Northwestern College prides itself on many programs that allow its students to broaden their perspectives on the world around them. This foundation is built in First Year Seminar, continued throughout the general education program and caps off every student’s experience in each senior seminar. Some students take an extra step toward engaging cultures through study abroad experiences.
NW students Kelsey Epp and Shelby Varilek are halfway through a semester in Seville, Spain. Their journey abroad took over 24 hours, and when they arrived, it was a Spanish morning. After a long first day, they began to settle into daily life in Seville.
Students studying in Spain live with a host mother. These are typically older women who either never had children or have children who are done with primary schooling. These host mothers are called señoras, and they care for students by cooking, doing laundry and even packing lunches when students travel for the weekend.
The relationship between a student and their señora can be a highlight of a study abroad experience. Epp and Varilek live together in a home with the same señora. “Our señora is so sweet, she’s like our grandma,” Epp said.
Students are completely immersed in Spanish culture from the moment they land in Spain. This includes speaking almost exclusively in Spanish at home, in public and at school. This can be a shocking transition, even for thoroughly practiced Spanish speakers.
“When we showed up to our señora’s house, she gave us a house tour, but she spoke so fast that we could only understand about 30 percent percent of what she was saying,” Epp said.
Students in the program come from varying levels of Spanish experience, with some being Spanish majors and others having no prior Spanish knowledge.
In Seville, most people travel by public transportation or just by walking. Epp and Varilek’s home is about a 45-minute walk from school, but Seville has a bike rental program which helps to cut down on commute times.
Study abroad programs aim to help students engage in another culture through immersive experiences and classes. Classes in Seville cover a wide range of topics including advanced Spanish grammar, art history, service classes and a class about the three cultures that have dominated Spain throughout history. Service classes give students the opportunity to volunteer at schools, nursing homes and a variety of places in the city. The class of three cultures describes the Jewish, Christian and Muslim influences on Spanish culture throughout history.
The classmates of this program come from Christian colleges all across the country including Taylor, Westmont and many others.
In addition to attending classes together, these students take the opportunity to explore Europe when they aren’t in class. Students have gone on trips through school across Spain to Toledo, Cádiz, Ronda and Cordoba with more trips planned before the semester is over.
Students also have the opportunity to plan their own trips during breaks. These trips have taken students from NW to Paris and Malta thus far, while other classmates have gone as far as the Netherlands or Germany.
The NW symphonic band recently completed a tour in Spain where it had the opportunity to perform at the school NW’s study abroad students are attending. The band met up with Epp and Varilek and even delivered a few things sent to the students from the states, including peanut butter and M&M’s.
A semester abroad gives students the ability to be immersed in another culture, and NW students around the world are taking advantage of that opportunity, including our two students in Seville.