The Department of World Languages & Cultures strongly urges all of its majors and minors, as well as the rest of the university community, to consider studying abroad during their years at EIU.(
Opportunities abound for such study, no matter what level of language proficiency you currently possess. The point at which you should give studying abroad serious consideration varies with the individual and should be decided in consultation with your academic advisor.
Study abroad comes in many forms through EIU, including short-term travel/study trips organized through the collaboration of individual departments like the Office of International Students and Scholars and the School of Continuing Education. EIU also has exchange agreements with a wide variety of institutions around the world and belong to a number of consortia that provide study abroad opportunities. For further information, consult the Office of Study Abroad.
We have options to fit every student's budget and goals. Choose faculty-led short-term programs, or spend a whole semester (or year) at our partner schools abroad.
In 2011 Katie Eckberg transferred to EIU and became a major in the dual licensure program in Special Education and Spanish. Given her special interests and the unique program she had entered, Katie realized how important it was for her to study abroad.
She had begun studying Spanish her freshman year of high school and had continued throughout her first years of college. However, she knew that just doing Spanish in class wasn’t enough for what she wanted in her future career:
“I’m really good at reading textbooks and telling you everything, but I didn’t really know how to speak. So I knew I had to get abroad to practice that.”
After talking with her major advisors and consulting with the Study Abroad office on campus, Katie decided to attend the Universidad Veritas in San Jose, Costa Rica for the spring semester of her senior year.
The program she chose at Veritas was an intensive immersion program that required several hours of class each day in which the sole language of instruction was Spanish. In addition, she lived with a host family who only spoke Spanish.
A typical weekday would start with a 6 a.m. wake-up call followed by an elaborate breakfast prepared by her mama tica, which is what she called her Costa Rican host mother. Her classes would begin at 8 a.m., would last four hours and included speaking, reading and writing assignments. After class she would explore San Jose, tutor other students or hangout with her host family. On weekends she traveled with friends:
“As soon as classes were done on Friday I would have my duffle bag ready, and we would go straight off to wherever we were headed.”
As Costa Rica and Central America in general are known for beautiful coastline, Katie got to visit some magnificent beaches including Manuel Antonio National Park, Bocas del Toro and Puerto Viejo.
Katie also learned to overcome and ultimately to appreciate cultural differences. For example, she learned that Costa Ricans had a different attitude toward time than what she was used to back home. She noticed, for example, that most people wore watches but never really looked at them.
“If I was going to meet my Costa Rican friends at 2, I wouldn’t leave the house until 2:15 because they weren’t going to get there until 2:45. Americans go minute by minute, but in Costa Rica they hardly even pay attention to time.”
Katie learned that for Costa Ricans the idea that “time is money” had little meaning. However, for the people she learned to live among, “relationships are the most important thing that comes with time spent together."
Her mama tica also taught her little things like to avoid smiling at strangers because they think you’re flirting or if you go to someone’s house even just for coffee, it is polite that you bring something.
Katie insisted that she learned the most by watching how her host family would interact and then emulate them in her interactions with other people.
More than anything Katie credits her EIU professors with giving her the skills and knowledge she needed to study abroad. In particular, Dr. Kristin Routt, one of Katie’s Spanish professors, was exceptionally helpful in preparing her for the her time abroad.
“The professors all have this thirst to get to know other cultures and their languages. The Department of World Languages gives you opportunities to learn more and do more,” opportunities that are only available through language study.
Katie’s career plan is to become certified as a bilingual special education teacher. She intends to work with students with disabilities in a bilingual classroom setting.
Hannah Blevins (German Major) studies abroad in Würzburg, Germany (2015-2016)
Rebecca Duke (French Major) studies abroad in Angers, France (Spring 2016)
Matthew Wilkie (Spanish Major, Teacher Education) studies abroad in Salamanca, Spain (Spring 2016)
Amanda Alexander (Spanish Major) studies abroad in Salamanca, Spain (Spring 2016)
Drew Borzi (History, International Studies; Spanish--Double Major) studies abroad in Costa Rica (Spring 2016)
Upcoming Spring 2020...
Spring Break in Mexico (2 credits)
Faculty leaders: Dr. Kristin Routt and Dr. Carlos Amaya
For further information, contact the department chair directly.
Coleman Hall, First Floor