HBU Professor Dr. Encarnación (Encarna) Bermejo knows what it’s like to learn a new language. The Madrid-native, who learned English as an adult, advises students, “You can’t hold yourself back. You’re going to make errors and sound different. Students are always afraid to make mistakes, but I tell them, ‘It’s okay.’ They have to lose their fear and gain confidence.”
A Spanish professor at HBU for the past seven years, Bermejo knows the value of full immersion for language acquisition. Early in her tenure, she set about establishing a partnership that would benefit the students of HBU. By happenstance, she met a faculty member of the Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, and the beginning of the partnership was formed.
“The opportunity to go to Spain was a dream come true. The trip made me feel more mature and opened up a whole new perspective in how I see the world around me.”
The city of Santiago de Compostela, commonly known as Santiago, is located in the northwest region of Spain, the Galicia region of the Iberian Peninsula, above Portugal. It is known for being the destination of “El Camino,” or “The Way” of St. James (a prominent Catholic pilgrimage route). Its Celtic influence is still evident. The city’s Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
“After receiving approval from HBU, I went and met with the university leadership and I thought it was a perfect match for us. It’s a small city and a Christian environment,” Bermejo said.
The four-week study abroad program is now available to HBU students, freshmen through seniors. Students don’t need to major in Spanish or have a grasp of the language yet. Students who apply are tested for proficiency, and placed in beginning (1300), intermediate (2300) or advanced (3300 & 4300) Spanish language classes at the university. They earn six transferable college credits through the program.
“Over the course of four weeks, I worked in a microbiology lab. Overall, this experience has given me much more than an opportunity to learn within a lab. It has also granted me friendships and an experience I will never forget.”
Local Santiago families who have been well-vetted serve as hosts for each of the students.
“Being with a family allows students to live the culture and enriches the experience,” Bermejo said. “It also helps them communicate in Spanish outside of the academic setting. If they need a glass of water for example, they have to tell the family that.”
A typical weekday for the study abroad participants involves class in the morning from 9 a.m. to noon, in which students study an in-depth curriculum of vocabulary, grammar and application. From noon to 2 p.m., students participate in a nearby activity, often practicing conversation with locals. After an afternoon break, the students set out together at 5 p.m. to one of many cultural activities in the city. On the weekends, students participate in longer group excursions to nearby sites, as well as enjoy time with their host families.
“This trip really helped confirm that I want to be a doctor. I have an idea of how hospital life is, and I learned how to speak with patients. I loved it and hope to come back.”
For heritage Spanish speakers, and students who already have a firm grasp of the language, an internship program in place of traditional classes is available. The Career Internship is offered in the areas of healthcare, education and business.
“The program works for them in a different way,” Bermejo said. “Some students have been speaking Spanish all of their lives, but only within the domains which they are accustomed to — family, community church, etc. This is an opportunity for them to spend a whole month in a career setting and learn Spanish as applicable in a profession.”
“Going to Santiago de Compostela was an amazing opportunity, especially with the group. I am forever grateful that I was able to be in the beautiful city for a month.”
Past student travelers become the biggest advocates for the study program, Bermejo said. Additionally, they find that conversational and professional Spanish comes more readily.
“They really love the program,” Bermejo said. “They love the experience, they love the country, they feel more confident in the language, and overall, it’s a great experience. For some of them, it has changed their lives.”
Program: Study abroad with HBU at la Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, or complete a Career Internship
City: Santiago is set in the Spanish region of Galicia, and is known as being the destination of “El Camino” (The Way), of St. James, a prominent Catholic pilgrimage route
Courses: Students earn six Spanish language college credits
Dates: Departing June 29, 2018 and program from July 2 through July 27, 2018
Cost: $2,757 plus airfare ($1,500 to $1,800 on average); cost includes tuition, supplies, meals, accommodation, laundry service, cultural activities, weekend tours and medical insurance; students may apply for applicable scholarships
Contact: Reach Dr. Encarna Bermejo at EBermejo@HBU.edu for more information