Learning Through Service: Students Spread Literacy in Madrid

Today’s post celebrates the excellent volunteer work done by ACCENT students participating in the Heritage Spanish Class, a course designed for native Spanish speakers. Students in this course were not only able to further develop their language skills, but also put them to good use, serving as volunteers with a local non-profit organization. Service learning abroad is a unique and inspiring way for students to engage with their host community. 

Several varieties of Spanish-speakers studying together in one class, with remarkable differences in oral and written skills and different Hispanic cultural backgrounds: this is a typical Heritage Spanish Class. Heritage Spanish courses are designed for American students who grew up in Spanish-speaking households. Each semester, we offer our Heritage students a different course, adapted to their individual needs. This semester, Professor Carola Saiegh and I designed a Service Learning course, supported by ACCENT Madrid Study Center Director Vanessa Rodríguez and UCEAP Spain Center Director Laura Marqués-Pascual.

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Faculty Feature: UCEAP Students in Madrid Interview LGBTQ Activist Mario Blázquez

This week’s post comes from local faculty Jon Snyder, who accompanied University of California students on a visit to COGAM, an NGO that advises and advocates for LGBTQ+ communities in Spain. The students learned not only how nonprofit organizations are structured and funded, but also specific ways COGAM works to better the lives of Spanish citizens and spread awareness across the world.

This week, University of California students on the “Negotiating Identities: Gender and Sexuality in Urban Space” program had a productive exchange with Mario Blázquez, an experienced activist and coordinator from COGAM (Colectivo de Lesbianas, Gays, Transexuales y Bisexuales de Madrid). img_20161115_130500Some 50 students interviewed Mario about his volunteer work coordinating health initiatives for the LGBTQ community, one of the organization’s main lines of action along with education and social work initiatives. Mario kindly greeted us at the COGAM headquarters in downtown Madrid before making his appearance before parliament deputies at the Madrid Assembly that afternoon. Continue reading

Excerpts from “Dérive in Madrid with UCEAP Students”

This week on the ACCENT Blog, we’re sharing excerpts from a post by one of our program faculty, Jon Snyder. Jon has his own blog on which he writes about the culture, society, and politics of Spain, and on one of his posts, he wrote about an activity he did with ACCENT students from the University of California. Here are a few excerpts from his post!

The urban environment is an accidental assemblage of elements at any given instant—pavement, weather conditions, neon, dogs, pedestrians, shadows, trees, billboards, motorbikes, trash bins, steel and glass, etc.—that together constitute the unique, changing experience of the city. This activity consists entirely in drifting—what the Situationists called dérive—paying attention to spatial assemblages along the way while documenting the urban ambiance and its transitions (thresholds). In small groups, students were asked to observe and record the sights, sounds, smells, and other experiences of the city.

A documentation of the "urban ambiance" of Spain

A documentation of the “urban ambiance” of Spain

The assignment was to wander with no planned expectations for about two hours, ending at an unknown destination announced by text message—the rooftop of the Circle of Fine Arts. Students also received specific instructions along the way that required them to change their route. Here’s a selection of their written observation notes, audio recordings of the soundscape, silent videos, and photographs of the accidental itineraries.

Take the first bus or train you see for four stops. Look for the closest tree and walk in the direction it seems to be pointing. Listen for one minute. Then follow the loudest sound. Photograph it.

Walk toward someone using a phone. When you reach that spot, look for another person. Repeat five times.

Document one thing old, one thing new, one smell and one blue – metro rides –> hot and stuffy, tons of people, but little noise. Every person sits quietly either staring at their phones, reading, or looking at other people. But the lack of noise is truly surprising for the amount of people inside.

Picture store

On one street we stumbled upon a cool antique charity store: we had no idea until today that it was the street of Cervantes and Lope de Vega, which we had totally missed the first time! 

A residential area of Madrid

As we were by Sol, it was interesting how quickly once you got off the main streets and commercial ways, there was almost silence and no people, the residential neighborhoods.

Foooood

Smells were noted when they were at extremes. One smell noted was when we passed a café or restaurant … However, on the other end, there was very repulsive smell noted specifically from the trash that we passed causing us to change our course.

