Felician College Psychology Students Study Abroad in Spain

A group of eight Felician College students recently traveled to Barcelona, Spain as part of the experiential component of their Psychological Principles of Intercultural Communications course. Dr. Awilda Perez-Lane, Felician College Associate Professor of Psychology, lead the students through the streets of Barcelona to visit specific sites in order to experience the Catalan history and culture firsthand. The trip also included lectures at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra and two social agencies that direct efforts at servicing immigrants and refugees.

The Psychological Principles of Intercultural Communications course is made up of two components, theoretical and experiential. The theoretical component takes place in-class at Felician College and lasts a semester. In order to complete the class, the students are required to participate in the experiential component. The study abroad trip to Barcelona, Spain completed that requirement for the students. Dr. Perez-Lane commented, “In the classroom, we discuss all the underlying principles of the course. When we travel, the students are in direct contact with people of a diverse cultural background and really get to feel and explore the psychological experience. It’s one thing to talk about culture shock and another to experience it.”

Perez-Lane created the course after observing the need for her students to be exposed to more people of diverse cultures. The course teaches students to become more oriented toward the global community. “Once a student learns what is out there in the world, their whole life outlook changes. I wanted my students to experience that kind of exposure,” she said.

The students attended two lectures on intercultural communication at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra where they got to see in action some of the principles they had learned in the classroom. They also participated in a lecture at CEAR (Comision Espanola de Ayuda al Refugiado, or Spanish Commission for Help to Refugees) where data was presented to them on the worldwide phenomenon of displaced people. The students attended a conference at “El Raval Programa Social de la Caixa” and learned how the program is using the arts to provide support for the expression of its own cultural heritage.   

During the trip, the students participated in a scavenger hunt where they had to solve a mystery murder while looking for clues throughout the Gothic quarters (Gymkhana). The exercise required them to solve tasks by interacting with local storeowners and other tourists of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Jose, a young homeless man, guided the students on a “Tour of the Hidden City.” They learned through him how hard the economic recession has hit Barcelona and how the city has responded to the growing homeless population.

This is the first year the Psychological Principles of Intercultural Communications course was offered and plans are already underway to return to Spain next year for the experiential component of the class. Perez-Lane said, “The student’s curiosity, desire to learn and to engage in adventure in a foreign land was well satisfied. Their generosity of spirit and bonds of friendships represented well our Felician Franciscan values.”