- Associated Press - Friday, August 7, 2015

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) - Nearly 30 events - including food tastings, dance lessons, musical performances and presentations on history and literature - are scheduled this fall as part of Missouri Southern State University’s annual themed semester, which this year celebrates Spain.

Spain, which was nominated by the faculty, was a natural option for the themed semester, said Chad Stebbins, director of the university’s Institute of International Studies.

“It just seemed a logical choice for a number of reasons, starting with the Spanish language itself,” he told The Joplin Globe (https://bit.ly/1KHgeaP ). “That’s where the language originated, and today there are around 500 million Spanish-speakers worldwide, so it’s a predominant language.”

Stebbins said Spain is the second largest country in Western Europe (behind France) and has the world’s 14th largest economy. It also is the No. 3 tourist destination in the world, following France and the United States in terms of the number of visitors each year, he said.

“There’s no denying that it’s an important country,” he said.

Spain was the destination of a four-week trip taken earlier this summer by 14 MSSU students, most of whom were Spanish majors or minors, and some faculty members, including Leslie Smith, an assistant professor of Spanish. The group stayed and took classes in Salamanca and also took weekend excursions to Madrid, Segovia and Avila.

Smith said many of the students told her that their experience was a transformative one, and that the trip made them appreciate what they have in the United States. Smith, who had been to Spain once before as a student, said she even learned a few things while traveling.

“For me, it was actually almost like the first time again because it had been so many years since I had been to Spain,” she said. “I felt like everything was new. It was a good experience personally because I got to practice my Spanish and learn things that I can bring back to my classroom.”

MSSU senior Rachel Gonzalez, a Spanish education major who visited Spain for the first time on the summer trip, said her experience in the country has made her even more excited for the upcoming themed semester.

“I just feel like Spain is so multi-faceted,” she said. “There are so many things that we as Americans don’t know about their culture; there’s so much to learn,” she said. “To go into the semester, I think students should be excited about what they can learn about a new country.”

The full schedule of events for the Spain themed semester is available at mssu.edu/spain.


Information from: The Joplin (Mo.) Globe, https://www.joplinglobe.com

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