Pretty Street

One spontaneous reason we decided to change our course was done out of recognition. After an hour or so of wandering we ended up in an area of Madrid that we recognized.

 

I will always remember this activity because it really challenged me to think about space, identity, and desirable cities.

Identity

An Excerpt from Insights – There and Back Again: Working with Men in Study Abroad

The Insights newsletter highlights innovative programing with ACCENT. This excerpt comes from our May 2015 issue and was written by Michigan State University’s James M. Lucas, Ph.D. For more Insights, visit our newsletter archives at: www.accentintl.com/program-development

MSUM1As a man working in higher education, I have followed the scholarship of male engagement for many years. Male students participate in study abroad at about half the rate as females, and this gap exists in other areas: men are less likely to attend and graduate from college; participate in service, hold leadership positions, and belong to a living-learning program. Conversely, men are more likely to dropout, not attend class, and get into trouble with the university’s conduct system.

My dissertation explored male study abroad participation and suggested that gender role norms play a role in how young men perceive study abroad. Many males view study abroad as frivolous and not as important as part-time work or an internship. Since completing my research, I have tried to connect my findings to practice both as an administrator and program leader. During an effort to reach out to the fraternity community, I found an eager group of young partners in Michigan State University’s (MSU) Chapter of Sigma Epsilon Phi (SigEp). Not only did these students want to discuss study abroad, but they wanted to create a program for fraternity men at the university.

For the pilot program, I worked with the students to design the course outline, and with ACCENT to organize the travel component during the MSU spring break. Prior to and post-travel, the students attended class and discussed the concept of gender, different opinions about gender differences, gender role conflict, and the influence of gender on males in college, with a comparative perspective to Italy. This program also focused on leadership, connecting this topic with the fraternal context – both historically and in the present.MSUM2

The collaboration between MSU, SigEp, and ACCENT represented the first for-credit study program that was co-created with undergraduate students at MSU. The program would never have occurred without the buy-in and support from a group of fraternity men willing to champion the effort. Similarly, the ACCENT Rome and Florence teams helped find guest lecturers and tours able to connect our unique topic to the fabric of these cities. The local faculty proved to be wonderful partners. They adapted their scholarship to the theme of gender, and put a lot of effort into making topics like Renaissance art and Roman archeology engaging for a group that was mostly business and engineering students.

Since our return, the students have reported seeing the world differently, having realized that not everyone thinks, acts, and lives like them. They speak of a newfound understanding that even small everyday things, such as a statue or the straightness of a road, have meaning. They have made connections between history and modern culture, noting how the past can influence who we are as a people. The excitement from this learning has come back to campus, and I can only describe our classes post-travel as “transformed” in terms of their interaction and engagement.

My colleagues thought I was a bit crazy for taking this group overseas. Many would say that there would be too many disciplinary problems, or even question why men would need a men’s studies course. My answer is that this group needs the experience. As educators, we too often assume that men’s social entitlements mean that they do not have special needs. They do. Men need to be thought of as gendered, and they need help understanding their gendered lives and their privileges. Only by educating them can we get them to own their entitlements and help build societies that are socially just.

Blogging in the Classroom

This week’s ACCENT Blog entry comes to us from local faculty Eva García Ortiz, one of ACCENT Madrid’s fabulous Spanish language professors. Last fall, she created a blog for her students to use as a learning tool – she thought it would be a positive experience for students to share their learning endeavors online. Read on to see how it went!

Last fall, ACCENT Madrid welcomed students from Santa Barbara City College for the first time. As with the commencement of every new program, it was a challenge and welcomed adventure for our team.

Prof. Eva García on the left with students

With this new group of Spanish language students, I decided to have the entire class contribute to a course blog. I thought the blog would serve as a meeting point, to be used as kind of notebook where students could easily hand in part of their homework, like written reflections, and pictures from our visits in Madrid, but it soon became much more. The course blog proved to be an effective tool for motivating students and for explaining some of the more difficult grammatical concepts in the Spanish language. It also provided a window through which we could show the world the kind of work we did in class.

