After hours of being lost in Seville, junior international business major Katie Updyke decided the only way she was going to survive six weeks in Spain was by immersing herself into the culture.
Updyke was one of the 300 students who studied abroad in Spain this past summer through the Texas Tech Center in Seville program, according to the program coordinator Donna Wright.
The TTU Center in Seville allows students to earn Tech course credit while sitting in a classroom thousands of miles away, Wright said.
Although the center is a Tech-based facility complete with Tech faculty, students are not allowed to speak English in the building, on excursions, with host families, or with tutors, Wright said.
“I would say it was definitely eye opening, you’re away from everything that you’ve ever really known, you’re living in a different country, you’re meeting people in different cultures who aren’t used to the cultures we have here, you’re having to just go with the flow,” Updyke said.
The program is organized for students to learn Spanish at a faster pace by learning a week’s worth of course material during a three-hour class each day, Wright said.
“I learned more there in six weeks than I would ever learn in a classroom here at Tech,” Updyke said. “You’re constantly speaking Spanish and people aren’t just correcting you, they want to help you out.”
Students studying at the TTU Center in Seville live with host families during their time abroad, Wright said. The host mothers cook, clean, and cater to the students’ needs during their time in Seville.
“When I was sick my host mom took care of me, I couldn’t understand her but she was very sympathetic,” Updyke said. “She would make us tons of amazing Spanish food, like tortilla de patata, and she would even try to make us American food so we felt more at home.”
Updyke said it took some time to get adjusted to the different hours in Seville.
“Every day we would wake up at 7 a.m., and then have class from 8 a.m. to noon. You don’t eat lunch until 2 p.m. and dinner is at 10 p.m. and 11 p.m.,” Updyke said.” I definitely took advantage of the siesta every day, but you kind of have to because the whole town shuts down.”
Even when students are not in the center, students are studying while they are going to museums and on excursions, Wright said. Students will have worksheets to complete as they go along in order to point out what is what.
“When you actually see the different buildings and cultural symbols, you know it and understand it better,” Wright said. “Students are learning without sitting at a desk.”
Updyke said she traveled to Cordova, Madrid, Toledo, and Cadiz. She said she experienced historic places that she had and hadn’t heard of during her time abroad.
Not only can students receive course credit while in Spain, but the Tech study abroad program also offers internship opportunities for students who gain a real work-type experience with the natives, Wright said.
“For the Spanish internships, students can choose a place of business where they will volunteer and build language skills,” Wright said. “They have the option of working in book stores, gyms, or a travel agency.”
Students are required to do the internship completely on their own without a fellow student in order to gain the full experience of being an employee in a Spanish workplace, Wright said.
“I’m definitely looking into getting an internship abroad,” Updyke said. “They say it looks really good to go back abroad, but if I’m going to go back I want to have an internship.”
Tech has a policy where students must complete their last 30 hours of course credit on the Lubbock campus, Wright said. The only exception is if they complete the hours at the TTU Center in Seville.
Students are able to complete their final semester abroad, then come back to Lubbock and walk with their graduating class, Wright said.
Parents have to be 100 percent on board about sending their student abroad, Wright said. Considering the TTU Center in Seville has Tech-only faculty, parents feel more comfortable about their student being in a foreign country, she said.
“It’s 24/7,” Wright said. “The faculty at the Seville center never turn their cell phones off because they know with the time difference that parents will be wanting to get ahold of them.”
At the end of every semester, she said she emails parents and asks them to give an estimate of how much their student spent while studying abroad. Although some students spend more than others, the TTU Center in Seville program has estimated a budget for everything the student will need money for in Spain.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, you’re never going to have the chance to do this ever again,” Updyke said. “I feel like it should be required for everyone in college because it’s something you just have to go do to experience it.”
For more information, visit the TTU Center in Seville website.