VC student selected to study in Spain this summer

Kimberly Chavarria

Victoria College student Kimberly Chavarria understands a little Spanish but wants to learn more. Beginning May 29, she will receive a crash course in Spanish when she takes three Spanish language classes at a nearly 800-year-old Spanish university.

Chavarria will join other U.S. college students on a month-long stay in northwestern Spain as part of the 2015 Keith Sherin Global Leaders Program sponsored by the Council for Opportunity in Education along with Travel & Education. This short-term summer program selects students based on their academic and social standing as well as their demonstrated leadership ability.

They will be studying at the University of Salamanca and living in the city of Salamanca, Spain.

Chavarria, a 2013 graduate of St. Joseph High School, said the trip is a great opportunity to experience something new.

“I am really excited but, at first, I was nervous because I will be away from my family,” the 20-year-old student said. “It will be a good experience for me to adapt to someone else’s culture.”

While in Spain, she and another student will be living with a host family. Chavarria will attend Spanish classes 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday-Friday. When not in class, she will follow the program’s agenda to expand her Spanish education.

The college students will travel to Madrid and Segovia. They will also have two optional trips to Portugal through the mountains on a boat ride and a second one hiking the outskirts of Salamanca.

“I learned that lunch is the biggest meal of the day, and everything is closed around 1 p.m.,” Chavarria said. “In the evenings, we are supposed to dress in nice attire because that is their culture.”

The Keith Sherin Global Leaders Program is open to all of the approximately 180,000 college students who receive supportive services through the federal TRiO programs, of which VC’s KEY Center is a part.

The KEY Center serves first generation, low-income or disabled students who apply and are accepted for membership. It offers a unique support system to help students successfully complete their degree, certificate or transfer. Its services include academic and career advising, tutoring, financial assistance, personal counseling, and events and seminars.

Its staff encouraged Chavarria, a KEY Center member planning to get into VC’s Physical Therapist Assistant Program, to apply for the trip.

“We are very excited that Kimberly was selected for this study program,” said KEY Center Director Pam Neuman. “We can’t wait to hear about her Spanish adventures when she returns to Victoria.”

The Travel & Education organization, based in Spain, awarded Chavarria a scholarship for the trip. The VC Foundation is helping to finance the study trip, with her family funding the rest.

"This is an amazing opportunity, and the Victoria College Foundation is pleased to be able to support Ms. Chavarria in her educational goals,” said Amy Mundy, VC Foundation executive director.

Chavarria will leave Victoria on May 27 and travel to New York City where other college students in the program will gather and meet. The group flies to Spain two days later and will return in late June.

“As far as I know, I am the only one from Texas in this study trip,” Chavarria said. “My family is really excited for me; they know this is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to go.”

Other than program travel itineraries, Chavarria has few plans on what to do and see while in Spain but wants to keep physically fit while in Europe.

“I’m into Crossfit here, so I know there’s a Crossfit gym near where I will be staying,” she said. “I would like to visit that a couple of times. I’m excited to venture out with other people.”

Published: Thursday, 07 May 2015

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