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DIPA’s Madrid program is growing and thriving
DIPA’s Madrid program is growing and thrivingNovember 21, 2001SU News ServicesSUnews@syr.edu
Marissa Feinberg will tell you that she is a big advocate of Syracuse University’s Division of International Programs Abroad (DIPA).
A senior in public relations from Andover, Mass., Feinberg has spent two semesters abroad through DIPA. She spent the Spring 2000 semester in Hong Kong and the Spring 2001 semester in Madrid, Spain, where she completed an internship with British Telecom. She believes that internship, plus the experience she has gained in living, studying and traveling abroad, will give her a competitive advantage in her forthcoming job search.
“People don’t realize how much you learn from this experience, how much it changes your life,” says Feinberg, who also serves as a peer advisor for DIPA.
DIPA currently operates five overseas centers: in London; Hong Kong; Florence, Italy; Strasbourg, France; and Madrid, Spain (operations at a sixth center, in Harare, Zimbabwe, were suspended for this academic year due to political unrest in the country). The Madrid program, one of DIPA’s longest-running programs, has become one of its largest, thanks to the growth in the number of enrolled students over the past five years. While enrollment in all of the centers has risen over the past five years, the Madrid program has grown dramatically.
Enrollment in the Madrid program hit a low point during the 1995-96 academic year, when 120 students participated in the program. By the current 2000-01 academic year, that number has jumped to 374, an increase of over 200 percent. Even a comparison from the 1999-2000 enrollment numbers shows a large jump. The enrollment in the Spring 2000 was 147, compared to 224 in Spring 2001. Enrollment was 150 in Fall 2000 and is 201 in the current Fall 2001 semester.
More than two-thirds of the students enrolled in DIPA programs this semester are non-SU students-a testament, students and administrators say, to the strength of the programs.
W. “Flint” Smith, director of the Madrid Center for the past 11 years, attributes the growth in Madrid’s enrollment to a number of factors, including a crest in the population wave of 18- to 22-year-old students, as well as a dramatic increase in Spanish being taught as a second language in high schools.
Smith also credits the increase in enrollment to the “outstanding effort” that DIPA has made in recruiting students for the program. Every semester, one or two members of the Madrid faculty come to Syracuse and other U.S. campuses to talk to students about study in Spain.
And it is within the faculty that the program has much of its strength. Faculty members are hired by Smith in Spain, and, by Smith’s assessment, are bursting with talent. An example of that talent is Alejandro Medina, one of the leaders of the program’s Azahar cultural tour and an instructor in philosophy, literature and religion. Students marvel at Medina’s knowledge of his subjects, particularly on the cutural tour. He leads students through 12 days of a cultural tour without notes-“The man is like an encyclopedia,” Smith says.
One of the things that makes the Madrid program so successful is the two-week cultural tour, which is offered at the beginning of the semester. Students have three options to choose from: Azahar, a traveling seminar that introduces students to the ideologies and monuments that created contemporary Spain; Eurovision 2020, a traveling seminar that introduces business, communications, economics and political science majors to businesses and institutions in the European Union; and the brand-new Mare Nostrum, an introduction to Spanish culture with an emphasis on the heritage of the Mediterranean and Mediterranean consciousness.
“Students look back on it as one of the things that they remember the most about their Madrid experience,” Smith says of the cultural tour.
“The pre-school study trip that I went on, Azahar, was amazing,” says Elizabeth Leago, a junior from the University of Colorado at Boulder, who is currently studying in Madrid.
The Madrid program began in 1972. At that time, two courses each in Spanish and political science and various elective courses were offered at the Instituto de Cultura Hispanica. The program moved to the centrally located Instituto International in 1983, and additional spaces have been rented over the past two years to accommodate the growing enrollment. A School of Management program was added in 1997, and School of Information Studies courses were added last year. Now, more than 100 courses are offered in a wide range of areas such as religion, marketing, political science, anthropology, women’s studies and biology. Students have the option to take classes at the SU Center in Madrid or may take some or all of their classes at the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid. Course-related field study trips take place throughout the country. Additionally, more than 100 students are placed each semester in internships in Madrid with prestigious national and international institutions.
The growth in number of students has resulted in other changes as well. Eleven new faculty members were added in the past year alone. Two spaces were leased to add more classrooms, administrative space and computer clusters. A student services director and coordinator were recruited to help students deal with the various issues that arise during their study and living abroad experience. A service learning component has been incorporated into the curriculum, and more Spanish-intensive classes and a class in Human Rights and World Politics are among the new academic offerings that have been implemented over the past year.
“Every class I have makes a concerted effort to integrate the educational experience into the actual culture and land of Spain,” says Christopher Pappas, a senior psychology major at SU from Cranford, N.J., who is currently in Madrid.
Students in the Madrid program live with host families, many of whom have been associated with the program for years. Living with a host family allows the students to quickly immerse themselves in the Spanish culture and lifestyle.
Jocelyn Goodwin, a senior communication sciences and disorders major from North Andover, Mass., and a roommate lived with a Madrid woman and her 11-year-old daughter during the Spring 2001 semester.
“We had a great experience living in their house,” Goodwin says. “We were exposed to all of the typical Spanish customs.” Goodwin also befriended a young woman, Yolanda, and they helped each other to improve their Spanish and English, respectively.
Students who have taken part in the Madrid program say that the DIPA faculty and staff were key components in their successful study abroad experience.
“The DIPA staff is really flexible, and they really care about your best interests,” Feinberg says. “They really wanted me to be happy.”
Leago says that workshops provided by DIPA, including one entitled “When the Honeymoon is Over,” helped her adjust to living in Madrid.
“At first I was enthralled with the big-city culture-then the honeymoon period waned and I realized that I was just living my life in its new routine,” says Leago of her first two months in Madrid. “My Spanish began frustrating me-and I was thinking ‘I have no friends here.’ Syracuse did a great job of making me realize that most people go through similar plateaus – the rise and excitement of living abroad kind of plateaus for a while, maybe even dips.”
“More than anything I realized that my time here is so short. Madrid has come alive for me again,” she says.
Another advocate of the Madrid program is Catherine Nock, a Spanish instructor in the Department of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics. Nock escorted a group to Barcelona at the beginning of the Fall 2001 semester.
“It was a wonderful experience for many reasons,” Nock says. “The faculty and staff in the Mare Nostrum and Azahar programs are true professionals, and their enthusiasm is contagious. The [Madrid] program skillfully combines traditional and non-traditional learning activities, foreign language acquisition and cultural orientation into one package.”
DIPA students are eligible for financial grants and academic scholarships. For more information about the Madrid program, or any of DIPA’s study abroad programs, contact DIPA at 443-3471 or visit the Web at http://sumweb.syr.edu/dipa.