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Study Abroad in Texas

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This summer, students from around the country will spend three months speaking a new language, living with people from other cultures and sampling ethnic cuisines - all without ever having to leave the Forty Acres.

In an effort to give a taste of the study abroad experience without the 10-hour flight, the Texas Language Center has created the Summer Language Institute, an intensive language immersion experience that offers students the unique opportunity to fulfill the foreign language requirement in just one summer.

The innagural Summer Language Institute, which runs from June 1 to Aug. 15, includes courses in Czech, Modern Greek, Portuguese, Russian and Vietnamese.

"We call it a ‘semi-immersion program' because it really is the closest thing we could get to studying abroad," says Tom Garza, associate professor of Slavic and Eurasian Studies and director of the Texas Language Center. "We're trying to give students as much concentrated language exposure as possible."

Courses are open to graduate and undergraduate students, but Garza said he especially wants to attract incoming freshmen.

"Could you imagine coming in as a freshman with the language requirement out of the way?" They'll not only get a head start in their studies, they'll also get to know the UT campus and have a network of friends before the fall semester even starts," Garza says.

The only semi-immersion language program of its kind in Texas, Garza said he hopes the summer institute will attract top scholars from all over the nation who are looking for a world-class education in language study.

"We're really taking the university's motto ‘What Starts Here Changes the World' to heart," Garza says. "We want to empower students by giving them the credentials to carry out this motto by speaking the world's languages."

In addition to four-hour classes and language lab sessions, taught by lecturers at The University ofTexas at Austin, the students' daily routine will include a variety of extra-curricular activities. From museum visits to cooking demonstrations to campus scavenger hunts, the summer institute will provides a hand-on approach to language learning, allowing students to pick up words and phrases that aren't typically taught in a traditional classroom setting.

Students will also interact daily with native speaking graduate teaching assistants, who will live on site in each language-designated unit in the Dobie Center. Serving as group leaders for each "language cluster," the graduate students will oversee various learning activities, study sessions and evening outings.

Katya Cotey, a graduate teaching assistant who will lead the Russian-language group, says she aims to make the course as fun as possible. Cooking demonstrations, movie nights, games - even Russian Facebook sessions  - are a few of the activities she's planning. By the end of summer she hopes her students will achieve both language and cultural proficiency.

 "The students will learn their verbs of motion, but they will also experience the richness of Russian culture - its history, literature, rock music, sports, or anything else that may interest them," says Cotey, who is studying comparative literature. "It is like travel in time and space in the convenient setting of the UT campus."

In response to the growing demand for people with foreign language skills in the State Department and in the business world, Garza says he hopes to inspire students to become superior level speakers of critical languages. To help make this happen, the programwill provide information sessions highlighting the university's various study abroad opportunities and flagship language programs.

"I'm happy to get the students who are just looking to fulfill the requirement because - worst-case scenario - they finish the requirement and it is done. But best-case scenario, we hook the students and inspire them to go on and take their language learning to the next level," says Garza.

At $3700, plus tuition (about $3,000), this is one of the least expensive summer language programs available nationally, Garza says. This price covers the entire package - room and board, entertainment, activities and off-campus excursions.

"Money is tight right now, that's why we did everything we could to get the cost as low as possible," Garza says. "It's hard to imagine that you could live in Austin for ten weeks in the summer for such a low price."

In the future, Garza hopes to expand the program by incorporating more languages. And in an effort to keep language programs viable in Texas high schools, he hopes to open the program to high school students so they can earn school credit for foreign language courses.

"This is a new way to concentrate our resources during these hard economic times," Garza says. "If we can bring students to fulfill their language requirement in a summer rather than two years, we're giving students a competitive edge and helping the budget out too." 

Go to this wesbsite for more information about the 2011 Summer Language Institute. Deadline for applications is Friday, April 8.

By Jessica Sinn
College of Liberal Arts