Extended Education and International Programs

Education Abroad

Faculty-led Program in León, Spain

Dr. Juan José Gutierrez | Professor - School of Social, Behavioral & Global Studies

The Spain Program successfully completed its seventh consecutive summer season in the northwestern Province of León. This year (2018) the program brought 16 students from different majors including the Social and Behavioral Sciences, Global Studies, Psychology, World Languages and Cultures among other programs to complete intense one-month research methods and service learning experience.

For those unfamiliar with the program, it has two main objectives. One is to present CSUMB students with an opportunity to experience learning in an international setting, and the second to complete their Upper Level Service Learning requirement. Students travel to Spain during the last days of the month of May to join the program from June 1st to June 30th.

During an intensive concentration week during the first days of the month of June, students receive training in basic methods of ethnographic and historical methods of data collection and analysis. At the end of this week, students are placed in different villages of the area to start exploring different themes related to the history and culture of the region. During the second and third weeks of their stay, students start providing assistance as service learners to the local population, with opportunities provided by local community partners that include different chapters of the Spanish Red Cross and the Association for the Recovery of the Historical Memory.

During the last week of their stay, students come back to the Field Station where they work under the supervision of the program director and faculty associated to the program to produce their final reports and materials that are stored in the digital database of the program. These reports submitted later for publication, are presented formally to the community in an event that is well attended by community partners, members of the communities and by faculty and students from Universidad de León, our sister university in Spain.

This year the quality of the work of students was extraordinary and the impact of their presence well documented by the regional and national press in Spain. Participating students were delighted to see the name of our university mentioned repeatedly in such a positive light and to see their own pictures and voices posted in local, regional and even national newspapers and radio stations. Many of the students participated in many interviews for local, regional and national newspapers and radio stations. All of them represented with care and skillfully our community: they reflected on the responsibilities they had as visitors from the US, celebrating the Spanish culture and traditions and discovering cultural and social elements in common.

One of the reasons for such media coverage was the outstanding work completed by the students in the collection of oral histories from families of individuals that disappeared during the harrowing initial moments of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). Framed by the recent Law of Historical Memory, many communities in Spain are carrying out the unearthing of the remains of young folks that died as a result of the war – frequently extra judicially killings during the chaotic beginnings of the war that went unpunished. Some others were young soldiers that buried in mass graves, haphazardly dug during fierce battles. The families want to see their long gone relatives being recognized and buried in a dignified manner. Why is this important? Why is it relevant? This is the only way to close deep historical wounds that stop social aggregates as Spain is today, to continue thriving in solidarity.

By assisting the Spanish Association for the Historical Memory, US students were able to reflect firsthand the concept of Global Citizenship as the ability to empathize, help and grow immensely by experiencing how other human beings cope with their lives and challenges.

As it is also traditional for the Spain Program, students were also able to participate in the activities organized by the Spanish Red Cross, working with the elderly and children of the communities where the students stay.

As a traditional part of the experience, the program includes a cultural field trip to the city of Bilbao in the Basque Country, a place with deep historical connections to the mining region of León where the students stay, but also a thriving cultural and economic hub of the Iberian Peninsula.

Prof. Juan José Gutiérrez directed the program with the support and participation of Dr. Gerald Shenk, Emeritus Professor and renowned historian. Participating students: Jennifer Salazar, Cristian Mejia, Ashley Ellcessor, Uziel Reyes, Sarah Nelson, Karina Rivas, Abigail Leyva, Ashlyn Zentner, Marilyn Meraz, Rosa Zambrano, Elaine Abrams, Jenny Hernandez, Kimberly Padilla, Vanessa Maguina, and Christian Smutzer.

Media Coverage: