Choosing a Program
The Department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese strongly encourages students to complete part of their coursework abroad in its approved programs. Study abroad strengthens students' communicative skills and enriches their understanding of both their own culture and the cultures of the country where they study. In fact, Spanish-, Italian- and Portuguese-speaking countries are well represented within the top 20 destinations of U.S. study abroad students. We also encourage our students to study abroad for as long a period as possible, ideally for a full academic year.
Why should students of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese study abroad?
Students who study abroad enhance their translingual and transcultural skills through sustained immersion in the host country's language(s) and cultures. By coupling experiential learning with academic understanding, study abroad allows students to translate the academic knowledge and skills they acquire in the classroom into a 24-hour-a day, seven-days-a-week experience in another country and culture.
The Department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese works only with programs that meet the high academic standards of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, while also providing ample opportunity for students to experience the cultural realities of the host country. Combined, these two factors allow students to enhance their knowledge of the language, cultures and related content areas while also deepening their understanding of the cultural nature of learning, academic institutions and the creation of knowledge itself. Language proficiency outcomes are intimately related to the amount of time spent by students in meaningful communication in the target language. Immersion programs through study abroad enable students to attain the greatest amount of proficiency and fluency over time. Students who study abroad have the opportunity to learn multiple skills (language proficiency, transcultural competence and content knowledge within academic fields) and to experience the multiplicity of cultural perspectives and material realities around the globe, which in turn provides them with a more profound understanding of their own culture and quality of life. Finally, a high-quality study-abroad experience develops many of the skills that so many employers seek, including global awareness, communication skills, and the ability to work effectively in a variety of multicultural groups.
What can students do to take full advantage of the opportunities we offer in our Study Abroad programs?
Study abroad offers a myriad of learning opportunities; to take full advantage of those opportunities students must engage deeply with their program and host communities. This means, in part, resisting the temptation to stay within the "comfort zone" represented by English-speaking peers, and choosing, instead, to interact with members of the host country in as wide a variety of contexts as possible. Most of the programs we work with offer well-designed experiential learning opportunities such as academic service learning and internships, often for course credit. We also encourage students in our Study Abroad programs to seek out people from the host community through language exchanges, volunteerism, interest groups, etc.
In short, immersion does not just happen; students must commit themselves to a rich immersion experience and do their part to make it happen.