Studying Abroad While Earning English Credit

Every summer, hundreds of Texas State students apply for passports, pack their bags, and leave the U.S. to study in foreign countries that become their homes and classrooms for several weeks. Over the past two summers, I, Zane Altemus, Gabriella Cusato, and Gloria Russell were among the many students from the English Department who took part in Study Abroad programs while earning credit for courses at Texas State.

Zane (an English and Mass Communication double major) and Gabriella (a Mass Communication major and English minor) studied English in Madrid and Barcelona, Spain this past summer as part of the Texas State in Spain program, directed by Dr. Edna Rehbein. Zane says he embarked on his study abroad trip because “everything fell into place” and he was able to cover costs with grants and scholarships available through the university. He and Gabriella enrolled in Studies in World Literature (ENG 3341) and The Interdisciplinary Approach to Literature (ENG 3343) to satisfy two Advanced English requirements. However, while the trip allowed Zane to satisfy some important degree requirements, he soon found himself captivated by the Spanish culture and people. Zane recounts how, one afternoon, following a long walk outside of Barcelona, he and his fellow students were entranced by the country’s scenery. Planning to take pictures at the base of a cliff outside the city, Zane’s group wandered upon a soccer game played by local children and they stopped to watch. “It was one of the more human moments of the trip,” he explains. Zane’s trip offered him the unique opportunity of interacting with the culture and places he was studying in the classroom, one of the primary benefits of participating in a study abroad program.

Aiming to “see a new piece of the world, experience a new culture and broaden [her] perspective,” Gabriella was also able to explore the world by participating in the Texas State in Spain program. Noting she wanted to “challenge [her]self to grow and adapt in a new environment,” she describes the first-hand experiences she had while immersed in Spain’s cultural traditions: “an incredible flamenco show, original Picasso paintings, centuries-old architecture,” as well as “visiting an old bullfighting ring in Madrid and learning how important the tradition of bullfighting is to the Spanish people.” She treasures her experiences abroad, finding that “every bit of Spain is dripping with passion.”

This passion and history also influenced recent graduate Gloria Russell, who completed her degree in English with a concentration in Creative Writing in 2018. Gloria participated in two study abroad programs during her time at Texas State: the Texas State in Ireland and Texas State in Canterbury programs. Gloria took Anthropology courses in the latter program to support her degree requirements; the Texas State in Canterbury program currently offers a wide range of Anthropology and Social Work courses taught by Ms. Stacy McGee and Dr. Jon McGee. Gloria remembers particularly the moment France won the 2018 FIFA World Cup. On a weekend trip to Paris to explore the catacombs below the city, Gloria found herself exiting this historic underground space to the lively streets of Paris, where French flags hung from the windows above as crowds gathered for an impromptu parade celebrating the French victory. Gloria witnessed the parade unfold on the streets, meeting friends and returning a celebratory “Viva France!” to the locals she passed. Thinking back on that moment, she explains that she “didn’t speak French, but [she] didn’t have to.”

Gloria also had the opportunity to participate in the Texas State in Ireland program, the longest-running Study Abroad English program in the English Department. Spending five weeks in Ireland’s second largest city, Cork, students such as Gloria and myself studied Irish Literature (ENG 3341) and Mythology (ENG 3329), taught by Mr. Steve Wilson and Dr. Nancy Wilson. While exploring a country steeped in centuries-old mythology, students in this program investigate the mythological foundations that still influence the architecture, landscape, agriculture, and belief systems of Ireland. During my time in Ireland, I was often surprised and humbled by my introduction to the humorous and kind Irish people whose fictional counterparts appeared in the literature I studied during the program, as well as on my daily walks down Western Road toward the University College-Cork campus and the city. My own curiosity had me on a bus or train almost every spare moment as I went off to explore nearby towns and cultural sites. My favorite of these adventures was to the small town of Ballyvourney, where, after a bus ride to the west of County Cork followed by a short hike, I discovered the Holy Well and Monastic Site of St. Gobnait, a medieval Irish saint. This remarkable experience supported my discussion of St. Gobnait and her mythological representation as a goddess in the paper I completed as part of my coursework.

Many Summer 2020 Study Abroad programs, like the ones highlighted above, are accepting applications now for students interested in fulfilling degree requirements abroad. Among these is a new program that caters to students looking for English courses in study abroad: Texas State in Merida. Based in Mexico, the program offers Mexican Translation in Literature (ENG 3341) and Travel Writing (ENG 3311), in which students will evaluate translated Mexican literature, from pre-indigenous stories to 20th century poetry; and complete a travel blog. Program Director Dr. Laura Ellis-Lai explains that the location is the true standout of this program though, describing the program’s highlights as “living with local families in homestays, swimming in cenotes, visiting Mayan pyramids, going to the beach, visiting museums, enjoying traditional siestas in hammocks, and reading some of the best authors from the rich literary landscape of Mexico.”

To obtain more information about the Texas State in Spain, Texas State in Canterbury, Texas State in Ireland, and Texas State in Mexico programs, or others that will support English degree requirements, students should attend the upcoming Education Abroad Fair on October 30th. They can also contact the directors of the various programs, which can be found at the Education Abroad website.

— Kennedy Farrell, English major

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