New study abroad programs announced

As students are returning from studying abroad in Peru, doing activities such as exploring Machu Picchu, spending the night in Aguas Calientes, going on an excursion to the Sacred Valley and having a guided tour of Cusco that included Incan temples, there are more study abroad programs on the horizon, waiting for students to take advantage of them.

The next study abroad program will depart on January 2 and return on March 13, 2010, with the students traveling to Alajuela, Costa Rica. Alajuela is a small town surrounded by sugar and coffee plantations and is located roughly 30 minutes from the capital of Costa Rica, San Jose.

Costa Rica offers students a very green experience, with rainforest ecosystems to research, steaming volcanoes to observe, forests to explore, unique birds to watch and pristine beaches to relax on.

While staying in Costa Rica, students will take either five or ten credits worth of Spanish, a course on Latin America and its people, and will also be introduced to some of the most popular contemporary authors of Latin American literature.

Mini-courses that are available include Costa Rican Art, Topics in Spanish Grammar, Central American Issues, the Diversity of Costa Rica’s Forests, and Costa Rican Folk Music.

On the weekends students will be free to explore Costa Rica’s many attractions. Students in the past have favored the rainforests, Jaco Beach, and of course, the Caribbean Coast. If needed, there will be a travel coordinator at the Instituto de Cultura y Lengua Costarricense (ICLC), Costa Rica’s premier language institute, to help assist you with travel plans. The ICLC will also put together several of its own trips.

Also available to students, at their own expense, are multiple museums about history and various features of Costa Rica.

In Costa Rica, each student will live in a home with a local Costa Rican family. Students will be encouraged to interact with the families as much as possible to facilitate learning the Spanish language and culture, in addition to becoming familiar with the family.

If you’re looking for a full submersion into a culture, Costa Rica might be the right choice for you. “Those interested in an intensive language experience are drawn to Costa Rica and Spain because they can double up on their language courses,” says Carol McKee, the head of Bellevue College’s study abroad program. Students will receive 10 credits for language, rather than five in other programs.

However, you don’t have to have an extensive background in a country’s language in order to enjoy the experience. “Students of all levels are accepted,” says McKee. “Lots of students go without any previous language experience.”

To ease in the transition, a teacher from the state of Washington is sent to teach the students of the study abroad program, so their regular classes are taught in English as well as the language classes, which help them get around and communicate on a daily basis. “They [also] have other Washington students, who speak English, to talk to if they are feeling nervous,” said McKee. “Usually there are students in the program who have good skills, and they will often help the others.

If Costa Rica doesn’t sound like it would be for you, perhaps Florence, Italy might be more to your liking. Eligible students will be able to enroll in Bellevue College’s study abroad program in Florence from March 24 until June 4, 2010.

Located in the heart of the province Tuscany, Florence is packed with piazzas, palaces, churches, museums and markets for students to explore. While in Italy, students will have the chance to walk in the footsteps of Michaelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Donatello and other famous artists.

Students that choose Italy will also have a bit more freedom as they live in furnished apartments with three other students, rather than a local family. However, this has both its advantages and disadvantages. The main disadvantage is from a cultural standpoint.

“Students don’t get a total immersion experience,” says McKee. “It’s more expensive, and they have to cook for themselves. Since very few community colleges offer Italian, we don’t offer this as an “intensive language” program.”

There is a bright side however.

“The advantages are that students have more freedom and don’t have to speak Italian all the time if they don’t want to,” said McKee.

As far as studying goes, students will choose 10 credits worth of studying from typical course offerings. One required class, Italian Life and Culture, would focus on beginner’s level Italian language.

One included excursion with the Florence program is to Sienna, a city just south of Florence, where students will spend a full day exploring the narrow streets and wealth of artwork contained in its museums and churches, before taking in the fun festival and race, the Palio.

As with Costa Rica, students will be able to use their free weekends to travel. Students will be welcome to travel to Italy and the rest of Europe’s major cities.

Florence will also have many cultural activities that students may participate in, including visits to many of its famous sites and cultural venues.

If you’re looking to travel and study someplace with a little bit less of a cultural gap, you can consider London, England in the fall quarter of 2010.

Students will be given membership to the University of London, which will give them access to both student clubs and societies.

Academic courses that are typically offered in London include English, literature, drama, speech, art and history. As with other study abroad locations, a life and culture course on the location is required.

Local cities available for students to travel to at their own expense include Paris, Amsterdam, Dublin, Edinburgh and several others. The AIFS staff will also organize evening theater activities and sporting events.

To find out more about BC’s study abroad programs, including costs and application deadlines, visit