By Melissa Nichols
President John Dunn traveled to Spain recently to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Western Michigan University’s study abroad program in Burgos.
Dunn’s wife, Linda Dunn, Mercedes Tasende, Chair of the Department of Spanish, and Brett Berquist, executive director of International Programs, accompanied Dunn on his visit from Nov. 23 to Nov. 27.
The study abroad program in Burgos is the most popular destination for study abroad students at WMU. While visiting, the group met with 21 students who were studying there. Since its inception, more than 200 WMU students have studied abroad in Burgos.
“We visited three campuses, met with instructors and administrators to discuss the present and the future of the programs. We also visited several houses and met with some of the families that host our students,” Tasende said.
The group also explored opportunities for making the study abroad program more effective to all students.
“While we were in Santander, we explored opportunities for study abroad and internships for WMU’s business students. The Univerdad de Cantabaria offers many business courses in English as part of the one-semester, Diploma in European Business and Economics,” Tasende said. “The Haworth College of Business is pursuing an exchange relationship with Universidad de Cantabria. Steve Newell, Ph.D. and Breat Wagner, Ph.D., will visit Santander in March for discussions.”
Tasende said that the study abroad program is in the process of organizing a summer course for 2010 at Univerdad de Santiago de Compostela in Galicia.
This program will consist of students hiking through a portion of the Camino de Stantiago, the most important pilgrimage in Europe throughout the Middle Ages.
The course will deal with literature and culture associated with El Camino de Santiago, taught by Pablo Pastrana-Pérez, Ph.D.
“The trip to Spain turned out to be a wonderful experience for everyone involved with the WMU study abroad program in Burgos. My colleagues and I were delighted that President Dunn decided to go to Burgos to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the creation of the program,” Tasende said. “We are thankful for Dr. Dunn’s support for study abroad programs in general.”
WMU students, like Nicole Vafadari, who studied abroad at the University of Burgos in Fall 2006, had nothing but positive things to say about the program.
“It was cool, because we would learn about 16th century art, and then we would go see 16th century art. And then during breaks, unlike here, where you might go to Sprau Tower, we would go hang out with our professors and buy them a beer. It was really fun,” Vafadari said.
Tasende said there are countless benefits for students who wish to study abroad, whether at Burgos or otherwise.
Students who study abroad learn languages faster and better, have the opportunity to experience the world from another perspective, develop new social skills and are more marketable to international companies.