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Central Alumni Newsletter

Friday, June 8, 2012

Hello, friends of Central College Abroad! This newsletter, released the second Friday of every month, is intended to keep you in touch with what’s happening with Central College Abroad’s programs across the globe.

Congratulations to Nikki Akers of Central College, our spring 2012 photo contest grand prize winner. Akers won a $50 Amazon gift card for her winning photo taken while studying abroad in Bangor, Wales.
Congratulations to Nikki Akers of Central College, our spring 2012 photo contest
grand prize winner. Akers received a $50 Amazon gift card for her winning photo taken
while studying abroad in Bangor, Wales.

Attention Advisors: Travel grant applications due

As noted by the Forum on Education Abroad, formal site visits for study abroad professionals are essential for providing accurate and important information to interested students. Central College Abroad is proud to provide such an opportunity to cooperative council member institutions. Each year, CCA awards travel grants to visit one or more of our international program sites.

Kristin Larson, associate professor of psychology and off campus studies coordinator at Monmouth College in Monmouth, Ill., visited the Central College Abroad Granada program this year upon receiving a travel grant. Since Larson recently stepped into a new position with the Monmouth off campus studies program, her visit was a great introduction to the Granada program.

“My goals were to understand the semester abroad experience in general and become familiar with the Granada program in particular,” stated Larson. “I was pleased to have experienced many aspects of the program and spend time with students.”

Explore the Alhambra while in Granada.
Explore the Alhambra while in Granada.

While on site, Larson sat in on language classes and tutorials and visited homestays and a service-learning site. Larson knew the Granada program would be a good fit for language majors but also realized students in psychology, sociology and education could benefit. “After visiting the service-learning site, I see the program would be an excellent experience for students in these majors,” said Larson. “In addition, it is beneficial for students in these majors to speak Spanish, so Granada makes sense.”

Larson enjoyed the opportunity to visit with Monmouth students who were studying with CCA in Granada during her visit. “I explored the city with Monmouth students, and this was a valuable aspect of my trip,” said Larson. “I learned a lot about the context of the students’ abroad experience. It also gave the students and me an opportunity to talk on an informal level about their experience, and I believe provided a very realistic appraisal.”

The purpose of the travel grant program is to help faculty and advisors from cooperating institutions increase their knowledge and understanding of CCA programs through comprehensive on-site visits. Grant recipients spend two-to-three days with the resident director learning about various aspects of the program.

“I am now able to speak with knowledge about the general experience of the student, and I am confident in saying that Granada is a quality program,” Larson stated.

Travel grant applications are due Friday, June 15. Please contact us for more information about the travel grant program and application.

Leiden Top 10

By: Stephanie Heiken of Central College. Heiken studied abroad in Leiden, the Netherlands, this spring, and is a blogger for Volunteer Global.

Since January, I have been studying in the beautiful city of Leiden, the Netherlands, through my home institution, Central College. Over the past four months I have had great experiences, met amazing people and fallen in love with the city that Albert Einstein and John Adams both used to call home. The following are my top 10 reasons to visit Leiden—although I assure you there are many more!

Family Orientation: While the entire country of the Netherlands is arguably very family-orientated with its policies on child welfare and education, as a smaller municipality, Leiden is arguably the most family-friendly city I have ever visited. Not only do parents work normal 9-5 schedules, but stores and shops also close around 6pm daily to better suit the family atmosphere and keep away the hustle and bustle feel of larger cities like Amsterdam.

Children can safely play in the streets while their parents are either inside or nearby and it’s safe for children to ride their bicycles around town unaccompanied. Most restaurants have both indoor and outdoor seating so accommodation to a child’s needs and preferences is always possible. No matter who you are or where you come from, Leiden is sure to give you the feeling of being at home with your family.

Along the canals of Leiden.
Along the canals of Leiden.

Location: Leiden is centrally located in the Netherlands and is less than an hour by train away from other cities, such as The Hague, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Delft and many other historic sites. A short train or bus ride will also take you to the beach, tulip gardens and fields and more! Bike trails also connect Leiden to its neighboring villages and cities, so you can get your exercise while travelling about.

