Mr. Worldwide: CLIC offers study abroad in eight countries
Dozens of Rice students traveled to eight countries in the past year to earn course credit through the Center for Language and Intercultural Communication’s Rice in Country program.
Hélade Scutti Santos, the director of language instruction at CLIC, said the Rice in Country program was piloted in 2015 to provide more depth to student’s language learning experience.
“The idea was to integrate immersion into the language courses to bring students to experience the language and the culture that shapes it and the society in that country,” Santos said.
Over time, each Rice in Country program developed its own requirements and purposes based on the demands for more advanced language instruction, Santos said.
“The initial program was very standardized across languages ... but as the program evolved, we realized that some changes could be made, or that we could adjust the programs depending on the language,” Santos said.
Atira Aidarous, a Rice in Spain participant pursuing her CLIC certificate in Spanish, said the curriculum for her program, which focused on health professions, and the six-week program length were part of why she applied.
“I thought the length of the program would be really good,” Aidarous, a Lovett College junior, said. “I’m hesitant about a full-semester commitment because being away from home is hard.”
Caro Signoret, a French Studies major who studied abroad in France, said that her previous experiences with the language moved her to return.
“I have about 12 years of experience with the French language, and I lived [in France] for nine months [during] my senior year [of high school], so it was a yearning to go back and explore different parts of the country,” Signoret, a Brown College sophomore, said.
Although many students may wish to go abroad, financial difficulties may prove hard to overcome. Santos said CLIC offers scholarships for students to reduce these concerns. CLIC provided nearly $200,000 in funding in 2023, and Santos said she is requesting more money from Rice.
Henry Mansfield, a Baker College sophomore who studied abroad in Japan and is pursuing the CLIC certificate in Japanese, said that the scholarship he received allowed him to study abroad without worrying about the financial burden.
“If I hadn’t gotten that scholarship, then it would have created a chance that I didn’t go on the program due to financial concerns,” Mansfield said. “It might have made my experience in Japan less pleasant because the feeling of not having financial freedom might have made it more difficult to have fun and immerse myself in the culture.”
One aspect of many Rice in Country programs is homestay, where students live with host families rather than in hostels or other living quarters. Although not all programs have implemented the practice, Santos said that homestay provides a connection to the local culture that cannot be replicated.
“[Homestay] provides students with the experience of how family life works in a country, so it’s a very interesting cultural experience … and that can be used as part of the classroom discussion,” Santos said.
Mansfield added that homestay provided unique opportunities to transcend language barriers and connect with members of the Japanese community through small moments of cultural appreciation.
“I had a five-year-old host daughter and she loved fireworks, which is a very common Japanese experience that you take out these sparklers and wave them around on summer nights,” Mansfield said. “[I was] able to partake in a traditional experience and feel that I was making a connection with this five year old girl who later said ‘I’ll never forget your smile.’ I was just glowing.”
Aidarous said the mundane moments exploring the streets of Pamplona, Spain were the most enriching of her time abroad.
“I was just happy to explore a country on my own,” Aidarous said. “I felt like I was cosplaying as a Spaniard for six weeks … and I got to speak Spanish all the time which was my favorite part because I don’t get to practice my Spanish [in the United States] at all.”
Signoret said that she would advise students who are wondering about applying for study abroad to proceed with the program.
“I’ve never met somebody who regrets studying abroad,” Signoret said. “They always say it’s either the best experience of their life or that they maybe did not enjoy it as much, but they still learned a lot from it.”
Beyond improving language abilities, study abroad programs can provide students with unique perspectives on life, Santos said.
“The beauty of [study abroad programs] is to see students changing in their way of seeing things, seeing others, seeing themselves, seeing other cultures and their own culture,” Santos said. “This is priceless … That’s why we are so passionate about Rice in Country, even though it’s a lot of work and intense, but it’s worth it. It’s totally worth it.”
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