International study programs in Spain and Cuba for the University of Maryland
The University of Maryland is a world leader in entrepreneurship and innovation, as well as one of the most important public research universities in the country. They encourage the empowerment of their students through cultural immersion programs, which they integrate with the university’s curriculum in all disciplines, with the goal of developing intercultural skills that will enable them to become conscious and engaged global citizens.
Alandis Travel manages educational trips to Spain and Cuba for the University of Maryland. University of Maryland’s goal is to improve the Spanish language skills of its students and to further deepen their cultural knowledge through language immersion programs.
One of the first challenges when organizing these programs is to adapt them to the students academic requirements, covering a wide range of topics such as architecture, language, culture, art, health, and social justice among others. To respond appropriately, we ask the Spanish department at Maryland to send us the syllabus content we can reinforce through their study trip and our professors adapt materials to meet their requirements and the lectures they need.
Following a syllabus is not the only way to tie in students’ academic needs. We believe that with appropriate planning we can select and organize social and cultural activities that reflect the knowledge and the values students should be learning from their course, helping them to learn not only from the experts, but from an immersive experience. Activities may include conversation exchanges with locals, tutoring programs with young children, internships in companies or volunteering, amongst many others.
In 2020, the Maryland program collaborated on several social projects in Cuba through our programs, helping to rehabilitate a park for young children, and visiting residences for the elderly; not only are these truly unique experiences that reach students on many levels, but they are also ideal activities to profoundly improve students’ Spanish in an extremely short period of time.
At Alandis Travel we also recognise the importance of safety and communication when it comes to young people, as a challenge on any University project. We take this extremely seriously and so we put in place a series of extraordinary measures, including health and security orientations before and upon arrival, extra information included in the program handbook and also orientation material. We constantly communicate the best way for students to interact with locals so as to be respectful, to minimize risks (particularly during the pandemic), and to achieve the best outcomes.
We’re particularly proud of our on-site management in Cuba, as logistically Cuba presents a series of complex organizational challenges such as arranging academic visas for students to booking tickets for tourist sites and cultural activities, currency exchanges, or getting phone cards and access to the internet. Unforeseeable bureaucratic events can happen locally at any time, meaning the team deals with a whole host of last-minute administrative changes that we shield our travel groups from, so that they can concentrate on their educational experience. Alandis maintains constant communication with both the university and its groups through pre-departure info sessions and on-site orientations to guide them successfully through their trip.
All in all, University of Maryland’s students come away with an exceptional opinion of their destinations having lived unique – and often – once-in-a-lifetime experiences that develop a keen interest in cultural exploration and discovery for the rest of their lives.