ACCENT Spanish language classes are taught following the method of “learning by doing.” Experiential learning is beneficial for our students as it’s a great way to demonstrate some of the more abstract concepts in the Spanish language, by making the theoretical tangible. Therefore, ACCENT conducts language courses that combine experiential projects with practical communication exercises. With this dual approach, we are able to offer our students a fun in-class and out-of-class experience while also maintaining the high academic standards of both ACCENT and our partner institutions. Learning a new language can be an arduous journey; what we try to offer our students is a small oasis on this path, where they can stop for a while, reflect on their journey, enjoy it, and celebrate it.

But let’s go back to my class last fall. Step by step, we came to know each other better, and I quickly discovered that my students were very fond of the arts, particularly music. One day, coming back from our break, I found the entire class gathered around a guitar and, of course, I asked permission to join them; I was delighted! Sitting together around the guitar, I had a revelation: the traditional classroom route would not be suitable for these young and talented students. We needed a new approach, one that included songs, writing competitions, and town excursions.

Class was held at the ACCENT Study Center, Sala Picasso.

A “marriage” between popular songs in Spain and a scene from an Almodóvar film became my allies for teaching the subjunctive tense. And some disturbing pictures in an art exhibition afforded me the best excuse to propose a more daring composition topic than usual: scary short stories! My students astounded me with their creative ideas. More importantly, they seemed to surprise themselves too as they realized they each had something special to contribute.

With this creative and resourceful approach to language learning, our students were able to grasp difficult concepts while also having fun. Follow our journey at our blog: http://santabarbarafall2013.blogspot.com.es/. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

~ Eva García Ortiz, ACCENT Madrid Local Faculty

Off The Grid, On The Web

In this week’s post, Lauren Knight, Northern European Director for international programs for Harding University, shares with us a few of her personal tips for students embarking on their study abroad adventure. In addition to her work in study abroad, Lauren is also the proud blogger of the beautiful website, www.aspiringkennedy.com – check it out!

There’s something exciting about going somewhere new. It gives you a chance to start over. You can reinvent yourself. You have the chance to become the person you’ve wanted to be. It’s one of the best parts of studying abroad. It gets you out of life as you know it and gets you off the grid.

Once you arrive off the proverbial grid, you may find yourself a bit overwhelmed by the new world around you. Beyond the normal advice for plugging into the new culture (learning the language, making local friends, getting into the food scene), here are few helpful resources that can help you make the most of your time overseas. So while you’re excited about your upcoming time overseas, take a few moments to add these apps to your phone. You’ll be glad you have them when you touch down on foreign soil!

  1. TRIP IT: This site is an amazing tool for organizing your travel plans. Once you sign up, it scans your email for travel-related messages and creates itineraries for your travels. Then, through their handy app, you can access all of your travel plans off-line. Compared to schlepping around a folder of print-outs and handwritten scribblings, this app is a lifesaver. It also has a great desktop version to utilize.
  2. INSTAGRAM: You may wonder why this app makes the list – after all, you’ve been using it back home for years. What makes it a good travel app? The geotag function! You can mark your favorite places in order to easily retrace your steps and you can locate the fantastic finds of others by following the map. Looking for a delicious meal out? Just do a simple search, like #bestfoodinparis, and see what looks good. After that, you can just follow the geotag straight to the source!

    Photos by Lauren Knight

  3. LOCAL RAIL APPS: Download the app for the rail provider in the countries you are traveling to or through. Having access to additional train times will allow for flexibility in your travel days. A good glimpse of available trains will keep you from wasting precious time running back and forth to the station.
  4. AFTERLIGHT: This slick photo editor will make your travel pictures look amazing. In fact, you may doubt why you even bothered to bring your digital camera abroad when you see how nice your iPhone pictures are turning out.
  5. UBER: Taking taxis can be expensive and exhausting. Pre-load your phone with this app to offset the hassles of normal taxi hailing. Uber tracks local (licensed) drivers and offers you a cheaper fare to get to where you are going. (Make sure to check the price quote before you book, as higher demand times will increase the prices.) Here in Paris, I have had a slick Mercedes pick me up every time but once…. and it was a fully-loaded Citroen. No tips allowed – they’re all included in the quoted price.
  6. LOCAL METRO MAP: Maybe this one is overly obvious? Just get a basic, free version of the metro system in the city you are visiting. Make sure that your version works well off-line, too. It’ll come in handy when you’re sitting on in a tunnel on the train trying to route your connections.

