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Nicole Roales
University Communications

Last modified: Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A new course allows IU students to debate immigration issues in Spain this summer

May 7, 2008

EDITORS: The class traveling to Spain will frequently update a blog about the students' experiences in Aranjuez. Visit the blog at:

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A group of 13 Indiana University Bloomington undergraduate students will be leaving May 17 for Spain, where they will study Spanish history, culture and language, and compare the country's immigration issues to those in the United States.

John Nieto-Phillips, associate professor of history, will co-direct the program at the Centro de Estudios Superiores (CES) Felipe II in Aranjuez, Spain. The city is a 30-minute train ride from the center of the country's capital, Madrid. The program consists of two courses running from May 19-June 13. It is a new initiative of the Latino Studies Program and Overseas Study at IU Bloomington, and was awarded an Edward L. Hutton Foundation Grant.

John Nieto-Phillips

John Nieto-Phillips

"One purpose is to show that immigration is a global phenomenon," said Nieto-Phillips. "I think it's useful to study immigration within a comparative and historical framework, so we'll examine ways the two countries have dealt with and debated immigration and its impact on society. We also want to give students a chance to be immersed in the Spanish language and to witness Spain's diversity."

The first class, "Latinos & Globalization: Immigration in a Comparative Framework," will involve a study of immigration to Spain and the United States. Students will compare the modern histories of immigration -- both legal and illegal -- as well as the debates and policies that have resulted from it.

The second course, "Conversational Spanish" will engage students in the study and daily application of Spanish. It will be taught by Ana Orenga, professor of Spanish, and Carlos Rubio, professor of linguistics, CES Felipe II. Rubio is also resident co-director of the program. Additionally, six guest lecturers from CES Felipe II will share their expertise on Spanish culture, society and politics.

As a complement to these courses, the program will involve excursions to sites of historical and cultural importance in Spain, including towns and villages along the route of "Don Quixote," mentioned in the epic book by Miguel de Cervantes. Students will also visit the city of Toledo, a historic center for Muslim, Jewish and Christian religions.

According to Nieto-Phillips, immigration has not only changed the social landscapes of both countries, but it has generated considerable political and scholarly debate. Nieto-Phillips has visited Spain many times, and he studied in Barcelona from 1988-89 as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. Since then, he's seen a dramatic change in the country's population.

"When I lived in Spain, immigrants comprised less than 1 percent of the population. Today, they are 10 percent and number 4.5 million. Spain is nearly as much an 'immigrant country' as the United States, and is one of Europe's most dynamic countries," Nieto-Phillips said.

In the last 15 years, Ecuadorians, Columbians and Bolivians have established a large presence. Today, Latin Americans make up fully 36 percent of Spain's foreign-born population.

"The growth of undocumented immigration, especially," Nieto-Phillips adds, "has forced Spain to come to grips with some of the same issues that are debated in the United States. This program will give students a deeper understanding of the larger forces driving human movement across the globe."

IU sophomore Kierstin Johnson, whose hometown is Decker, Ind., has never visited Spain. She registered for the course to increase her knowledge of the Spanish language and culture.

"I think it's a really great opportunity to experience another culture firsthand and to broaden my understanding of the world outside of the one I've lived my whole life in," Johnson said. "I think it will help me to greatly improve my Spanish skills while providing me with some amazing experiences that many other people may not get the chance to have."

Erienne D. Madrid just completed her freshman year at IU and said the trip will be her first time outside of the United States. A native of Valparaiso, Ind., Madrid wants to improve her Spanish skills, learn more about Spain's history, and the country's culture -- past and present.

Richard Scinteie, a freshman from Mount Prospect, Ill., has been to Europe before because his parents are first-generation Romanian immigrants. However, he's never visited Spain and hopes to learn to speak Spanish better.

"This is the opportunity of a lifetime," Scinteie said. "College is the only length of time where we can fully dedicate ourselves to exploring anything and everything, so I figured I would take a chance to put my language skills to the test and learn a bit more about all the diverse cultures outside our small bubble of America. I think any course designed to open your mind is invaluable for every facet of life. In my case, it will, at its simplest, help me become more aware of the world around me."

Students will be hosted by families near the university.

To view a blog of the students' experiences in Aranjuez, visit: To speak with Nieto-Phillips or to interview a student going on the trip, please contact Nicole Roales in the Office of University Communications at or 812-856-3717.