Traveling and seeing the world aren’t typically associated with life at a community college, yet a course at Housatonic Community College (HCC) with a study abroad component is offering students the chance to do just that.
The short-term study abroad opportunity is offered as part of Humanities 119, which is available this spring. Students will visit Portugal and Spain from March 9 – 17. The cost of the trip is $3,455.
Jamilet R. Ortiz, associate professor of Spanish at HCC, said that the course explores cultural histories through the study of the arts, literature, philosophy, and history. She works closely with Education First (EF), an international education company, to plan the trip. Students stay in hotels and can share a room with one to three other classmates.
Ortiz shares a course syllabus with an EF tour director to capture a concise picture of what the students are learning about and allow for more comprehensive presentations for the group. The tour director also supplements learning with activities that support course discussions. Ortiz said that the course is great for exposing students to a variety of areas and different cultures while taking into account the human experience. The travel component is particularly helpful for commuter students, who have to negotiate living with roommates in fairly close quarters for the duration of the trip, something they might not otherwise experience during college. Ortiz noted that this helps students broaden their experience while at the same time developing self-awareness and soft skills. Ortiz added that for many community college students, this might be their first time traveling by plane or obtaining a passport.
“For a lot of our students, this is the first time they’ve traveled anywhere,” Ortiz said. “This also gives them a taste for what is possible.”
HCC started offering the study abroad experience in Humanities 119 in 2015. The course is open to all students, satisfies many types of educational requirements, and the only prerequisite is English 101 and Ortiz noted that class can be a co-requisite. Ortiz said that the study abroad course at HCC is the only course at a state community college offering credits that are guaranteed transferable.
Reflecting on his 2018 trip to Europe during the course, Eric Vazquez said that the experience afforded him the opportunity to visit a lot of places that were on his “bucket list” without having to worry about missing something important along the way. Vazquez admitted that in the past, he spent money on international travel only to realize when he got to his destination that he was overwhelmed and confused about where to go.
“I’d spend hours on one boring street, when all the fun was happening one street over,” he said.
Vazquez noted that this trip offered the chance to go to places he had never even heard of and get an authentic experience.
“Programs like this can truly teach students about themselves by showing them how other people in other countries live,” he said.