Second Year Experience

USD sophomores find inspiration in another culture

Every building on the University of San Diego campus is a tribute to 16th century Spanish Renaissance architecture. It’s a statement of beauty, tradition, honor and consistency dating back to the initial vision of university founder Mother Rosalie Clifton Hill.

So it should come as no surprise that when a new study abroad program exclusively for USD sophomores called Second-Year Experience Abroad was developed for USD students that one of the desired destinations was Barcelona, Spain. The cosmopolitan city boasts its share of amazing architecture and artistry with Gothic structures in abundance, works by Picasso and Antoni Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia church and Park Guell.

Of the 180 students who participated in this inaugural Interssession experience from Jan 3-21, more than one-third traveled to Barcelona. Others had the choice of traveling to Florence, Italy or Oxford/London, England. Students in each city took a three-unit class with a USD faculty member and were joined by integrated learning staff comprised of university administrators and staff. Each SYE destination offered ample time for all to sightsee and immerse themselves in the respective cultures.

In Barcelona, specifically, many students noted the architecture and how it added greatly to the color, vibrancy, beauty and uniqueness of the city.

“The architecture in Barcelona really impacted me and a lot of the other students, especially the work of Gaudi,” said Dayanne Izmirian, assistant dean of Residential Life in Student Affairs and a member of the SYE staff. “Students remarked about the 'playfulness' and non-conventional nature of the work. Gaudi’s faith and strong convictions were also something the students reflected upon.”

Students also visited Figueres, home to artist Salvador Dali’s Teatro Museo, Girona and Tarrgona and even an overnight trip to Valencia. The students even attended a futbol (soccer) match involving FC Barcelona, one of Spain’s top teams.

“I could not be more fortunate to have visited some of the major cities in Spain, in which I was able to take in not a little, but a lot of what each city had to offer,” said Brenda Van, a psychology major, who added that this trip was more than just about sightseeing. “Going through changes and taking it all in these past few weeks has been the experience of a lifetime. I feel I’ve developed such a positive mental attitude about my life, simply from having the opportunity to experience so much of Spain in a short period of time.”

While this first year of SYE Abroad did not include a community service component — it is hoped that it will become part of the overall experience for future SYE groups that go abroad — there was no shortage of teachable moments for students. 

Michael Lovette-Colyer, director of USD’s University Ministry and a SYE staff member in Barcelona, said one of the USD Spanish classes saw Biutiful a current Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language Film. It’s a depiction of the underside of Barcelona, including the stories of migrants from Africa and China.

“After watching it together, many students mentioned that they had seen migrants in the city, but hadn’t really paid attention to them as part of the city. The movie, and the way the professors discussed it in class, expanded their vision to see additional facets of Barcelona,” he said.

Another observation emerged from a student’s reflection regarding restaurants not serving free water at meals and that water was not easily available.

“As he learned more about the reason for this, the scarcity of water in Barcelona and in Spain, he realized that the same is true in Southern California, where he was born and raised,” Lovette-Colyer recollected. “Experiencing the issue in a different location allowed him to see his own reality in a new way.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

The deadline to apply for the 2012 Second Year Experience Abroad program, open only to current USD students in the Class of 2014, is Feb. 18. Students can chose a trip and a three-unit class in Barcelona or Florence. To learn more, click here.

Photo by Dayanne Izmirian