Native Spaniard leads students on summer program to historic León, Barcelona

January 5, 2013

The School of International Letters and Cultures’ study abroad programs are among the longest running and most prestigious at Arizona State University. Founded in 1981, and directed by knowledgeable, world-class faculty, the programs offer students the opportunity to experience and study international humanities and learn languages firsthand while earning credit toward their degree.

The school’s “Culture and Text in Contemporary León, Spain” summer program is led by native Spaniard and ASU professor of Spanish literature and film studies Carlos J. Garcia-Fernandez. The program gives students an insider perspective on Spanish society and a full sense of Spanish life and culture that is only possible because of the knowledge and experience of Garcia-Fernandez.   Download Full Image

"My experiences during the program in León are some of the most memorable in my life,” says former participant Afton Knight. “What really sets this program apart from others is that it is organized and directed by a León native. The city was brought to life with his expertly chosen excursions and guides, and his ability to take students off the beaten path to find hidden treasures in the labyrinth of the city."

During the four-week program students live in and experience the historical, northwestern Spanish city of León. Founded by the Romans and later a kingdom in the medieval ages, today León is a city of 140,000 people with innovative and international institutions dedicated to culture and science. León is situated along the centuries-old Way of Saint James pilgrimage route, and combines a long history and rich traditions with a forward-looking modernity.

Former participant Katherine Nelson says, “My study abroad in León was the best experience I've had in my life. The city is beautiful, the locals are friendly, and the program is excellent. The thing that sets León apart from other cities in Spain is the wonderful climate; it was a perfect escape from the hot Arizona summers. And León is so close to so many amazing things to see in Spain like the Picos de Europa National Park.”

During the program, students also spend one weekend in Barcelona discovering architecture, painting, and cultural achievements by historic figures such as Gaudí and Picasso as well as enjoying world-class Spanish cuisine. According to Lonely Planet, “Barcelona is Spain’s most cosmopolitan city and one of the Mediterranean's busiest ports. Restaurants, bars and clubs are always packed, as is the seaside in summer. The city's avant-garde chefs whip up a storm that has even the French reaching for superlatives. From Roman town it passed to medieval trade juggernaut, and its old center constitutes one of the greatest concentrations of Gothic architecture in Europe.”

Adding to the cultural experience, students are housed with host families in León that are carefully selected by Garcia-Fernandez for their enthusiasm for sharing Spanish culture and language and their commitment to providing an authentic Spanish experience for program participants.

“My host family in León welcomed me into their home with open arms and made me feel as if I were part of the family,” says Cristina Cera. “To this day we have been in constant communication, which has continued to help me in improving my Spanish and learning about Spanish culture.”

All of the host families live within walking distance of Universidad de León where classes are held. Students earn six credits with two courses dependent on Spanish proficiency level and academic needs. Courses are available in language, literature and culture including a special topics course called “Words, Images and Places from León to Barcelona, in the Context of Spain,” in which there are various opportunities to explore the city of León, its surroundings, such as museums, monuments, food and cultural sites, and some of the other places alluded to in the texts in Barcelona. The course, which contributes to the significance and success of the program, integrates the location of the program with the expertise and research of Garcia-Fernandez.

“I especially enjoyed the special topic class about León and Barcelona,” says Stephanie Koebele. “It was fascinating to learn about the deep social and cultural history that exists between these two cities in the classroom, and then apply this knowledge when exploring both cities in real life. Taking this class really enhanced my understanding and appreciation of the rich, diverse cultures in Spain.”

“The 'Culture and Text in Contemporary León, Spain' program was amazing,” asserts Marisa Fernández. “We were able to live in one of Spain's most historically important cities and truly experience the Spanish culture, as well as visit the beautiful city of Barcelona for a weekend. I will never forget the friends, classes, and memories I had through this program!”

Applications accepted through the ASU Study Abroad Office. 

The School of International Letters and Cultures is an academic unit of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. 

