Ashland University Students Participate in ‘AU in Costa Rica’ Program
Twenty Ashland University students participated in the University’s study abroad program in Costa Rica over the summer. The students participated in the “Ashland University in Costa Rica” program in Santa Ana, a small town outside of San José, from May 12 to June 9.
Those students participating in the program were sophomore Brandon Mesnard; juniors Christopher Bils, Andrew Clark, Trilby Glick, Hueston Holder, Ashliegh Jarzenski, Renee Pawelec, Shelby Persinger, Catherine Stone, Christian Wilson and Taylor Zorman; and seniors Lindsay Arron, Hali Brook, Aaron Brunson, Kate Michal and Kaely Stucin. Also attending were 2012 graduates Nicole Rumker, Chad Dargham and Chelsea Mayer and bachelor’s plus student Jessica Springer.
Dr. Barbara Schmidt-Rinehart, professor of foreign languages and director of the program, called the study abroad program “the ideal language-learning environment.”
“Students are totally immersed – there are only four students in a class and each student lives with his or her own family,” Schmidt-Rinehart said. “In class, they have the ‘formal’ instruction of the language, and then the world becomes their classroom as they head down the hill and out into the town of Santa Ana to practice.”
Schmidt-Rinehart said this immersion program was held in Mexico for 20 years before it was moved to Costa Rica five years ago. The Conversa Language Center (www.conversa.com) hosts the Ashland University students for their four-week intensive Spanish study, she said.
“While in Costa Rica, students attended four to six hours of language study per day in the idyllic mountain setting,” she said. “For additional cultural experiences, students lived with families and participated in weekend excursions.”
Upon arrival at the school, each student was tested and placed in a class commensurate with his or her abilities, she said. Each Friday students were evaluated and given feedback regarding his or her progress.
Schmidt-Rinehart believes that this experience can really help students understand how to be more successful in the real world following graduation.
“If we truly want students to be able to function in the world today, we need to combine language and study abroad to allow students the opportunity cross both linguistic and cultural boundaries,” she said. “One without the other would fall short of being globally competent.”
A number of students commented on the Costa Rica experience. These included:
Christian Wilson, a political science and history major: “The greatest part about Costa Rica is immersing yourself into a culture that is completely different than your own and creating memories that will stick with you for the rest of your life.”
Brandon Mesnard, an economics/finance major: “The best experience while in Costa Rica was being able to feel like I was a part of a family. Anyone who speaks Spanish should consider the Ashland University in Costa Rica program, to not only become a more fluent speaker, but to enjoy a once-in-a- lifetime experience.”
Hali Brook, a religion and criminal justice major: “There is no comparison of learning Spanish in a Spanish speaking setting where you constantly focus on the language and learning Spanish in the classroom. Truly it is the only way to learn a language!”
Hueston Holder, a broadcast communication major: “I had such a fun time, it was my first time leaving the country, and just because of Ashland University in CR, I want to travel the world now! I cannot thank the person who recommended this to me enough.”
Aaron Brunson, a broadcast communication major: "I highly recommend Ashland University in Costa Rica because of the direct immersion process and how it affects one's ability to learn a foreign language. Once you let yourself go and become fully immersed, everything else follows."
Ashland University, ranked in the top 200 colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category for 2012, is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University (www.ashland.edu) values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.