With that line up, you’re set to get around and enjoy your time overseas. And remember, your phone is also useful for calling home too – don’t forget to keep your parents in the loop on your travel plans and changes!

What apps have you found that make traveling better? Are there any that you love that aren’t listed? Share them with us!

~Lauren Knight

Florence Through the Eyes of Faculty and Program Participant John W. Clark

John W. Clark joined the 2013 Coast Community College District program to Florence as a program participant this summer. In the past, John has served as a faculty on the Florence program. In this series of photos taken by John, a visual manifestation of John’s “obsession with this wondrous city” is highlighted.

Waiting to tour the Palazzo Vecchio.

John says that, “Every month of June that I have enjoyed in Florence has always been a wonderful mad rush of learning [and] laughing” and that he arrived this year “excited to see the sites and visit my old favorite haunts that I found the years before.”

Just next to the ACCENT Florence Study Center, a new restaurant with fresh pasta being made. They gave us free samples.

Maestro and the pasta machine.

John continued: “I was ready to relive some old memories I had made with some newfound friends and wanted to share those gems with them. In my anticipation and excitement, I would explain how wonderful a time I had here or there, and how good the food was at a particular restaurant.”

The Duomo.

The Arno.

Ponte Santa Trinita at sunset.

His conclusion: “Never take people, things, and places for granted. Just live in the moment and love them for what they are.”

Thank you for sharing, John! If you’re an ACCENT program participant or faculty interested in sharing your experiences, please submit your entry for the ACCENT Blog today, either by filling out our ACCENT Blog Submission Form, or by emailing us at accentblogs@accentintl.com!

~Chelsey Little, ACCENT Social Media Coordinator, San Francisco

Faculty Feature: Recreating Botticelli’s “Primavera” in Chalk

Faculty Feature –

Our second Faculty Feature comes to us from University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Courtney Johnson. Courtney, along with faculty member Matt Waldschlagel, led UNCW students on a Summer study abroad program to both Florence and Paris. In this guest post, Courtney shares with us a story of her students’ experience recreating art in Florence in the style of local Florentines, past and present.

First take: University of North Carolina Wilmington students recreating a detail of Botticelli’s Primavera, Florence, Italy, Summer 2013

Anyone who has been to Florence has undoubtedly seen the madonnaro/a, street artists who recreate Renaissance masterpieces in chalk on the sidewalks. When planning a University of North Carolina Wilmington studio art study abroad course, I knew I wanted the students to recreate an artwork in chalk on the pavement in Florence.

Due to the commonality of the event, I assumed we would be able to easily find a spot to execute a group chalk drawing, but the more I looked into it, I discovered that madonnaro/a have permits to work for tips from tourists and passersby and the drawing spots throughout the city are assigned on a rotating basis to the artists with a permit. After much effort and creative problem solving, Lacie Raymond and Ludovica Sodo at the ACCENT Study Center in Florence found a location in the courtyard of a nearby foundation where ACCENT students volunteer. The foundation houses a soup kitchen, a school for children, and offers Italian classes for immigrants.

The day before the group chalk drawing, I gave the students several artwork suggestions that seemed feasible and they selected a detail from Botticelli’s Primavera. The eight students chose to divide the work by splitting the painting into a grid of eight.

The forecast the day of the group chalk drawing called for rain. A week earlier, I had read an article in the Florence English newspaper available at ACCENT that people were mad at the weathercasters because they were calling for rain too frequently and tourism was affected, so I hoped that today was one of those days.

As we carried the chalk from ACCENT to the foundation the students were nervous, as they had seen the chalk drawings in the streets for three weeks.

We arrived at the foundation and went to the area of the courtyard designated for the chalk drawing. One of the employees asked us how to clean up the drawing once it was completed. We said it would just clean up with water. The students thought it sounded like they were going to clean up the drawing as soon as it was completed. I told them that the goal was to make the drawing so good that the foundation would want to keep it.