ASU tapped to help Obama administration fight human trafficking

January 6, 2013

“Our fight against human trafficking is one of the great human rights causes of our time, and the United States will continue to lead it…” – President Barack Obama, Sept. 25, 2012

The Obama Administration is asking students to come up with new and innovative ways to end human trafficking, and Arizona State University is answering the challenge. Download Full Image

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has selected ASU to play a central role in the launch of its newest initiative in the war on modern slavery.  On Jan. 9, ASU will host a community-wide event to build momentum and raise awareness nationally and globally for, USAID’s Counter Trafficking in Persons (C-TIP) Campus Challenge.

Campus Challenge: A call to action against human trafficking
4:30 p.m.-6 p.m., Jan. 9
Memorial Union, Ventana Ballrooms B and C, Tempe campus
(This event will be webcast and recorded live at

This free ASU event will provide students with opportunities to hear from and interact with expert speakers, community advocates and student leaders working in the anti-human trafficking space and become involved in the movement by making a difference as community volunteers. ASU’s College of Public Programs, ASU Global and Changemaker Central are co-sponsoring the event.

“This ambitious initiative aims to harness the creativity and expertise of the broader university community to address challenges that were once thought to be intractable,” said Jonathan Koppell, dean of ASU’s College of Public Programs. “USAID has taken to calling it ‘open source development,’ which reflects the Agency’s desire to open development to problem-solvers everywhere – from students on campuses to CEOs of major corporations,” he said.

The Campus Challenge aligns closely with ASU’s leadership in anti-human trafficking research activities, and other initiatives that focus on bringing to bear previously untapped sources of innovation to solve complex problems, including 10,000 Solutions, Changemaker Central and the White House Policy Challenge.
Koppell said the university’s involvement in these initiatives captured the attention of Sarah Mendelson, deputy assistant administrator with USAID’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance.

“After learning of our capabilities and expertise in this space, Sarah expressed her excitement about building out a more robust engagement between USAID and ASU, beginning with our hosting the January event,” Koppell said. “We at the College of Public Programs are proud to partner with ASU Global and Changemaker Central to bring this important event to ASU and the larger community.”  

Responding to President Obama’s Sept. 25 call to action at the Clinton Global Initiative held in New York City, USAID administrator Rajiv Shah announced the Campus Challenge on Oct. 11 at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California.

The Campus Challenge includes a contest that invites students to propose the best technological solutions to help end trafficking in persons in the developing world.

“USAID’s Campus Challenge encourages college students across the nation to be agents of change in the fight against human trafficking,” said Jacqueline Smith, executive director of ASU’s Office of University Initiatives.

“At ASU, students are provided with the tools and resources they need to be changemakers. Every day we work to inspire, catalyze and sustain student-driven social change,” Smith said.

The C-TIP Campus Challenge is designed to increase global awareness about trafficking, inspire activism among students and scholars at colleges and universities worldwide and generate new, creative ideas and solutions to stop human trafficking. The effort to help the estimated 20.9 million people around the world who are enslaved in sex or labor exploitation will occur across three phases and through the USAID website

During the first phase of the initiative, which began on Oct. 11, students were encouraged to join the online community to participate in discussion groups on various trafficking subtopics, host online conversations, and crowd-source issues that will frame the problems to be addressed in the next phase.

The contest phase, which concludes Jan. 31, is open for applications from U.S. and international students proposing innovative technological solutions to advance trafficking-in-persons prevention and protection. After the contest closes, the community will be invited to rate the proposals received and provide suggestions on how submissions can be improved.

Early in the month of March, USAID will announce the semifinalists and in the following three weeks, semifinalist proposals will be judged by an expert C-TIP and technologist panel. One first-place prize of $5,000 and one or more $2,500 runner-up prizes will be awarded to the top entries. The winners will be announced at the end of March and will be invited to share their proposals with donors, C-TIP and technology professionals.

USAID said it is partnering with Not for Sale, Slavery Footprint, Free the Slaves, MTV Exit, and Abolition International on this project to maximize efforts and inspire millions of people already working on the issue and invite new activists to the cause, ultimately, strengthening the movement to return freedom to the millions of people robbed of their dignity every day.

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