UMKC students will be soaking in the sun and Spanish culture this summer in the beautiful city of Málaga in southern Spain.
Students will leave for Málaga in mid-June and return at the end of July, spending six weeks exploring many Spanish cities, learning the culture and taking classes at Centro Internacional del Español at the Universidad de Málaga.
“When you give it the chance, a study abroad program helps you evolve and grow as a person,” said UMKC Spanish Professor Alberto Villamandos, this summer’s study abroad director. “All those are skills, in addition to learning a language, that can be so useful.”
Villamandos has been a Spanish professor at UMKC for 13 years and has directed the summer study abroad trips for three. He will be chaperoning in Málaga alongside fellow UMKC Spanish Professor Stephanie Márquez.
When traveling to Spain in the past, Granada has always been the city in mind, said Villamandos. But this year, they decided to go somewhere new and try a smaller school by the seashore with better access by plane or train.
The overall study abroad trip to Málaga will equal nine credit hours. Students will take one class with Villamandos and Márquez about history and culture, visiting landmarks, archeological sites, museums and even public hospitals. The others will be grammar classes taken at the Universidad de Málaga.
The overall cost of studying abroad can vary depending on plane tickets, spending money and financial aid, but Villamandos said the price of nine credit hours will cost $1000, homestay, meals and laundry $1400 and program fees for excursion $500.
Examples of scholarships include the UMKC Travel Grant, the Gilman Scholarship and many more. Most students are beyond grateful for financial aid because it gives them an opportunity they will never forget.
Students will spend an average of four-to-five hours in class each day, then go back home to enjoy sobremesa (lunch), the most important meal in Spain, around 2 p.m. with their host family, who they will live with their entire stay.
Then, students get to enjoy the rest of their night submerging in the Spanish culture, taking walks or going out for drinks and tapas (appetizers or snacks) with friends. Dinner usually takes place after 9 p.m.
“The day seems longer [in Spain] somehow,” said Villamandos.
Former UMKC student Megan Schwindler, who studied abroad in Granada in the summer of 2017, enjoyed exploring the city, taking siestas (naps), discovering new restaurants and cafes and taking weekend trips to the beach and mountains in her free time.
Schwindler said living with her host family was an amazing experience.
“They didn’t speak any English, so communicating with them was tough at first because my Spanish was a little rough, but they were so patient and would slow down their conversations so I could understand,” said Schwindler.
Schwindler still keeps in touch with her host mom via GroupMe and is itching to go back soon.
“Overall, it was an amazing experience. I made new friends, explored a beautiful country, learned more about myself and improved my Spanish,” said Schwindler. “As cheesy as it sounds, it’s truly an experience I’ll never forget.”
The overall experience of studying abroad is larger than life, but it is common for students to face some setbacks while being so far away from home.
A UMKC senior studying psychology and Spanish, Camille Meeks, studied abroad for four and a half months last semester in Granada. She was really nervous to solely speak Spanish every day—at first anyway.
“I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to communicate what I was trying to say and that those who I was speaking to wouldn’t understand me, and vice versa,” said Meeks.
She added that people in Granada spoke with a very thick accent which made it even harder to understand.
Villamandos says every student struggles in their own way, whether it be with language capabilities or simply feeling overwhelmed, but all students make great UMKC ambassadors when studying overseas.
“I went to see the world, but I returned seeing my own more clearly,” said Meeks.
Schwindler adds that you realize how big and diverse the world truly is.
“Studying abroad makes you feel small, but in a good way,” said Schwindler.
Meeks would encourage everyone to at least research the many study abroad options out there. There are hundreds of different programs, cities, niches and more.
“It’s overwhelming, but all of those options means that there will be a place where you fit,” said Meeks.
For more information on studying abroad or financial aid, please visit the International Academic Programs office in the Atterbury Student Success Center, Room 120.