Foreign Air in Spring

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Published on April 1, 2016

Would you like to visit Italy while earning three credits in a humanities course? Learn about the Italian culture and history which has shaped the country? That is what a number of students did this semester, over Spring Break, as part of their curriculum.

Jamilet Ortiz is an Assistant Professor of Spanish here at HCC and led an excursion into Italy that lasted for ten days. “The experience will last for a little more over a week. Including the overnight trips into and out of the country,” she explained, before leaving for the trip.  The tour covered the cities of Rome, Venice, Pompeii, Florence, Assisi, and Sorrento.

Last year Ortiz and English Professor Edwena Chance embarked on a similar trip to Spain. “It was a massive success,” Ortiz said with joy. “Last year we had thirteen students. This semester we have sixteen students – three students returning.”

The course which demanded the return of three students who already satisfied the course requirements is HUM* E119, also known as Short Term Study Abroad in the course catalog. Instead being solely a language class where students learn the language of a country, the students learn every facet of the selected culture. This includes the history, economy, geography, literature, and customs that make the country unique.

Students in this semester's Study Abroad course, along with Professor Ortiz (front row, center)

Students in this semester’s Study Abroad course, along with Professor Ortiz (front row, center)

However, Ortiz wished to clarify the trip isn’t a spring break vacation. “It is not a tour. It’s not like you’re getting three credits to go on a tour. It’s not like that,” she said.

Each student meets once a week in a hybrid class environment, involving both online and classroom work. This continues the whole semester; before and after visiting Italy.

Claudio Everett is a student at HCC who has taken the Study Abroad course in a previous semester. Having experienced going to Spain, Everett said that he and his classmates were pleased by their choice to take the course. By learning about Spain before going, they were able to take in the history and culture faster and easier than a second group of college students they had been accompanying.

Ortiz said for most students this would be this first or only college experience. By offering this course, not only will allow those students to explore a foreign country, or get these visas and first-time passports. “I think this course helps people develop their global citizen skills. It gives you the opportunity to think about how we’re used to just being here in the United States thinking that We’re the center of everything,” she said.

The price could be frightening to many people. Not only are you spending money on a whole course learning about a culture, but you need to spend approximately $3,000 for all the trip necessities. This can possibly damper the excitement factor for many working students or those that come from a low income family.

Thankfully Education First (EF) College Tours, the service used for the both the Spanish tour last year and Italian tour this semester. offers payment plans to students, making the trip affordable.

Just like a student pays for a book at the bookstore, a student must pay EF for their place on the tour.

Ortiz has given praise for this top-notch service.  She said EF provides support and tools for her  to use so that the study abroad experience is fluid and painless. Conferences are held before and after the trip to clarify and assist both professor and students through the steps needed in order to participate in the visit along with surveys after each lecture given to students, all in order to maximize the effectiveness and positive feedback possible.

According to Ortiz, positive feedback is all they have gotten along with the course. It is a well-received experience that both teacher and students enjoyed.

Still asking yourself why you should go on a future trip? Professor Ortiz said it best, “College is here to show you all the possibilities that exist. What better time and what better opportunity than while you are here at Housatonic? To go abroad and have this experience?”