Spanish students to go abroad with Trinity Christian College


Photo Courtesy Cynthia Slagter

Students experienced Oviedo in past years with Calvin’s semester in Spain program.

This spring, students participating in the semester in Spain program will be joining the Spanish program from Trinity Christian College on a trip to Sevilla, a town in Spain 12 hours south of the Calvin program’s usual destination of Oviedo. 

The Calvin Spanish department faculty all have teaching, administrative or family responsibilities keeping them in the United States for spring 2023. As a result, Calvin decided to outsource its annual Spain program to TCC, which has operated a program in Sevilla since 1978. 

The change is not expected to be permanent, and the Calvin-led Oviedo program will resume in spring 2024, according to Cynthia Slagter, director of off-campus programs

“While we prefer to have our students travel with a Calvin professor, we are pleased that we are able to offer this solution for 2023,” said Slagter. 

The current solution poses extra considerations for both faculty and students. Because Calvin students had to complete paperwork for both Calvin and TCC, the application process was more complicated than usual. 

Faculty from the department also had to put extra work in to account for differences in course offerings between the Sevilla and the Oviedo programs. However, the decision allows the department to continue the program during a time when Calvin faculty cannot lead it. 

“In the past we have occasionally canceled a program for a semester, but I think this may be the first time that we have found a solution with another program,” said Slagter. 

“I was quite bummed at first because I had been planning to do Calvin’s Oviedo program for years,” said Kelsey Bobeldyk, a senior studying Spanish education. 

Bobeldyk said the TCC staff’s open communication and planning have been helpful in adapting her plans, and she plans to participate in the Spring 2023 program. 

“There have been no gaps in communication, and I feel like I know exactly what to expect out of not only the experience, but the planning I need to do for it,” said Bobeldyk. 

The change will result in students seeing a different side of Spain than usual. Sevilla is much larger and attracts more tourists. Its architecture has strong Muslim influences, which are not present in Oviedo, and there is a noticeable difference in accent between the two cities. 

“Whereas you as Americans might think it’s a very small country, therefore there’s going to be one way of speaking … the accents can vary significantly,” said Alisa Tigchelaar, professor of Spanish, who has led past Spain programs. 

While Tigchelaar does not expect the difference in accent to pose a challenge to students, her comment highlights the cultural differences between the different regions of Spain. Students studying in Sevilla this year can expect an experience unique from other groups of Calvin students studying in Spain.