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School of Social Work's Study Abroad Program to Spain - Summer 2019: Student Reflections

School of Social Work's Study Abroad Program to Spain - Summer 2019: Student Reflections

This summer, the School of Social Work offered their second study abroad program to Spain. This program, led by Dr. Carrion and Dr. Joshi, focuses on the socio-cultural context of people's health in two diverse settings - Alicante (a port town situated in the Mediterranean coast) and Madrid (the capital city). In both locations, students visited various community/social service agencies, met with a variety of professionals, and participated in different service-learning activities. In addition, they also had exchanges with professors and students at the University of Alicante's School of Social Work (ranked #1 in Spain for the past 16 years). Furthermore, students had an enriching "immersion experience" in Alicante through the program's "Host Family" component in which they lived with a Spanish family for a week, learned about them, and also ate homemade delicious Spanish food. Here are reflections of two student participants:

Ariana Ayala-Soto (MSW student):"My personal experience with the Spain study abroad program was inspirational and unforgettable. I genuinely would travel to Alicante, Spain again or even live there if the opportunity came up. I participated in the study abroad program to India in 2018, and in comparison, the Spain program provided a different perspective on the role of social workers at the micro and macro levels. With the study abroad to Spain, my favorite aspects were the visit to the Center for Older Adults (El Centro de Adultos Mayores) and living with a host family. The center opened my eyes to the potential the United States could have in more comprehensive care for our older adults' population. The center also demonstrated how culture can play a significant role in healthy aging for older adults. Furthermore, living with host families was wonderful - it really helped us immerse in the context (versus staying in hotels/apartments). Our host mother really made the difference - she took us in as if we were her daughters, really bonded with us, and cooked incredible meals. She also allowed me to practice my Spanish speaking and translation skills. Another valuable aspect of the study abroad in Spain was our participation in the Occupational Therapy Conference. The conference provided some of us the opportunity to share how our participation in study abroad programs has impacted us professionally and personally. This also provided me the opportunity to practice my public speaking skills. I genuinely believe that college students should study abroad at least once. Learning while traveling brings more understanding of other cultures and makes you think more critically. Personally, it has demonstrated how I can better myself and my community, as well as the impact our actions have on a global level. Luckily, with the students for the study abroad to Spain, we created a blog describing our adventures in Madrid and Alicante and is a beautiful time capsule of our journey to Spain during our time in the School of Social Work."

Derek Kee-Haynes (MSW student):On our last day before traveling back to the United States, we had the opportunity to volunteer at St. Vincente de Paul. Derek described it as "an incredibly intense experience of serving the hungry and the homeless. This experience was quite illuminating as we witnessed people from several cultures and backgrounds eat together and "Break Bread" in the true sense of community. We served Eastern Europeans, Russians, Africans, Spaniards, and many ethnic groups. Watching all these groups eat together was so moving. We were all reminded of how fortunate we are not to be food insecure or without housing. This effort truly reinforced many of our core values as Social Workers - Service, social justice, dignity and worth of a person, and integrity, to name a few."