Whenever someone asks me about my job, I always say that one of the best perks is traveling abroad with students during J-term. Our course this January reminds me how fortunate I am to teach at a college that prioritizes study abroad and that pushes its students to see the world from other perspectives while becoming more aware of their own culture.
This year I was especially keen for my students to grow in their intercultural skills, in other words to become more proficient at moving from one culture to another while adopting appropriate language, behavior, and patterns of thinking for each place. As I observed you interact with your teachers, host families, and guides it seemed to me that you were indeed growing in your ability to function and communicate in Spanish culture. But let’s be honest -- it’s not easy! How many times did you have to repeat yourself for the waiter to understand your order? Remember the frustration at not being able to explain something to your host family? And what do you do when the rest of Spain seems to shut down between 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.?
As we discussed in our pre-departure meetings, living in another culture temporarily requires persistent communication and a willingness to sacrifice many of the freedoms and conveniences that we take for granted at home. You did an excellent job in both of these areas, and I congratulate you for the maturity and good humor with which you responded to the daily challenges of living in Spain. I was especially impressed with your commitment to using Spanish 100% of the time. Never have I led a J-term course in Spanish where students were so committed to language immersion, even among themselves. I hope you sense that your abilities in Spanish have grown. You certainly made the most of every opportunity to practice!
The success of our J-term course is also due to our outstanding teachers, host families, and guides. In particular I am grateful for the staff at Academia Hispánica (Maite, Graziella, and Rafael) for organizing our program; for Marisol and Noelia, who spent many hours helping you improve your language skills and knowledge of Spain but who also befriended us and made us welcome in Córdoba; and for our outstanding host families, who received us warmly, fed us richly, and taught us to see the world from a different point of view.
2018 is my third time to lead a Luther J-term course in Spain, and every time the program staff and host families tell me that my students are superb. A few of the families in Córdoba have been hosting foreign students nearly year round for twenty years, and they were adamant that the Luther group was “el mejor grupo de la historia.” Thanks for making my work so pleasurable, and felicitaciones for a successful study abroad experience. Continue to reflect on what you learned about Spain and about yourself, ¡y no dejes de practicar el español!