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COC students study abroad in Central America

Posted: August 14, 2009 9:48 p.m.
Updated: August 16, 2009 4:55 a.m.

During a recent 23-day study abroad trip to Central America, 25 College of the Canyons students studied biology, Spanish and also distributed 80 pounds of school supplies to an elementary school in Nicaragua.

 
Evan Wright, 19, studied two years of Spanish in high school but admits he didn’t speak it too well.

However after a four-week trip to Central America, where he was immersed in the culture and daily life of the people, his skills have improved considerably.

“It was the best learning experience I’ve ever had,” the College of the Canyons student said.

“On this trip, I picked up more Spanish than I’ve ever had before. It was a fun learning experience. It was really easy to learn,” he said.

Wright, a Canyon Country resident, was one of 25 COC students who spent 23 days this summer touring and studying in Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.

A $350,000 federal grant, designed to promote study abroad in a nontraditional setting like Nicaragua, paid for all the travel expenses for 22 of the students, said Claudia Acosta, chairwoman of the modern languages department and a trip organizer.

“The grant was just a dream come true for anyone involved in international education,” she said.

Throughout the trip, the students studied Spanish, biology and tourism from three COC professors, giving them nine units of credit, Acosta said.

“Classes were held very naturally” with venues ranging from the pool to a cafe, Acosta said.

Miriam Golbert, chairwoman of the biological and physical sciences department, enjoyed watching the students experience everything from the Mombacho Volcano in Nicaragua to the Tortuguero National Park in Costa Rica.

“Their lives will never be the same after this. I am convinced that study abroad provides students with a vision of worldliness and a new appreciation for nature and different cultures,” Golbert said in an e-mail.

One night students met with Enrique Bolaños Geyer, Nicaragua’s president from 2002 to 2007.

Wright left the meeting with a new respect for Geyer.

“It was like meeting Barack Obama and the most interesting man in the world all the same time,” Wright said.

Another highlight of the trip for many of the students was visiting a school in Nicaragua, Acosta said.

Students distributed 80 pounds of school supplies for economically disadvangted children.

“That was a moment that touched each of the students,” Acosta said.

Wright remembers seeing the kids.

“When we got there, their faces lit up. They looked at us like we were Santa Claus,” he said.

Acosta recalled a group of Nicaraguan women who gathered outside the school and began asking for any extra pencils or packs of paper.

“They were motivated to read and write,” Acosta said.

The experience was a chance for Wright to grow on a personal level.

“I feel like I can see from other people’s points of view better,” he said. “I’ve taught myself to realize what I have and to not take anything for granted.”


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