Universities: Home to the oldest university in the Netherlands, Leiden University, as well as Webster University, the streets of Leiden are constantly filled with international students and faculty. I have personally been living in an international dorm building and have shared my evenings with students from all over the world.

People: The international community is the not the only group of fantastic people to encounter. The Dutch and native Leiden citizens themselves are wonderful—always friendly and willing to help the lost traveler! I have found everyone to be not only accommodating and thoughtful, but generally interested in the stories of visitors and their homes, as well. And the best part? Nearly everyone you will encounter speaks English, so the city is incredibly tourist friendly for those who cannot speak Dutch.

Museums and Churches: Like most other cities in Europe, Leiden is home to some great museums and old churches. Did you know Leiden was the city in which the Puritans took asylum while waiting to board the Mayflower for passage to America? In Leiden you will find not only a museum dedicated to the pilgrims, but the church they built as well.

Also in Leiden—an ancient Egyptian museum full of mummies, art museums that feature Rembrandt (a Dutchman himself) and a fort built nearly a thousand years ago to protect the Dutch from invading Norseman, just to name a few!

Read five more reasons to visit Leiden in Heiken's blog. Heiken is also an alumna of the CCA Merida, Yucatan, program and wrote a blog titled “Merida, Mexico – A Service-learners Paradise.”

Finding home in Wales

For many, a study abroad site becomes a home away from home. For Eben Muse, it just became home. After studying at the Central College Abroad program in Carmarthen, Wales—the former location of CCA’s Wales program—Muse married a Welsh woman. He now calls Wales home, living there with his family and working as acting head of the School of Creative Studies and Media at Bangor University, site of CCA’s current Wales program.

In 1981, Muse, then a student at Boston College, enrolled in CCA’s program at Trinity College in Carmarthen with little knowledge of the country and no expectations. He spent a year in Wales and immediately appreciated the perspective international studies provided. “You see issues in a different light and see America differently after you go abroad,” he said.

He made the most of his experience, forming friendships with program-mates and local students. He took what he described as an unsuccessful first attempt at learning the Welsh language. Though the Outdoor Pursuits course—now a staple of the Wales program—was not yet integrated into the curriculum, outdoor recreation was inescapable. He SCUBA dived, hiked and otherwise took advantage of the landscape.

And he met his future wife. Of course he thought it was all temporary. “At the end of the year, I said goodbye to my friends, said goodbye to my girlfriend and assumed I would never come back,” Muse said.

That proved untrue, as several years later, prompted by a former Wales program-mate, he returned to his former study abroad site, reconnecting with his friends there.

Muse and his girlfriend, Eirian, married in North Wales before moving to the U.S. together; they lived in Buffalo, N.Y. while Muse earned his Ph.D. In 1991 the couple relocated to north Wales and started a family. A stronghold of Welsh culture, it was a place they could raise their children in the Welsh language and culture. Of course, this required Muse to improve on his first attempt at learning the language.

Today, Welsh is the language he uses most in his personal life. He speaks it at home and anytime he visits the shops in town. “When we decided to speak Welsh to our kids, I didn’t have any choice but to learn it,” he said.

Muse and his children.
Muse and his children.

He even teaches part of his course load in Welsh. At Bangor University, Muse teaches courses in digital media and communications. “I teach creative people how to work with IT people,” he explained.

When Central College Abroad relocated the Wales program to Bangor in 2005, Muse was initially unaware of the coincidence. In fact it wasn’t until he started seeing American students around and asked them how they ended up in Bangor that he learned his former program had followed him.

Muse says as he’s gotten more familiar with his new home country; he’s not surprised that students come to feel like it is home. “The Welsh are incredibly proud of their country,” Muse explained. After centuries under English rule, the ability to freely express their culture and speak their language is eagerly embraced. For Muse, that pride easily made the country feel like home.

More than just a table
By: Sara Ireland of Capital University. Sara studied abroad in Granada, Spain, this spring.

