Study-abroad trip to Spain offers food for thought

Photo of Spanish lecturers Jennifer Buckwalter (left) and Michelle Cipriano are leading a culinary, study-abroad trip to Spain in May.

Spanish lecturers Jennifer Buckwalter (left) and Michelle Cipriano are leading a culinary, study-abroad trip to Spain in May.

The history, culture and geography of Spain are married to food—from the paella of Valencia to the gazpacho born in Andalucia.

To explore Spain through a culinary lens, Wright State faculty members have created a study-abroad program that will marinate students in the culture and gastronomy of Spain for two weeks in May.

The students will see museums, cathedrals, the oldest university in Spain and what was once the most important gold mine in the Roman Empire. But they will also break bread with Spanish families in their homes, tour a vineyard and take cooking classes that focus on regional dishes such as a type of potato made when the locals are branding their cattle.

“We wanted to think of a topic that would have widespread appeal—and who doesn’t like to eat?” said Jennifer Buckwalter, Spanish lecturer who will help lead the trip. “There are ways you can take that and draw an academic focus onto it, but still have the students thinking this is something really fun.”

The students will benefit from the strong Spanish connections of trip co-leader Michelle Cipriano, lecturer of Spanish who has worked as a translator and whose husband is from Spain. For example, the students will receive red-carpet, special-access treatment in the towns of Ponferrada and Salamanca.

“The trip is going to be a culinary tour of certain cities in Spain,” Cipriano said. “We have some behind-the-scenes things set up. And we’ll talk about all of the cultural implications around food. How did certain foods become important in certain regions and also all of the neat things you need to know to be culturally appropriate.”

The students will attend cooking demonstrations and sample food in family homes, modern eateries and one of Madrid’s most historic restaurants. Participants will each be provided with two to three meals a day.

Buckwalter said only about 1 percent of Wright State students study abroad. She said the trip is an opportunity for students to give themselves an edge in the job market after graduation.

“It shows their potential employers that they are culturally sensitive, that they have global understanding, are open to situations in which they’re unfamiliar,” she said. “It gives them a lot of hands-on skills that are applicable for all kinds of job markets.”

During the trip, students will attend lectures, see films and engage in cultural exchanges with Spanish university students.

Buckwalter said a student’s first trip abroad is often life changing.

“It makes you both appreciate and also question some of your standard ways of life,” she said. “It will also open their eyes to just how rich another culture can be that has nothing to do with your own.”

Spanish majors who make the trip can get upper-level Spanish credit. Others can get culture credit, which is a general core requirement. Students who have signed up for the trip so far not only include Spanish majors and minors, but also a nursing student and a rehab services major.

The trip is open to all Wright State students who have at least a 2.5 GPA and submit an application with the University Center for International Education and complete an interview with the professors.

The $2,950 cost of the program includes housing, transportation within Spain, entrance fees, many meals and health and accident insurance. Not included are airfare, tuition, application costs and some meals.

Students interested in exploring the opportunity are invited to attend an information session. The sessions will be held in the Multicultural Lounge on the first floor of Millett Hall on Jan. 15 from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. and Jan. 16 from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.

For those unable to attend the information sessions, please contact the University Center for International Education at 937-775-5745.

For more information on the trip:

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