As professors and media outlets increasingly discuss the importance of globalization, many students at UT are using study abroad opportunities to complete foreign language requirements.
In their spare time, of course, they visit the beach.
"Class is three hours a day, five days a week, and the rest of your time is your own. I'll be available, but they don't have to do anything," said Laura Atwood, an associate professor of Spanish who is co-leading a study abroad trip to Costa Rica this summer. "In five weeks, you go to Costa Rica, spend your weekends on the beach and finish your language requirement."
The young Spanish teacher was approached in spring of 2012 by a former graduate professor, Dr. Oscar Rivera-Rodas, who currently teaches in the Modern Foreign Languages department. He enlisted her help in raising awareness about a trip he was leading and in the process piqued Atwood's own interest in leading a study abroad trip.
Their five-week stay in Costa Rica offers four different tracks, each requiring six credit hours. Trips like this are common among foreign languages at UT, offered to countries that speak French, German, Mandarin Chinese and more.
This trip in particular offers an intensive intermediate track, essentially completing an entire foreign language requirement in little over a month.
Lesley Bringhurst, a sophomore in business with a minor in Spanish, went on a similar trip to San Pedro, Spain last summer. Dr. Rivera-Rodas served as the UT faculty during her stay in the coastal city of southeastern Spain. For Bringhurst, the practical application of her studies was a huge benefactor.
"Since I lived with a host family, I had to communicate with them everyday about little things, if I was sick or hungry or something like that," she said. "I didn't have my professor or anyone else that spoke English in the house, so I had to make do and learn to say things the stupidest way possible. I learned how to communicate."
Spending half of the summer in another country is no vacation for the professor, and Bringhurst said that Dr. Rivera-Rodas possesses a special ability to bring the subject to life.
"He was really good at finding outside sources to teach from," she said. "Rather than just quoting from the textbook, he would find poems or movies or funny videos or personal stories that he had that would relate to what we were learning so we could have more reference of what we were doing."
Although the professors work hard, Bringhurst mentioned that Dr. Rivera-Rodas did go out on the town a few times, even venturing into a club or two.
Bringhurst credits the trip to Spain as fundamental to her Spanish education and entirely worth the cost. With the help of UT's Study Abroad office, she was able to use the summer Hope Scholarship and a study abroad scholarship to pay for airfare and food.
"It was totally worth the money, absolutely," she said.
Many of the trips cost between $4,000 and $6,000, but typically include all expenses. The $6,000 price of Rivera and Atwood's trip to Costa Rica even allots for passport fees.
For more information about studying abroad, visit studyabroad.utk.edu.