by KENDALL HUNT
Drake has initiated a unique study abroad program this year for the 2020 spring semester: DU Spain. The program follows a new model for Drake, as it allows students to travel in cohorts rather than as individuals, as well as earn credits specifically geared to the Drake curriculum, such as J-term courses and Area of Inquiry credits. DU Spain pairs the wonderful elements of Drake, including a close-knit community of support and a faculty member to draw upon as a resource for academics and personal support, with the independence and opportunity of a normal study abroad experience.
Students will travel to Alicante, Spain, where they will take two Drake classes and can register for additional courses at the University of Alicante. David Courard-Hauri, the Drake faculty member attending DU Spain, will accompany the travelers on excursions and is teaching a class specifically designed for Drake students – Sustainable Food Systems in Southern Spain.
“In Europe they’ve been growing food in same place for thousands of years, especially in the Valencia region,” Courard-Hauri notes, “so agricultural sustainability is certain thought of differently there. In the Sustainable Food Systems class we are going to try to spend some time investigating that. We’ll look at and visit crop systems, perennials, marine systems, and urban systems.”
The other Drake course is a cultural reflection class, where students take group excursions around Spain and then sit back to think through some of those incredible, out-of-classroom cultural experiences. Students also have the opportunity to reflect on the cultural impact of home-stays, as they have the option to reside with a local Spanish family in Alicante or stay in residence halls on the University of Alicante campus.
“This program is a great opportunity, especially for those looking to improve and be immersed in the Spanish language. Alicante, as well, is in interesting spot with a diversity of ecosystems including mountains, islands with marine reserves, and oceans,” says Courard-Hauri.
Students leave during the Drake J-term on January 9th and take a two-week intensive language class that is based on each student’s own level. Most students decide to continue with Spanish for the semester, but students can choose their own classes in Spanish or English of up to 18 credit hours. Because the trip is affiliated with Drake, the intensive language class fulfills a 3 credit J-term course and other similar courses fulfill Area of Inquiry credits. Students return on May 1st.
Drake has added this new model for studying abroad as a result of student feedback and expressed desires for a group-oriented study abroad model.
“Right now, if you want to study abroad, your option is to find a program, and you are usually the only Drake person there,” explains Courard-Hauri. “We’ve found that a large amount of students prefer to travel as a Drake group – it makes the transition easier since studying abroad can be a big step for a lot of people, allows for personalized Drake classes that meet AOI requirements, and encourages the building of long-term relationships between Drake students in the program.”
Given this, DU Spain was crafted this year to fit the needs of Drake students and emphasize the school’s mission of building responsible global citizens. The destination of DU Spain – Alicante – was specifically chosen because of DU’s partnership with the Council on International Cultural Exchange, a program that teaches classes directly aimed at students studying abroad. Drake hopes to build long-term relationships and synergies with CIEE in Alicante. The pairing of the program with the organization allows Drake to know the quality of each students’ study abroad education. Drake faculty hope it will be a model for other study abroad programs in the future.
Additionally, the city of Alicante was chosen because of its size. “Alicante is in southeast Spain, right on the coast of the beautiful Mediterranean. It is a city of 330,000 and the University of Alicante campus has about 32,000 students, which is a great size,” adds Nathan Jacobson, the Interim Education Abroad Advisor at Drake. “The size allows students to be culturally immersed without being overwhelmed by the hugeness of a large city.”
The program is a phenomenal, new opportunity for Drake students to study abroad. It “marries the best of study abroad and the best of a student’s Drake experience,” declares Jacobson.
Students will have the independence of traditional study abroad with home-stays and traveling around Europe, while still being connected to Drake with Drake faculty and students. “The faculty member, especially,” Jacobson states, “is someone who knows the environment you are coming from and can support you in realizing all of the ways you want to make this experience the best it can be.”
The program is open to all majors, and the deadline to apply is October 1st. If you are looking for an immersive cultural experience that embodies Drake’s new model of “support with independence”, look into the Alicante program for this spring.