In 1974 Proctor first sent students and faculty to Spain to pioneer an off-campus program that would help define the academic experience for hundreds of Proctor students during the past four decades.
The 2011 edition of Proctor in Spain has updated Proctor's Flickr page (HERE) and program page (HERE) often with images and a summary of their travels, but for this post, students and instructors share their thoughts regarding the value of learning abroad.
Derek and Eva, program directors, write that twice each term the group heads off to different parts of Spain. These trips are intended to take a break from routine and to provide an opportunity for students to observe the differences between the rather distinct regions that form modern Spain.
The purpose of these adventures, just as is with the entire program, is to teach students about a culture and then allow them to experience it first hand.
In preparation for their excursion to Basque country, the group watched videos and learned about the culture. Carlie wrote, "Based on our reading ahead of time, I had a perception of San Sebastian and the Basque Country that was proven to be totally wrong."
This process of redefining perceptions provides the heart of the educational experience for students living abroad as students are constantly forced to evaluate, and then reevaluate their ideas of a certain culture, region, or belief system.
Michele's documenting of typical night life in San Sebastian furthers this notion, "Some may say that there is a traditional way to enjoy the night in San Sabestian and their tapas bars, but from what I witnessed that night, everyone created the perfect evening themselves. They didn’t use the ‘How to Eat Tapas’ book, or follow the crowd; everyone’s experience was unique and that was ok."
Through various outings and the freedom to be fully immersed in Spanish culture with home-stay families, Proctor's students are forced to live outside their comfort zone.
Derek and Eva have observed that this group is particularly adventurous and willing to dive right into Spanish culture, as intimidating as the situation may be.
Reflecting on the term so far, Derek and Eva have come to appreciate the unique perspectives that each individual has brought to the group. The willingness to share each of these perspectives openly and honestly is what has made the group experience so special for these seven students.
Maria Jose, one of the program's teachers, documented a conversation exercise with a local Spanish high school in which Proctor's students worked to teach English to their counterparts. See Proctor's students in action below:
For a class project, Satchel, Fiona, and Michelle composed the following video documenting a few of the experiences the group had during its time in Segovia.
While Proctor provides a unique experience for every student fortunate enough to study in Spain, the hope is that each will return to campus having not only earned a full year's worth of Spanish credit, but more importantly a new perspective on how we can learn from the culture around us…at all times.
Learning and living go hand in hand, especially when studying abroad.
Dylan writes the following in a recent paper commenting on a film he watched in Spanish (with English subtitles) that combines material he has covered in History class, discussed extensively in the Literature and Film class and that echos the sentiments of his home-stay family and Spanish attitudes toward personal freedoms.
"We see the streets in the beginning of the film and they are completely empty. A curfew was enacted by Franco at that time, and people were losing their right to personal freedoms..."
"But a big change happens when the story jumps forward about twenty years. Franco is gone, and the streets are crowded and bustling. People are drinking and smoking outside, things that Franco would never have allowed, showing us how far the culture has come in a short time."
Living in another culture allows students to understand, appreciate, and re-evaluate their own perceptions of that culture, something no classroom on campus could ever do as effectively.
Fiona wrote, "I think I can safely say that San Sebastian and the Basque Country are some of the most beautiful places of the small piece of Earth that I have visited.
"I loved the sharp contrast between the steep, woody hills and the ocean, the way San Sebastian wraps around La Concha (its most famous beach) and reaches out into the countryside."
"Not only was the geography different, the Basque Country was different culturally, and the controversial topic of Basque independence can be felt, especially when hearing the Basques speak their unique language."
Home-stay families provide Proctor's students with an extension of the academic day that many never anticipated, learning intricacies of Spanish culture in a personal setting.
While cultural excursions, like this one to the Guggenheim Museum, afford students an opportunity to fully appreciate what other cultures have to offer.