Civil engineering’s Spain study abroad stresses culture immersion

Spain SA 2015 1This past summer, students from the Zachry Department of Civil Engineering at Texas A&M University journeyed to Spain, marking the 10th consecutive year the department has been involved in the study abroad trip.

Dr. Luciana Barroso and Dr. Francisco Olivera led the trip on the civil engineering side, while Dr. Harry Hogan was the trip leader on the mechanical engineering side.

Olivera, an associate professor in the department, has participated in eight of the 10 years the Spain study abroad program has run, and has spent most of his professional and personal life abroad.

“I have been to 33 countries and five continents over my career and have been exposed to an international, professional environment all of my life,” said Olivera. “I love leading this trip and feel it is important because it addresses globalization in engineering and technology."

“It is important to appreciate the limitations of globalization when it comes to understanding the differences between business and culture. Every year, I visit my family in Peru for the holidays and see my nieces watching MTV. Although the international TV channel is there, the content is purely local. Globalization has not erased cultural differences.”

The trip was six weeks total, with a week excursion to Toledo. The rest of the time was headquartered in Ciudad Real while taking short exploratory visits around. Students had the option to stay in host homes or a hotel. A typical day involved attending class during the day — where they were able to interact with peers from the University of Castilla-La Mancha, the host institution — and doing homework and exploration during the afternoon and evening. During their stay students had three weekend visits to Barcelona and Malaga in Spain, and Lisbon in Portugal.

During these visits, students are requested to participate in one planned excursion, but get the freedom to explore and experience cities and Spanish life by themselves during the rest of the visit. There is a great deal of flexibility for the students to discover Spain their way, and some of them have even traveled to other countries in Europe, as well as Morocco. Spain SA 2015 Zurriola Beach

“My friends and I enjoyed the beach, and we ended up playing soccer and volleyball with locals or other tourists,” said Annie Catherine Clark, a junior in the department of civil engineering. “I found the course work really interesting and applicable, and it was fun to be able to interact with the Spanish students in our classes. One weekend, my host family invited me to go with them to Valencia where they showed me around the city and we had a big Sunday lunch with their extended family, which included a huge pan of paella.”

This past year, a record 50 students took part in the trip. In the upcoming year, Dr. Joseph Bracci will be switching out with Barroso as the structures civil engineering track faculty member. (Co-author credit to Chase Shelton for this article.)

Click here for more pictures.