Centre College Associate Professor of Spanish Genny Ballard recently returned from her six-month excursion in Colombia, where she conducted research and taught as a Fulbright Scholar.
Ballard collaborated with two universities on the Colombian Caribbean coast researching intercultural competency and language learning, as well as leading a lecture series on Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL). She worked with professors at the Universidad del Norte and La Universidad de La Guajira to complete a research project that measures the intercultural competency of language students in order to recommend curricular reforms and improvements.
While she was able to achieve what she set out to do, Ballard said she accomplished several other things as well.
“I was able to advance my research projects and teach a new class, but I also organized internships, worked on a community-based project, taught a teaching workshop, traveled extensively and made new lifelong friends and colleagues,” she added. “It was an incredible opportunity. I am really grateful. It is a place where I made lifelong friends at both the Universidad del Norte and in Manizales. I also spent a lot of time with dancers who patiently taught me to dance. Let me be clear, I don’t dance well, but according to my dance instructors, I am their most enthusiastic student.”
After her experience in Colombia, Ballard has decided to take a group of Centre students there this coming summer. She had the opportunity to meet Rector Alejandro Ceballos Márquez of Universidad de Caldas, who invited her students from Centre for both internships and summer courses.
“I want them to meet the Colombian students at Uninorte and Universidad de Caldas,” she said. “I also want them to have an intense language experience in a beautiful place. And, there will also be opportunities for them to experience the rich culture and geographical diversity of Colombia.”
During the 21-day course this summer, students will study both on the Caribbean coast, as well as in the coffee regions of Colombia.
“Students will stay in homes and hostels, as they interact with Colombian university students in Barranquilla. Famous for Carnival, this is a modern coastal city with high-rises,” Ballard explained. “They’ll also study in Manizales, a city in the mountainous coffee-growing region of western Colombia. It’s known for its cultural events, steep streets and views.”
While in Colombia, students will also have the opportunity to go to Cartagena de Indias, a historic city of preserved beauty lying within an impressive centuries-old colonial stone wall. Cartagena’s Old Town is a Unesco World Heritage Site—a maze of cobbled alleys, balconies covered in bougainvillea, museums, massive churches and leafy plazas.
“Students in this course will also spend time in Tayrona National Park, which is a magical slice of Colombia’s Caribbean coast, with stunning stretches of golden sandy beach backed by coconut palms and thick rainforest,” Ballard said. “Behind it all, rise the steep hillsides of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the world’s highest coastal mountain range.”
by Kerry Steinhofer
February 25, 2020