Intensive Courses Abroad: Short Timeframe, Surefire Learning
Goucher student Alexa Gaines ’14 is kicking off the new year by spending three weeks in Alicante, Spain. This January, she’ll visit cultural and historical sites, take language and conversation classes, and even earn five credits as an added benefit.
Gaines will be headed to her first study-abroad experience with a Spanish 130 trip, just one of four intensive courses abroad (ICA) Goucher is offering during the winter break.
The math major said she’s had an interest in Spanish culture and thought it would be easier to improve her language skills in a place where she would be surrounded by it. “Since the program is an ICA, I expect it to be very fast-paced and not have a whole lot of down time,” she said. But, she also expects some fun with the challenge, though she’s nervous about living with a host family who may not speak English.
For Tropical Marine Biology, a long-running ICA in Honduras, students don’t need to brush up on language as much as they do their swimming skills. Assistant Professor of Biology Cynthia Kicklighter said this winter will be her fourth time leading the popular ICA, though it has been running for decades.
“I think it gives students a much better feel, a better understanding, of the ecosystem as a whole,” she said. Instead of a textbook, students hover over grass beds, dive by coral, and snorkel in a mangrove forest. “We talk about these things; they read about them, but then they can actually go and make their own observations, compared to what other researchers have found. It opens up a new world to them … . You can’t fully grasp the system from a lecture,” she said.
Senior Laboratory Instructor Theresa Hodge, who co-leads the Honduras ICA, said she thinks students gain confidence with the class—it’s not just fun in the sun. “We run a pretty intensive course, and students really have to learn a lot in a short amount of time,” she said. “I think they are somewhat amazed at how much they can learn.”
Trisha Kallis ’14, also a student on the Spanish 130 trip, felt the ICA was a convenient way to complete her language and study-abroad requirements at the same time. As a communications and media studies major, Kallis feels the trip will add to her skill set.
“I think going to Spain will definitely open my mind even more and help me learn to communicate in a different setting,” she said. “I really like being out of my own element; I’m excited for something new.”
Other ICAs this winter are Civil Society and Social Change in South Africa and History, Society, and Culture of West Africa. Not all ICA programs run every year; some are offered every other year, and some are only offered once. Many of the intensive, living-learning experiences are accompanied by a pre-course or post-course, allowing students and faculty to immerse themselves in study of the topic and region.
Three-week ICAs are also offered during the summer. Although the summer programs are already full and deadlines are past, the ICA application for Winter 2014 is due April 5, 2013. There are 50 ICA students traveling this winter.