Friday, September 28, 2018
  Student Life

By Amanda Taylor

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – From day trips spent perusing the shops and villas in Barcelona, to examining world-renowned art at the Salvador Dali art museum, UTRGV’s Study Abroad in Spain groups had a full and busy summer.

“We believed that UTRGV students would be able to relate to and appreciate the linguistic and cultural similarities between South Texas and the Cataluña region,” said Yanina Hernandez, lecturer in the Department of Writing and Language Studies.

The groups were a mix of non-Spanish speakers to students fluent in Spanish who wanted to learn more about Spanish identity.  

“Our emphasis on languages and cultures along the borders made this trip to Cataluña on the Spanish and French side of the country a meaningful experience,” Hernandez said.

To become fully immersed in the Spanish language and culture, 25 students divided into four separate courses traveled to Girona, Spain, in Cataluña – a bilingual region. The focus was primarily to study the language, as well as the multicultural aspects of the various parts of Spain, centering on the linguistic expression of identity during prolonged social linguistic contact.

The groups were SPAN 1312: Beginning Spanish II, taught by teaching assistant Carolina Cardenas; SPAN 2315: Spanish for Bilinguals II, taught by lecturer Yanina Hernandez; SPAN 4317: Language and Identity in Multilingual Spain, taught by assistant professor Dr. Ryan Bessett; and SPAN 6318: Language and Identity in Multilingual Spain, taught by professor Dr. José Esteban Hernández. 

‘‘I think it’s important to connect with people from not only your own heritage, but also from different cultures, to value others.
—UTRGV biology major Alejandro Berrios’’


For Alejandro Berrios, a student in the Spanish for Bilinguals II course, traveling to Spain wouldn’t just fulfill a requirement for his degree. It also would become an exciting exploration of his own heritage and family roots. 

“I wanted to embark on this journey to visit another county, but also to see the country where I have a family heritage from since my grandfather was a Spaniard,” the biology major said. “I think it’s important to connect with people from not only your own heritage, but also from different cultures, to value others.”

Mariana Davila, of Brownsville, a UTRGV senior majoring in psychology who was part of the Language and Identity in Multilingual Spain course, said the trip allowed her to learn about the rich history of Spain while learning about the Catalán culture. Being able to visit both Spain and France was an eye-opening experience, she said.

“I was able to visit many incredible places in Spain, as well as in France,” she said. “I believe it is imperative for students to study abroad for them to be able to grow as a person and as a student. It’s a way to learn beyond a typical classroom. It’s incredible to realize how big and beautiful the world is.”

Students visited Figueres, Spain, the birthplace of Salvador Dali; the gothic architecture and Montjuic Hill of Barcelona; and the largest walled city in Europe – Carcassonne, France.

They also were able to interact with the locals, as well as doing a good bit of sightseeing and urban exploration.

“I believe that students taking a study abroad course are motivated to immerse themselves in the target language, in our case Spanish, and in the local culture,” lecturer Hernández said. “To our student population, it is often the opportunity of a lifetime, since for many it is their first trip abroad without their family.

“Overall, travel to a different country is an experience that will make a positive effect on students by opening their minds to new ways of thinking and of living,” she said.


SPAN 1312 Beginning Spanish II

  • Vincent Abbott, Political Science, Pharr.
  • Daniella Gutiérrez, Mexican American Studies/Anthropology, Edinburg.
  • Sarah Salas, Criminal Justice, Mission.
  • Angelina Villarreal, Communication in Broadcasting, McAllen.
  • Jesús Vega, Criminal Justice, La Feria.

SPAN 2315 Spanish for Bilinguals II

  • Alejandro Berrios, Biology, Edinburg.
  • Uriel De León, Criminal Justice, Donna.
  • Stephanie Leos, English, Edinburg.
  • Yaritza Marín, Mexican American Studies, Weslaco.
  • Victoria Ochoa, Interdisciplinary Studies, McAllen.
  • Emily Rivas, Mexican American Studies, Donna.

SPAN 4317 Language and Identity in Multilingual Spain

  • Daniela Castillo, Psychology, Pharr.
  • Mariana Davila, Psychology, Brownsville.
  • Álvaro Hernández, Economics, Edinburg.
  • David Medrano, Spanish, Edinburg.
  • Jesús Mendiola, History, Edinburg.
  • Fernando Paredes, Finance, Brownsville.
  • Daisy Ríos, Biology, Donna.
  • Aylin Turrubiates, Rehabilitation Services, Brownsville.

SPAN 6318 Language and Identity in Multilingual Spain

(Graduate students, Master of Arts in Spanish)

  • Carolina Cárdenas, McAllen.
  • Tania Galindo, Brownsville.
  • Marisol Patiño, Alton.
  • Rebeca Pruneda, San Juan.
  • Sara Ravell, Mercedes.
  • Raquel Tijerina, Mission.
UTRGV Students become immersed in the culture and language of Spain. Students standing in front of castle.
UTRGV students taking study abroad classes in Europe.


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.