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Over winter break, around 40 Nebraska Engineering students, two staff members, and four faculty members skipped some snow and shared 10 days in Spain. Their adventure was a chance to see beyond the classroom and experience the evolution of science and technology by being immersed in a global environment.
They explored the cities of Madrid, Burgos, Avila, Segovia, Seville, Cordoba, Toledo, Bugos, Salamanca and Merida.
Kathy Glenn, research coordinator; Marilena Carvalho, international programs coordinator; and Dan Rainbow, a freshman industrial engineering major, spoke in greater detail about their out-ofcountry experience.
"The purpose of the trip was to expose students to travel around the world and to look at some very good examples of ancient engineering feats," said Rainbow. "We traveled to Madrid and various cities in the western half of Spain and looked at famous sites, cathedrals, and examples of ancient engineering."
The Roman aqueduct, located in the magnificent historic district of Segovia, was one example of ancient engineering and an architectural wonder that has been standing for nearly 2,000 years.
Remarkably well preserved, this impressive construction stretches about 2,950 feet long, and the section where the arches are divided into two levels is about 900 feet tall. It is made of rough-hewn, massive granite blocks that are stacked, amazingly, without mortar or clamps.
Other important monuments visited by the group included the Alcázar, a castle with building that started around the 11th century, and a 16th-century Gothic cathedral.
The trip to Spain was Glenn's first time on a study abroad trip. She accompanied David Allen, dean of the UNL College of Engineering, who has been to Spain four times. There were no guided tours on the trip. Both Allen and Carvalho led each tour and gave the students a well-rounded view related to studies in the college.
For Carvalho, this trip was one of many. "I have traveled abroad seven times just this past year," she explained.
Originally from Brazil, Carvalho is fluent in both Portuguese and English. She speaks some Spanish, Italian and French, and is currently learning Chinese. It is her job to attend each study abroad trip as a much-needed resource. Knowing several languages, she is one of the main translators for the many trips sponsored by the college.
"Most of the students who participated were freshmen," said Glenn. "The trip was designed with the intention of exciting students about studying abroad as well as their futures in engineering."
"There were a few upperclassmen who went on the trip, which was a great opportunity for the freshmen to interact with these students and use them as resources for their future questions pertaining to studies in their particular engineering field" said Glenn.
"The biggest difference was as I expected, acknowledging how old the structures were," Glenn added. "It is a good reminder of the past and the influences that have shaped the United States-so young compared to European civilizations."
Knowledge of the Spanish language was helpful for those studying abroad in Spain, but was not required. Classes were taught in English; however, students were required to prepare for their international trip by taking a six-week seminar that covered basic cultural and language skills as well as general travel information for that region. Each student earned three credit hours toward Global Experiences in Engineering (ENGR 490) at the end of the travel experience. "
I went on the trip because I speak some Spanish and have always wanted to go to Spain," said Rainbow. Admission requirements for freshmen entering the Engineering program include completion of two units (semesters) of foreign language before they enroll in the program.
It can be a great advantage to be bilingual in engineering, Carvalho noted, and studying abroad is a great way to put these skills to practice.
For many students, traveling overseas is the opportunity of a lifetime. Still, it is normal to experience some degree of culture shock when placed somewhere new where the majority of people speak a different language and have other customs, religions, ethnic cuisines, climate and daily routines. By learning about some of these differences prior to the trip, the students are better prepared to cope when they are put in these firsthand situations. However, there are always spur-of-the-moment surprises that teach students to branch out and take risks for themselves.
"This was my first time studying abroad, but I had traveled abroad before, so I sort of knew what to expect," said Rainbow. "The closest thing to culture shock was the fact that the Spanish eat very late meals (lunch at 2 p.m. and dinner at 8 p.m., at the earliest) and take a siesta (nap) every day during the afternoon."
"The trip has changed my life because I am even more interested in going back to Europe and I definitely want to go back to Spain two or three more times," Rainbow concluded. "The only thing I would recommend to a student taking this trip in the future is to just go on the trip and enjoy it!"