Family Relationship Studies & Professional Development in Spain
CU Denver Internship Programs Abroad
Dr. Ruben Viramontez Anguiano well understands the dilemmas faced by today’s aspiring first-generation college students. The son of immigrant parents and a former first-gen student himself, Anguiano learned how to navigate through the world of academic admissions, scholarships, and higher education classes to successfully earn his doctorate degree in human development and family studies. Ultimately, he discovered how to navigate the world itself – and share his passion for educational experiences with University of Colorado Denver students.
“Early on, my mother taught me to go where there are opportunities,” he explained. Teaming up with the Global Education: Study Abroad office at CU Denver, Anguiano, a professor at the School of Education & Human Development, now leads students in study abroad and internship programs abroad in Seville, Spain.
Anguiano tells students that migration is key. “We’re afraid of something different, however, if you take the long-term perspective, studying abroad in another country can open up future career and advanced studies possibilities for you.”
Employers are looking for candidates who have a balanced portfolio of academics combined with experiential learning and life skills. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, “skills have become the global currency of the 21st century.” In a recent report by the International Institute of Education, research showed that “the skills gained through study abroad have a long-term impact on career progression and promotion.”
“Through the CU Denver Internship Programs Abroad – Spain, students can work directly with community organizations and families to better understand the pros and cons of differing social systems.” In Spain, most of these activities are federally funded; in the United States, many community-based and philanthropic organizations are involved.
Internship Programs Abroad (IPA) facilitates internships for course credits at a wide variety of organizations and companies in eight cities around the world: Santiago, Chile; Xi’an, China; San Jose, Costa Rica; Dublin, Ireland; London, England; Avignon, France; Singapore; and Seville, Spain. Programs are offered during two six-week sessions beginning around mid-May and late June each year; a variety of study abroad scholarships and financial aid packages are available.
Anguiano explains that the core of CU Denver Internship Programs Abroad – Spain, as well as the Summer CU Denver in Spain: Serving Families, Schools, and Communities Program, is learning how to serve people through a “strengths perspective” that looks beyond an individual’s disadvantages and investigates what they are accomplishing, such as their engagement with community based organizations, education, and others forms of self-empowerment.
Seville, Spain, is the destination location for both programs. Similar to Denver, it’s a smaller city with easily accessible amenities and it offers a welcoming environment. It is also a gateway community for immigrants.
CU Denver students Yoana Martinez and Ana Ibanez helped to pioneer the internship program’s connection to their degree program.
“Although I grew up in Denver, my family is from Guadalajara, Mexico, and I wanted to learn more about my heritage by traveling to Spain,” said Martinez. “I also wanted to get professional experience relevant to my future career path.”
When Martinez reviewed internship programs abroad options on the Global Education: Study Abroad (OGE) website, she didn’t find one in Spain specific to her degree program. So she approached her professor, Anguiano, and the OGE director, Diego Garcia.
“We encourage students to contact us with any questions about studying abroad, interning with a company or organization in another country, and scholarship opportunities,” explained Garcia. “When Yoana and Ana inquired about professional programs in Spain to earn credit hours for their HDFR degrees, Dr. Anguiano and I were keen on working with the students to develop a program.”
A collaborative convergence took place between the Office of Global Education: Study Abroad, and the School of Education & Human Development; the School even took it a step further beyond program approval and provided scholarship assistance in addition to other scholarships that the students received.
Anguiano told Martinez that her classmate, Ibanez, was interested in similar academic goals. Both students were earning a B.S. in Human Development and Family Relations from the School of Education & Human Development. Coincidentally, both were first-generation college students; each received scholarship support for the IPA. The students traveled together and kept in touch throughout the six weeks of IPA. “The support of a friendly classmate was a big help,” said Ibanez.
Martinez interned at one of the four Centro de Acogida a Refugiados (C.A.R.) centers in Spain. She worked with staff to conduct women’s empowerment workshops, taught language classes, and helped refugee families with residential applications. The refugees were arriving from several Latin American countries.
Ibanez’s internship was at the Comisión Española de Asistencia a Refugiados, the Spanish Commission of Refugee Assistance. Several of the children and families at this facility were from Middle Eastern countries.
“One of my most memorable moments was accompanying a family to celebrate Eid,” said Ibanez. Eid al-Fitr (also known as Id al-Fitr or Eid ul-Fitr) marks the end of the month-long fast of Ramadan and the start of a feast that lasts up to three days in some countries. “There was a break-the-fast celebration in a local park— it was great fun.”
In broadening their perspectives through interactions and working with people from completely different cultures, Martinez and Ibanez felt that their levels of professionalism had been refined. They also learned first-hand how geo-political changes are affecting people from many different socio-economic backgrounds.
“The father and mother of one family were both professionals; he had been in the military and she was a psychologist. They were as interested in helping me as a student as I was in helping their family,” said Martinez. Another refugee, an eleven-year old girl, asked to be taught English because she wanted to “go to the U.S., enroll in Harvard, and become a lawyer.”
Back at home in Colorado, the CU Denver students are already seeing the boost that “internship abroad” adds to a resume. Ibanez works at a law firm and quoted her supervisor as saying “your IPA experience was the first thing that caught my eye.” Martinez agreed: “It shows you as a person who is willing to work with others.”
In planning for their community and family service internships abroad, Martinez and Ibanez were well supported by their university community in Denver.
“I sent so many emails to Dr. Anguiano and Dr. Garcia; there is support at CU Denver—ask for it,” said Ibanez.
“Yes, go for it!” exclaimed Martinez. “IPA was a leadership-building, once-in-a-lifetime experience.” She added another word of advice for other students by reminding them to start saving early for a study abroad program.
“Raised in a generation of strong Latino women, Yoana and Ana are natural leaders,” said Anguiano. “They also understand that studying abroad is part of their professional trajectory.”
And as Ruben’s mother reminded him while he was growing up: “No le tenga miedo a las oportunidades” – “Don’t fear opportunities.”