In Class News

November 20, 2017 at 12:28 pm

Studying in Spain Provides Incredible Learning Opportunities

From air photo of Toledo, Spain


Keith Woodall’s students learn a great deal of Spanish in their classes at Ohio University, but he is always amazed to see how living and studying in Spain rapidly expands and enhances their knowledge of the language.

Through their involvement in a study away program in Spain offered by OHIO’s Office of Global Opportunities, the students also increase their cultural understanding, learn important lessons about living in new places and are able to take part in once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

“I’ve seen students grow a great deal on these trips,” said Woodall, Associate Lecturer in Modern Languages. “They also increase their self-confidence in ways that will follow them the rest of their lives.” Woodall serves as the director of the Spring Semester in Toledo, Spain program.

Students during Spring 2017 semester in Toledo, Spain, posing with two Spain and Ohio University flags.,

Students during Spring 2017 semester in Toledo, Spain.

Last spring semester Woodall took a group of 28 OHIO students and one teaching assistant to Toledo, Spain, where they lived while studying at the University of Castilla – La Mancha as part of the Office of Global Opportunities program. The students are able to take OHIO classes while there, but they are taught by Woodall and faculty members from Spain. The courses, Woodall explained, are upper division classes where the students are expected to be able to take part in conversations in Spanish.

By living in Spain and being immersed in the culture the students use the language in classes and in the community, which speeds up the learning process and increases their proficiency. The students take four classes during the semester and are able to earn 12 credit hours toward their OHIO degrees. In addition, they take part in cultural experiences around Toledo, a city that has a rich history and a vibrant culture. They also travel as a group some weekends to other cities and historic sites.

The students live with host families and often become close with the people with whom they live. The host families assist them with their daily needs, but they also help them continue to learn the language and better understand the culture of the country. In addition, the OHIO students are also able to see how their host families go through many of the same situations that the students experience in the United States and are able to see how people around the world are connected in numerous ways.

By living with the host families the students are also able to feel part of the country they are living in, rather than feeling like a U.S. student who is just visiting Spain.

“It’s always a different experience when you live somewhere compared to when you go there as a tourist,” Woodall added.

At the beginning of the trip Woodall always reminds his students that they are representing OHIO and the United States while they are overseas and that they have a responsibility to act accordingly. In addition, the Office of Global Opportunities requires each student to take part in a pre-departure orientation seminar to help them prepare for the trip and understand their responsibilities.

“I have had awesome students,” Woodall said, adding that their Spanish hosts have been impressed with the OHIO students. “Our students do a very, very good job.”

In 2017, one of the students in the Spring Semester in Toledo, Spain Program was Mara Diaz, who has written about the trip on her blog.

In the different posts on her blog, Diaz recounts several items that she learned while studying overseas, including the idea that “everything is figureoutable.” By this, she means that despite language and cultural barriers, the OHIO students are able to live in Spain and enjoy the experience, and that they can still communicate with and make friends with the people they meet in Spain.

“There are pieces of language that everyone understands,” Diaz said on her blog. “A smile, a laugh, a cry and that panicked ‘I have no idea what you just said’ face will be understood no matter where you go.”

Diaz also recounts how her host grandmother said something that reminded her of her father, and explained how special moments like that made her feel at home in Spain.

This study away experience, like the other Office of Global Opportunities programs, is designed to help the students feel comfortable and at home no matter where they are in the world. The students learn a great deal academically, but they learn even more about themselves and benefit tremendously from these opportunities.

For more information on the Spring Semester in Toledo, Spain Program, contact Woodall at or visit the webpage for the program.

For additional information on the wide range of study away opportunities offered by Ohio University, visit The Office of Global Opportunities website or stop in at the Walter International Education Center. Walk-in advising is available Mondays through Fridays, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., and no appointment is necessary.

This article was provided by the Office of Global Affairs and International Studies.

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