First service learning trip to Spain scheduled for May 20

Cyrus Nuval
Staff writer

A group of VCU students will be participating in the university’s first service learning trip to Spain beginning May 20. Eleven students are currently signed up for the program created by the School of World Studies and Global Education Office.

Directing and coordinating the trip to Cordoba, Spain is professor Anita Nadal, Spanish liaison for the Division of Community Engagement. This program is also the first of its kind that involves assisting some of the poor and discriminated in Gypsy or Romani communities in continental Europe.

Students who decide to take the trip will take Spanish language and service learning courses at the University of Cordoba, a partner of VCU. Students will also visit and work with outreach, advocacy and humanitarian organizations such as Reina Sofia Hospital, the local hospital of Cordoba; Cordoba Acoge, an organization dedicated to helping
immigrants to Spain; and the Secretariado De Gitanos, also known as the Ministry of Gypsies.

According to Nadal, VCU’s Global Education Office offered Spanish courses through its partnership with the University of Cordoba in the past. However, it was only last September that Nadal proposed extending service learning to Spain.

“I was given approval to go ahead and go to Spain and do a site visit and research what organizations the VCU students could work with in Cordoba, Spain,” Nadal said.

Nadal said the idea of extending service learning to Spain started with classes she took at VCU when she was a student and meeting the social workers and cultural studies professors of Spain.

“Professors and students pursuing masters’ and Ph.Ds in cultural studies have to take a lot more service learning courses than we do here,” Nadal said. “It becomes a very central part of their academic journey and very rarely leaves them even after they receive their Ph.Ds. I hope to encourage or at least introduce this philosophy and commitment to the interested students of VCU.”

The VCU Summer Study Abroad Program 2013 Spain: Spanish Language, Culture and Service Learning offers three to six possible credits in the courses including Spanish language classes, a class on Hispanic and Latino immigrants and a class called Aspects of Spanish and Immigrant Cultures in Spain.

Hassan Alkhairo, a freshman majoring in bioinformatics, said that he signed up for the service learning trip to be able to see and experience new cultures.

“Being ethnocentric and blinded to other backgrounds is one of my greatest fears,” Alkhairo said in an email. “We will be traveling to Cordoba, which is a place of much Islamic influence, and it will be great to observe the Muslim and Christian dynamics of this Spanish city. I hope to become much more aware of the world around me,” he said.

Kiersten Koenig, a sophomore majoring in Photography and Film, joined the program to be able to make inspiring and memorable experiences by photographing and engaging in the culture of
Cordoba.

“I think that this trip is an excellent opportunity to immerse myself into the Spanish culture and get to know people from a different culture,” Koenig said in an email. “The trip allows me to travel, learn Spanish and earn credits, and to photograph Spain. I hope to make connections with the Spanish people, enhance my Spanish conversation skills, take beautiful photographs, and make memories that I will remember forever.”

The deadline for registration is on March 15. The trip will last from May 20 to June 14.

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