dee Hudson said. “Arkansas State could not be better represented and I look forward to this unique opportunity being available to our students for years to come.”
“It will be exciting to note how those 18 students who left Jonesboro on February 1 will have grown, in their knowledge and their world view, when they return,” Oliver added.
For more information about the Lanjarón trip, continue to check AState.edu for student and faculty-written updates.
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