Spanish majors frustrated by Department's inflexibility
Several students from the Class of 2012 plan to drop their Spanish major mainly because of a lack of compatibility with and interest in the limited study abroad locations the major currently approves.
While the country of Spain alone is home to over 50 provinces, Spanish majors seeking to fulfill their study abroad requirement face a much smaller set of options. Majors must choose among offerings including a Council on International Education and Exchange (CIEE)?program in Buenos Aires, Washington University in Santiago de Chile and Duke in the Andes, the Hamilton College program in Madrid and the College's own program in Salamanca. Language departments often have stricter requirements when it comes to study abroad options in order to ensure that the academic rigor of the foreign language study meets department standards.
Although students may petition for the department to approve other locations, having four Spanish professors on sabbatical this year creates extra difficulty, some majors said.
"I was a little frustrated with the lack of study abroad options in Spain and the department seemed a little disorganized and there wasn't great communication as to why we couldn't go abroad to certain places," a sophomore said. Although she will no longer major in Spanish, she asked to remain anonymous because she still plans to take courses within the department.
Another sophomore plans to drop her Spanish major because of her dissatisfaction with the programs offered in Spain. She plans to continue taking Spanish classes and wished to remain anonymous in order to maintain her relationships with the professors in the department.
"I wanted to go to Spain [and] we could only go to Madrid...or [on] the Colby Salamanca [program]," she said. "The only two options were to go to a huge city or a tiny village. I wanted to go to Seville. [The department was not] willing to accommodate people who did not want to go to Madrid or Salamanca." Given the high number of professors on sabbatical this year, it is difficult for students to petition for outside programs, the second sophomore said.
"The options don't fit well for people. Everyone's aware of it, they just can't really do anything with less professors this year."
The first sophomore also accredits the number of professors on sabbatical as a reason as to why students face difficulty communicating with the department. A Spanish and international studies double major, she plans to drop her Spanish major and hopes to study in Seville through a CIEE?program that the Spanish department has yet to approve.
Coline Ludwig '12 also dropped her Spanish major and had hoped to study abroad during a different period of time than most of her peers in order to complete another program for her international studies major.
"There was a program I wanted to do [for international relations] that didn't go to a Spanish-speaking country," she said. "I was hoping I could do a Spanish- speaking program in the summer or during a JanPlan instead of taking a year off. I was hoping that because my situation was different...I would be able to do a different type of program." Some students seek programs that differ from the more traditional offerings, Ludwig said.
"The [department] really want[s] you to do a university study abroad program, and that's not what I was into," she said. "A lot of students are more interested in doing [something] hands on."
Students may petition to study abroad in places the College has yet to approve, Juliette Monet, associate director of the off campus study program, said. "There is a petition process for off-campus study, but the departmental petition process supersedes that.
There's a whole series of criteria we would look at when a student proposes a program they would like to study abroad on," she said. "Some of that has to do with the accreditation of the institution...the courses and the faculty and the general reputation of the program--it has to be consistent with Colby's academic criteria."
However, the approval process often involves the entire department, making this year especially difficult, Monet said.
"There's been a few [students] this year who are really not satisfied with certain programs and it coincides with a year in which many faculty from the Spanish department are not available," she said. "They have to go through a process to approve these programs and it can't happen overnight."
Despite the opinion of several majors in the sophomore class that petitioning study abroad options is discouraged, there is one student in the class who has petitioned a new study abroad location to the Spanish department, Professor of Portuguese and Spanish Priscilla Doel said. Doel is leading the department while the usual chair, Betty Sasaki, is on sabbatical this year. "This petition was circulated and duly considered via e-mail among all full-time, permanent staff members," she said.
However, some students said the department did little to encourage the petition process.
"I don't think the petition was ever seriously considered for our year and I am under the impression that this is because they are understaffed this year," the first sophomore said. "We were told that the programs we petitioned would be looked into as possibilities for future classes, but that there was nothing they could do for our year. There wasn't too much encouragement to petition and our petition was not meet with too much enthusiasm."
Monet recognizes that certain programs suit some students more than others. "Sometimes [students have] already studied in that area or they just really want to be in a different part of Spain, and I think the Spanish department really does understand that and is working to remedy that," she said.
The first sophomore said that she believes choosing between two locations in Spain is too limiting. "Madrid was too big of a city and I wanted to branch out from a Colby [program]. Salamanca is a small city, college town, and I felt like [my two options in Spain] were too extreme," she said.
Rian Ervin '11, an English and Spanish double major, studied in Madrid last semester.
"I had a great experience; the program was great and small and it was a good way to get to know everyone," she said. Still, students would benefit from a wider range of options, Ervin said. "I wanted to go to Barcelona and it was a lot to go through that process. It would be really great to have a program in Barcelona. If the options were there, people would definitely take advantage of them."
The department should introduce new programs to benefit students in coming years, Ludwig said.
"I just wish they were more flexible and I feel like they should be more open to understanding other students. It would be nice if in the future they had more programs that Spanish majors could go to."