I could write about the Alhambra Palace in Granada, one of the most visited historical sites in our world. I could reflect on my four-day exposure to the diverse culture and cities comprising Morocco, Africa. I could give insight on what you really need on your packing list for a semester abroad. At this point in my experience, I have been faced with many emotions, and I have so much to share on aspects of life abroad. But taking it all in, I want to dwell on a component of my experience that has surprised me the most with its capacity to influence and shape a person. This has been the dinner table.

Students on the Granada program live in homestays, and sitting down at the dinner table the first couple days was one of the most intimidating things imaginable. I was eager, excited, emotional…and worried if I could even convey these feelings to my host family. But after a welcoming plate of paella at my first lunch with host family members including Marian, Sara, Alberto and Natalia, I knew this is where I belonged and that I would share so much with this family. Now months past that day, I still feel eager and encouraged to share my thoughts and reflections with these individuals. Our conversations range from the most casual of exchanges to debates on abortion and the role of the church in the seemingly Catholic Spanish culture. We eat, laugh, use our hands and look to one another to keep the conversation on track. They are a team with me, supporting me and wanting to hear what I have to say, even if it’s the most roundabout way to convey it.

Ireland (far right) and host siblings.
Ireland (far right) and host siblings.

Little by little, the language became easier, and I now feel confident that I know exactly what I’m expressing. The homestay has been an incredible contribution to my language improvement. Even more than that, my time spent with my family has changed my viewpoints on the world, especially European culture. Being exposed to the daily routine of the Spanish teaches you more than any culture class could. I share my observations and ask questions on why this store is closed, why this street always has people, why that person acts a certain way and it is wonderful when they can provide me with an answer based on social norms and expectations that I would have never realized. Once I got past the challenges of language, I began to form actual relationships with each one of them and that is something to cherish forever.

For me, the homestay is by far the best language immersion I have received in Granada, Spain. Before arriving in Granada, I could never imagine holding a conversation of actual substance in Spanish. Now, not only is it essential to my happiness but it is a challenge I accept every day knowing that I am growing personally and in my language. Now if only I could challenge myself by not eating delicious Spanish ham with every meal…

Immerse yourself in the Spanish culture through a homestay in Granada, Spain.

A Double Dose of Culture
By: Austin Myers of Clarke University. Myers studied abroad in Vienna, Austria, this spring.

I must admit that prior to my departure for Vienna I hadn't considered that the time I would be spending in a classroom would result in learning more than German grammar. After approximately a week in Vienna, the academics started to pick up and directly impacted the people I began to interact with. I am in a German intensive language course that meets two and a half hours a day, Monday through Friday. As crazy as it may sound, I rather enjoy going to class for two significant reasons.

First, I am taking German language courses for the first time in my life. Throughout parts of grade school and high school I took a number of Spanish courses, as it was the only foreign language available. Don't get me wrong, I am extremely appreciative that I was able to learn Spanish but I have always wanted to study German because it is part of my heritage.

My mother is German, and in a sense, I’ve learned some of the language through sheer osmosis, but I wanted more. The background knowledge gained from my mother has been good enough to get me by but there was (and still is) room for improvement.

In addition to my initial goal of tremendously improving my German, I have realized how much I enjoy the cultural aspect of the class. Obviously, I am learning a lot about Austrian culture from the professor, but I am also learning about other cultures from my fellow international classmates. While a majority of them are of Turkish descent, there are also students from Spain and Egypt. My classmates range in age, with myself being the youngest to a gentleman who I recently found out has child as old as me. This range of age proves to provide incredible perspectives on culture. The number of things I have learned about my classmates’ respective cultures and languages is exciting. It is particularly interesting when they ask questions about my home culture and we are able compare the two. I was well aware that I would be immersed in the Austrian culture, but I never thought I would learn about other cultures as well!

Myers (back row, fourth from right) with his language classmates in Vienna.
Myers (back row, fourth from right) with his language classmates in Vienna.

My intensive language course is everything I had hoped for and more. I am extremely pleased with the progress I have made with my German thus far and look forward to what I will learn in the coming months, be it the language itself or more about the different cultures. To this point in time I would say I have been immersed in far more culture than I had expected. Considering I have several weeks left in my study abroad experience, who knows what else is in store for me!

Experience new cultures and language in Vienna.

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Fax: 641-628-5375

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