Linda Smith, News Editor
Much like many University of Dallas students take advantage of the Rome semester in Due Santi to experience new cultures, languages and food, several students last summer traveled to Costa Rica and Spain to participate in the study abroad programs offered by the Spanish department. The programs, coordinated by Spanish professor Dr. Marisa Pérez-Bernardo, will take place again, beginning soon after graduation, with application deadlines early next semester.
The Costa Rica program sends students to the town of Cartago, where they live in the homes of different Costa Rican families for a month.
“I enjoyed the relationship I made with my host family,” senior Chris Schierhorn said. “They were the nicest people ever. They didn’t have a lot of money, but they were willing to do anything they could for us. It was so great.”
Participants study at the Instituo Tecnológico de Costa Rica El Tec University, which is a short walk from the houses. Students are able to take two of four classes: Intermediate Spanish I or II, Advanced Communication, Business Spanishor Introduction to Latin American Literature, which are “very relaxed” and, although taught only in Spanish, “never stressful,” according to senior Rachel Oleksiak.
Oleksiak, a Spanish major who hopes to teach the language, also found the cities they lived in and visited aesthetically and culturally rich.
“These natural wonders speak for themselves, but they are also filled with the kind, loving people of Costa Rica,” Oleksiak said. “They welcomed us into their homes, lives and hearts.”
Senior David Janicki, who has a Spanish concentration thanks to the program, found that the program provided a chance to speak a “smooth and fun language” among some of “the most hospitable people you will ever meet.”
“The majority of learning and studying occurs outside of class, whether it be talking with your family at meals (which are amazing also), buying food at stores or telling a cab driver where you need to go,” Janicki said. “When you consider you get six credits, a once-in-a-lifetime experience and unforgettable memories, you realize just how great a deal this program is.”
A couple weeks after the Costa Rica program ends, the one in Spain begins. This program takes place in Avila, where students stayed in a residence called Tellamar, a five-minute bus ride from the Catholic University of Avila.
The class selection in Spain is broader than that in Costa Rica. It includes not only all four levels of Spanish-language instruction, but also Survey of Spanish Literature and a class called “Mysticism: St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross.” Junior Mariah Ficek, who took those two classes, enjoyed becoming more confident with her spoken Spanish.
“I am more comfortable speaking Spanish, and I agree with all the advice I have heard that the best way to learn any language is to stay abroad,” Ficek said.
Junior Stephanie Kurth also became more comfortable with the Spanish language, as well as with the culture.
“This experience has helped my acquisition of Spanish in that speaking it and hearing it every day have helped my oral skills tremendously,” Kurth said. “I also gained perspective of their culture.”
Program coordinator and Spanish program director Dr. Marisa Pérez-Bernardo studied abroad in Ireland as an undergraduate, and feels that studying abroad is very important.
“It’s the only way to learn a language,” Pérez-Bernardo said. She also stated the ultimate goal of the program is “to learn the language, and also to learn the culture, and to understand things from another perspective.”
Students can still apply for spots in either program by contacting Dr. Pérez-Bernardo for an application and health waiver before Feb. 1.
“The only regret I had was being there for only a month,” Janicki said. “A month is just long enough to get addicted to the amazing language that is Spanish, but not long enough to master it. The Costa Rica trip literally made me fall in love with Spanish, and I will not rest until I am fluent.”