CISLA in Spain
One aim of the Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts (CISLA) is to give Connecticut College students the skills to succeed in a globalized world.
So, it was a disappointment when travel restrictions brought on by COVID-19 pandemic prevented most of the 2021-2022 senior CISLA class from being able to do a funded international internship or to study abroad.
But Professors Luis M. González and Andrea Lanoux, and CISLA staff director Mary Devins, rallied and led 20 of the seniors during spring break, from March 11-20, to Toledo, Spain. Although it didn’t replace months abroad, the trip “was a surprisingly rich and comprehensive international engagement experience,” said Lanoux, CISLA faculty director and Elizabeth S. Kruidenier ’48 professor of Slavic Studies.
González, CISLA associate faculty director and chair of the Hispanic Studies Department, designed the program along with colleague Gloria Jordán Gimenéz at the University of Castilla la Mancha in Toledo. The program included Spanish, Arabic and French language study, as well as academic lectures by faculty and local experts that focused on the students’ research topics, which included human rights, climate change, political polarization, the global economy, women in science, refugees and migrants, and international law.
The trip included an excursion to Madrid and to the town of Consuegra to visit the 12th-century Castle of la Muela.
CISLA graduating senior Daniel Varela ’22, whose majors were Italian studies, Latin American and Latino studies, and international relations, did a remote internship through CISLA with the Mygrants program in Italy, helping immigrants there become entrepreneurs. He said the Spain trip provided a pivotal cohort experience that CISLA students would not have experienced studying abroad by themselves.
“We were able to dissect Spain from different angles. It was just a whole cultural immersive experience that we were taking together,” he said. “Just being able to be there 24/7 with each other helped us bridge our relationships that we kind of lost during the pandemic, and actually be able to know who we are together, and as a unit, which I think is really special because we never really got the chance to hang out together during the pandemic.”
Varela said he thought the trip also provided the program input going forward for finding more shared experiences for CISLA students. “I think the trip was the pinnacle of how do we do that and how do we do it successfully,” he said.