Parker Lawson ’15 spends semester solo in Lleida, Spain

Posted by Centre News in News, Study Abroad 24 Feb 2014

Studying abroad is par for the course for most Centre College students, and Parker Lawson ’15 is no exception; he has traveled to Costa Rica, Panama and Israel with Centre faculty throughout his college career. This semester, though, Lawson takes studying abroad to a new level, participating in the University of Lleida exchange program, a selective and challenging semester that just one or two students from Centre experience each term.

Parker LawsonThe program is open to students with advanced knowledge of Spanish who are comfortable living, working and studying on their own. Students are responsible for securing housing and food for the entire semester and must be open-minded, self-sufficient and resourceful to do well in Lleida.

Lawson (pictured right in Barcelona, Spain) certainly fits the bill, having studied abroad even before arriving at Centre.

“I spent the summer of my senior year [of high school] in Sevilla, Spain, living with a host family and attending a local school,” he explains. “The experience fundamentally changed my life and confirmed my interest in travel, languages and Iberian — and by extension, Hispanic — culture.”

Lawson brought this love of international learning to his time at Centre and found the Lleida exchange program to be the perfect fit.

“I was searching for an opportunity to challenge myself linguistically, socially and academically,” he says. “All of my Lleida classes have the end goal of enhancing my ability to speak, read and write Spanish. It’s one thing to hold a conversation in another language, but it’s entirely another to analyze, interpret and make sense of material in that language.”

Because the Spanish academic calendar varies slightly from the American one, Lawson has not yet started classes; however, he is already expanding his horizons in leaps and bounds.

“As an exchange student, I interact every day with students from Mexico, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Czech Republic and plenty of other countries,” he says. “Already I’ve had meaningful conversations about historical and contemporary issues in the U.S., and it’s fascinating to exchange ideas with peers who offer a more global perspective on these debates than the average American.”

And though some students might find the prospect of an entire semester alone in a foreign country daunting, Lawson is excited more than anything.

“I’m looking forward to learning more about the vibrant Catalan culture in Lleida,” he says. “Catalonia is a region in northeastern Spain that retains a unique identity, language and culture in addition to being a part of Spain.

“Some of my classes will be taught in Catalan,” he continues, “which I’ve never studied before, so I’m looking forward to learning a new language. Fortunately, all of my flatmates are Catalan, so I’ll have some help along the way.”

The semester in Lleida will no doubt be an instructive one for Lawson, who stands ready to be immersed in an entirely different culture, language and way of life. Importantly, he hopes this experience will strengthen his desire and eligibility for a Fulbright fellowship in Spain after graduating in 2015.

Parker Lawson ’15, Isabelle Ballard ’16 and Garric Buzzard ’15 are all currently studying in Lleida. Learn more about the Lleida Exchange Program at Centre.

by Mariel Smith
February 24, 2014

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