Study Abroad Students Share Their Experiences

Posted: September 18, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Nick Walker

Two dozen Mason students who have studied Spanish abroad shared their stories with prospective travelers at a luncheon held by the Center for Global Education (CGE) on Sept. 10.

The event also included presentations on semester abroad programs, short-term programs offered over winter break, and direct exchanges to Chilé, Mexico and Spain.

Four returning students who studied together in Buenos Aires in July and spoke at the luncheon were Rachael DeLaCruz, Sarah Jones, Kripa Patwardhan and Brenda Leigh Denny.

Students at study abroad lunch
Students shared their experiences at the Center for Global Education lunch. From left, Rachael DeLaCruz, Sarah Jones, Kripa Patwardhan, and Brenda Leigh Denny.

“My host family was incredible. I also enjoyed watching Tango,” said Denny, a sophomore double majoring in global affairs and Spanish.

“One other interesting thing I saw were the ‘Madres de la plaza de Mayo.’ It’s a group of women who walk around the plaza in circles every week, in protest of family members taken away by the government.

“I also saw the Iguazu Falls, which are 10 times the size of Niagara.”

DeLaCruz, a junior double majoring in global affairs and Latin American studies, told the group, “I went to improve my Spanish. I had a really amazing time.”

“I’ve studied abroad a lot,” said Jones, a senior global affairs major. “I’ve been to quite a few places but had never been to Latin America, even though a lot of my family is from there.”

Patwardhan, who is currently earning her master’s in public policy and concentrating on women’s reproductive policies, said, “This was my graduation present, and I loved it. Way better than French, which I studied for 10 years.”

Patwardhan said she looks forward to working on Latin American public policy issues in the future. She also offered advice to students considering visiting Buenos Aires.

“You should bring something for the host family, like a box of chocolates or other small gift,” Patwardhan said. She also noted, “The exchange rate in Buenos Aires is very good, plus things are not very expensive there anyway.”

At the luncheon, professors and CGE staff also gave presentations and answered questions regarding study abroad.

Kevin Stoy
Center for Global Education marketing director Kevin Stoy.
Photos by Nick Walker

“When I heard the Modern and Classical Language Department was holding events to welcome back students, I thought we could support them since so many of their students study languages in our programs,” says Kevin Stoy, CGE marketing coordinator.

According to Stoy, more than 65 students travel to Spanish-speaking countries with CGE each year. CGE offers more programs in Spanish-speaking countries than anywhere else.

Marie Alice Arnold, CGE general manager, explained some of the benefits of study abroad.

“It’s a form of experiential learning to study surrounded by the language you want to learn,” Arnold said. “It really deepens the knowledge, makes the language stay with you longer, builds your vocabulary and makes everything more natural.”

Also at the luncheon was Salvina “Sally” Nava, director of academic affairs for Tandem, a study abroad program that places Mason students with a host family for a semester in Madrid. She explained that Tandem also pairs each Mason student with a Spanish student studying English to help them learn the language and find their way around Spain.

Stephanie Martinez, a junior marketing major considering a language-intensive study abroad program, said afterward, “I’m mostly interested in Spain as I’ve been there a few times. It’s an amazing country, and the culture and people are really nice.”

Martinez said she would probably travel over summer or winter break, adding that she once worked for an airline and could fly to Spain for only $26.

“I have lots of friends there. Spain is my spot,” Martinez said.

CGE hosts numerous informational sessions every semester. See for more information.

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