Study abroad program offers cultural, linguistic experience

By Marlene Rivas, Staff Writer

The opportunity to study abroad in Barcelona, Spain will be available to students in the 2015 fall semester.

Although this is a districtwide program, the majority of students who participate are from Diablo Valley College, Aleks Illich, director of international education, said. “We want to encourage this area as well.”

Illich said he sees studying abroad as a linguistic, cultural and social experience that can help students think more globally, rather than limiting themselves.

The takeoff to this experience is Sept. 12 and its return date, with a mid-term break from Oct. 26-30, will be on Dec. 11.

Upon their arrival, students will be provided an orientation program that includes a welcome reception and workshops on travel, cultural differences and safety.

“Students need to deal with the global society in which they will work or live. No longer can we consider the East Bay our universe,” Illich said.

The courses available for students vary depending on the college within the district.

Contra Costa College will be allowing students to choose from Speech 110, Speech Communication, and  Speech 120, Argumentation, and Political Science 43, International Relations. The mandatory course is WDLG 100, Spanish Life and Culture. All of the courses offered are 3-unit classes. Since only 12 units need to be taken, students only need to choose two more of the classes offered, Illich said.

Students have the option to live in shared apartments throughout their stay, which are fully furnished and include appliances. However, meals are not included in this option, he said.

There is also the chance to stay with a local family in their home, which includes two meals for five days of the week, for an additional cost, he said.

The program will provide students with a three-month travel pass to use on buses and the metro during their stay. Illich said trips will be made to historical and cultural sites, cinema and sporting events. A half-day guided tour of Barcelona will also be given.

To ensure students get the best cultural experience possible, there will be an Articket pass that will provide free entry to seven different museums, he said.

The assistance and services of the American Institute for Foreign Study will be available throughout the entire semester. Students will also be able to have free email and Internet access at school. Classes include field trips which allow students to see or experience the learnings of the classroom.

Colleen Garland, who took part in the fall semester’s trip to Paris, said the program provided her with more of an experience than traveling there alone could. Garland said it was a chance to really explore the city, make friends and improve her grasp on the language.

She said the expenses were tough on those students that were low on funds.

“While it’s more expensive than a semester spent at home, it’s an incredible experience and probably more affordable than studying abroad through most universities,” she said.

Kristen Koblik, art professor at DVC, was among the teachers on the trip to Paris during the fall semester.

Students were able to experience the works of art in presence rather than through an overhead, which presents them in a scale that cannot be achieved through explanation or pictures, Koblik said.

She encourages students to not be discouraged by the program’s high costs and to look for as many scholarships as possible. “It is not impossible for a student who is determined to go (to Spain),” she said.

The trip has an estimated cost of $7,745 but that does not include airfare, tuition, textbooks, additional field trips required by teachers, passport or visa fees and personal costs. “It is not cheap. Students should expect to pay $10,000 or more,” Ilich said.