Native Spaniard leads students on summer program to historic León, Barcelona
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.
"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!”
The School of International Letters and Cultures is an academic unit of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.