If you’re hoping to do a service learning class during your time abroad, head to Alicante, Spain. For one, it’s one of the few locations that USAC offers a service learning experience. Second, you’ll get outside the classroom and have the opportunity to engage in the community.
What is service learning?
The Alicante service learning class combines community service with academic instruction, focusing on critical, reflective thinking and personal and civic responsibility. Service learning programs involve students in activities that address community-identified needs, while developing their academic skills and commitment to their community.
Where does the service learning take place?
USAC Alicante partners with local community-based organizations where students complete their service learning. Here is an example of an organization that we have partnered with, as well as student reflections on their experience.
Proyecto Paloma is a project that belongs to the Association San Vicente de Paúl de Alicante. The goal of this project is to help women and children who suffer from social exclusion by helping them in all the ways they can: they organize workshops, activities and free courses and they also give them access to services such as counselors, psychologists, lawyers, nurseries, etc. In this particular semester, two USAC students have been working with this association:
– Tiffany Chan (University of Nevada, Reno)
– Ashley Layne (College of Charleston)
This class provides students realistic information about social scenarios and social problems in Spain.
“Proyecto Paloma works with a community that is very in need of help—universally, the odds of success are stacked against minority groups, and those individuals who would come to Proyecto Paloma have odds doubly stacked against them as both immigrants and women. Skills such as language, using computers, and cooking may not seem like significant skills, but for women immigrants, they could be the difference between a successful job and a life of intense struggle in a culture which is not their own.” Ashley Layne
“From this experience, I hope to gain more insight on the problems that women face, how they’ve come to be here and why they chose Proyecto Paloma. As for working with the kids, the goal is to build friendships with them over the whole process.” Tiffany Chan
The learning objectives of the course are to study the social inequality and exclusion in Spain and this community experience helps the students reflect critically on these problems.
“My personal perception of the immigrant women whom the project serves is that they are hard-working, initiative taking, driven women. This may be a stereotype, but the fact that they have chosen to move their lives to a different country for one reason or another and are now taking the initiative to seek help acclimating to this new culture leads me to think this way. Also, I believe these women and their children have likely lived through many hardships, and have stories that I probably would not believe.” Ashley Layne
Service learning provides students with intensive intercultural engagement while exposing them to populations they might otherwise not encounter as visiting students.
“I feel like it is a nice way to relax after school. It’s not like tutoring or teaching in the schools where you’re talking to the kids in English and you’re there to teach them something. It’s a very refreshing concept for me since all I have been doing this semester is teaching English. I really like that I can practice my Spanish with them and they don’t judge me for it.” Tiffany Chan
Develop social responsibility among students.
“My only worry about this placement is that I may ask a question too far out of line or bring up a bad memory for a child while simply trying to get to know them, and I also worry that I will not be able to make the time as meaningful as it possibly can be for children who deserve to be poured into.” Ashley Layne
Students will become more aware of the needs of others while participating in service activities.
“The first two weeks at Proyecto Paloma offered a very valuable lesson in problem solving, learning from what is not working, and finding something that does work. We learned that doing different activities with each child separately becomes very overwhelming, and also that group activities don’t go well unless everyone has motivation to be engaged. Also, I’ve enjoyed learning more and more about the personality of each child, what they like/dislike, and how each one is different than the others. While I end each night exhausted and drained, I greatly enjoy the challenge and experience.” Ashley Layne
Students will develop valuable skills by serving in the community.
“I’m incredibly excited to get to know these children, both on a surface level and a little bit deeper, to practice my Spanish with them, to have 2 hours of time dedicated to something other than myself, and to experience the importance of behind-the-scenes service learning.” Ashley Layne
“Every single week with the kids I learn a new word or phrase. When we played Uno with them, I learned “te toca” means that it’s your turn. Again, I think it’s really cool that they might call us profesora or teacher, but really they are the ones that are doing the teaching without even realizing it. Also, this has been another realization that I’ve had many times this past semester but I love that playing a game as simple as Uno is universal and no matter what language you speak you can play it, just as long as you know the rules. Something as small as a game of cards can bring people together for a little bit, even though there might be language differences.” Tiffany Chan
If you’re interested in participating in a service learning class in Alicante, Spain reach out to your program advisor.