Spain and France study abroad returns in the summer

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COVID-19 restrictions have loosened, allowing students to return to Lyon and Avila this coming summer. Photo courtesy of Marisa Perez-Bernardo.

In the summer of 2022, the French and Spanish departments will be sending students to study abroad with outside universities — in Lyon and Avila respectively — for the first time since 2019. This decision has been made in part because of the seeming decrease of the threat of COVID-19. 

President Jonathan Sanford said: “I think this has more to do with COVID restrictions being lessened more than anything else, particularly with those partnering institutions. Because we facilitate on our end, but it’s really the other institution that’s directly involved.”

The institutions that will be hosting the summer programs are the Catholic University of Lyon and the Catholic University of Avila. 

The only requirement of students applying for the program is that they complete the first two years of Spanish or French language classes at UD or take the placement test and place out of the first two years.

The students will reside either with local families or in the campus dorms. 

Dr. Marisa Perez-Bernardo, associate professor of the modern languages department and organizer of the Spanish summer program, said: “I think we are more prepared, even if there is a new variant or something like that, we are more prepared. You need to be flexible with things, but I don’t foresee any problems.”

Junior biology major Maria Pecha, who will be traveling to Avila in July said, “I’m excited to finally fully commit to Spanish while learning about culture, being immersed in everything Spanish and at the same time still having the ability to finish out my concentration in Spanish.”

Freshman Felice Lagarde, who is considering going to Lyon, said, “I believe that the French program would be a great challenge to spark a new level of improvement, pushing me outside my comfort zone through complete, daily immersion in French.”

Students will still have to abide by certain COVID-19 restrictions. Dr. Jason Lewallen, associate professor of the modern languages department, said: “Students will need to meet all of the requirements for international travel and living in France, which are not unlike the requirements in place in the rest of Europe. By far, the easiest way to meet these requirements is to be vaccinated.” Students will have to follow similar restrictions in Spain.

Speaking of the overall experience, Perez-Bernardo said: “I think it’s a very unique program because the students that go there, go with and have classes with other students from other American universities or from universities in Italy or in different countries. Students are exposed to the culture and to the language all the time. And it’s the best way to learn about the history of the country. Being there, completely immersed, you are in the middle of Spanish life.”

A trip to Russia was also being planned for this summer for any students or alumni who would be interested, but unfortunately the trip has been canceled due to the situation in Russia and Ukraine. 

The trip would have been a cultural experience, not a study abroad program, because Russian is not offered as part of the Core courses, although there is an introductory Russian course.

The trip had been in the works for quite some time. In 2020, the trip had to be canceled because of the outbreak of COVID-19, and in 2021, the trip was again postponed because the Russian embassy was not issuing visas due to COVID-19 concerns. Now, yet again, the trip will be canceled. 

Speaking of the trip, Dr. Irina Rodriguez, affiliate assistant professor of the modern languages department and one of the organizers of the trip, said: “This year we were still hoping to do it and I’m very grateful to the people who stuck with us and were still waiting and hoping to go this year. And that’s when the Russian-American relations started to deteriorate and we were still hoping to maybe make it possible, but in view of the recent events it’s very clear that we can’t do it.”

While a trip to Russia will have to wait, students can still study abroad in some of the world’s beautiful locations. “It’s a lab semester for the Humanities, you might say, and there’s no replacing firsthand encounters with great works of art and cities,” said Sanford on the benefits of the study abroad programs. 

“There’s a tendency to really mature as a human being, because of the challenges of traveling, and learning how to do some of that on your own, cultivating friendships because of the proximity of academic life and spiritual formation.”

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