Photo courtesy of Caroline Rhude.
When Ohio University student Caroline Rhude heard about the possibility of studying abroad in Spain this summer, she jumped at the chance.
Not only was it a chance to improve her Spanish skills, but it turned into an opportunity to fully immerse herself in the language and culture, gain independence and learn more about herself. .
“The trip was absolutely amazing. I feel like I have to branch out so much,” she said.
The Spanish experience, language and culture in Toledo was a perfect match for his academic interests.
Rhude, who is from Blanchester, Ohio, is a new junior majoring in Spanish through Honors Tutorial College and social work through the College of Health Sciences and Professions. She also has a minor in Dance – Performance and Choreography and Business Analysis, as well as certificates in European Studies and Latin American Studies.
Rhude traveled to Toledo, Spain with other OHIO students for about eight weeks. While there, she took classes for OHIO credit through Universidad Castilla-La Mancha and stayed with a host family of four.
“I spent a lot of time with my two foster sisters, and I kind of understood their daily routine, their habits and their interests, and their meal schedule, which is really interesting because it’s very different from here in the United States,” Rhude said. “I was also able to use my Spanish outside of class. I was afraid to go back to English, but the parents only spoke Spanish.
Nelson Hippolyte, director of the study abroad program, has planned multiple excursions for OHIO students, including trips to Consuegra, Segovia and Madrid. Hippolyte is a teaching professor in the Department of Modern Languages at the College of Arts and Sciences.
During the stay, students were also encouraged to venture to other nearby cities and countries in their free time. Rhude chose to stay in Spain, visiting Seville, Granada and Valencia by train.
“I would say a big [lesson I learned] personally, it’s the degree of independence that I didn’t realize until I went overseas,” she said. “It’s one thing to move to college and have your own responsibilities in a small town, but it’s another to fully explore an entire city.”
Rhude gained confidence after being able to book all of her accommodations and trips entirely in Spanish.
Although the opportunity to study abroad improved her Spanish skills, it was also tied to her major in social work. According to Rhude, who is an adoptee from China, Spain has a high rate of Chinese adoptions. She was interested to see the attitudes towards Chinese adoptions in the country.
Although most of his experiences were positive, some made him think. Encouraged by her manager, she wrote about her encounters with discrimination for her final report.
“This trip taught me a lot about what it means to be open-minded, receptive and adaptable to new people and situations,” she said. “I look forward to applying these skills to my future career in social work, where the goal is to always advocate and understand a wide range of people.”
For Rhude, the trip confirmed that her recent move to pursue degrees in social work and Spanish was the right move.
“I think, even despite some of the issues I had, it was one of those experiences that I realized was much bigger than me. I may have had a problem, but you know, I want to be a social worker and I will always look for an opportunity to learn from unpleasant or uncomfortable circumstances,” Rhude said. “In social work, you will work with different populations than you and people who have different perspectives. But the goal is to always defend them, understand them and help them. So, it was nice to get out of my little Ohio bubble. I’m not just here to study; I’m actually here to see how other people live.
Rhude hopes to work with Spanish-speaking families in the future, whether they are in the process of adoption or not. She also aims to connect with a wide range of people by learning other languages, including Mandarin.
After returning from Spain, Rhude is preparing for a busy year in Athens.
She is Vice President of the OHIO Chapter of Sigma Delta Pi, a National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society, which promotes the use of the Spanish language in academic and professional life. She is also active in the Asian American/Pacific Islander Student Union (AAPISU).
In the coming year, Rhude will serve as treasurer of the OHIO chapter of the Ohio Innocence Project-U, affiliated with the University of Cincinnati Law School, which advocates for those who have been wrongfully convicted.
She is also on the lookout for any new opportunity to study or travel abroad.
“I would strongly encourage people to study abroad if they could,” she said. “It certainly adds to [your education] and I would strongly recommend people do. It’s a new kind of independence to have.