The students unpacked the chalk and started by making a grid. Then students worked on their section. It was sunny and even hot, probably the best weather we had in Florence for the last three weeks.

Halfway through…

As the students worked, we had a few visitors. One of the employees of the foundation’s dog, Chewbacca, came to check out the drawing. There were also a handful of people who came to look at the drawing in progress. They looked at it for a few seconds and then exclaimed, “Primavera!” The students felt very good about the drawing being recognized.

Some of the skin and hair color selections differed by student, but as the drawing neared the end, the students worked very well together to blend the grids and cover up the lines of the grid. The drawing took the students two hours to complete.

When we completed the drawing, we showed it to the foundation employees who were very pleased. We asked if they wanted us to help them clean it up and they said no! And they said if we ever wanted to come back, they would love for us to do another, or to try a fresco on the wall of their building! We brought the chalk over to the children’s school supply area and the teacher told us that she would bring the children to see the drawing in the courtyard and give them the chalk to use.

The students all felt very good about their accomplishment. It was a great bonding experience that not only taught them about the effort and concentration of recreating a Renaissance artwork, but also the value of creating something beautiful to share with others.

~Courtney Johnson, Assistant Professor, Gallery Director, Art & Art History – University of North Carolina Wilmington

Final product – a beautiful piece of art!

Faculty Feature: Coast Community College District in Paris with Lia Raileanu

Faculty Feature –

This week, we are very happy to bring you a guest post from one of the fabulous faculty who lead programs abroad with ACCENT, Lia Raileanu. Lia has been leading programs to Paris with the Coast Community College District and ACCENT for over 20 years. She is a stellar individual whose passion for French language and culture inspires her students every year.

At the end of each “Summer in Paris Program” that I lead for four weeks every July, we conclude the program with a farewell dinner. During these dinners, students reflect back on the experiences that they have had in Paris and express to me, between tears, their profound gratitude for a summer that has transformed them for the rest of their lives and far exceeded all of their dreams.

When students first embark on this journey, they are hesitant, shy, anxious, full of questions, and uncertain about what to expect. But they are also full of dreams and hopes. Most students have never left the country before; some have never entered a museum nor seen an artistic performance. Most have only seen castles and cathedrals in posters or movies. Their interaction with people living in different cultures is almost nonexistent. But all of this changes day by day in Paris. To witness the changes in the way the students think and act as they are exposed to a different culture, a different way of life, and a different language is one of the most rewarding experiences in a teacher’s career. Right before my eyes every summer, these students mature, gain independence, and deepen their understanding and appreciation of the world. It is during these long summer days spent with them as a teacher, tour guide, counselor, and friend that I am left with a one-of-a-kind irreplaceable feeling of fulfillment, satisfaction, and gratitude for the opportunity to change the lives of so many. The students’ thirst to learn about everything that surrounds them is impressive and inspiring. They become more introspective and gain a better understanding of who they are and what they want to accomplish. The uniquely wonderful moments they share together cements life long friendships.

Some students’ dedication and efforts to participate in this rich experience is particularly worth noting: one girl spent night after night baking cupcakes to sell at her workplace and former school so that she could raise enough money for the program fee. Needless to say, all of her hard work paid off.

The entire staging for the program is the work of ACCENT. The success of the programs is the result of a perfect collaboration with the ACCENT team whose creativity and organizational ability are exceptional. Years ago, when I arrived in Paris from Southern California with my first group of students, I entered into a relatively small office that was, at that time, the only location of ACCENT. Today, ACCENT welcomes students from all over the United States from an ever increasing number of universities. Their beautiful centers are located in many major European cities from Madrid all the way to Rome. Almost every member of the ACCENT’s team has been a participant in a study abroad program. Their knowledge, passion, and warmth surrounds each student, from their very first contact with the San Francisco office, to their last day of the program abroad. Throughout the years, ACCENT has become a highly prestigious institution, but most importantly, ACCENT is a family that offers a unique and welcoming home for students whose drive to learn takes them overseas to become immersed in a world that will shape the rest of their lives.

~ Lia Raileanu, Coast Community College District, sharing her experiences with ACCENT Paris