Last night Dr. Ana Martínez, Assistant Academic Dean, and Katryn Evinson, Senior Academic Advisor and Experiential Learning Coordinator, gave a presentation to members of FOCIR (Federation of Internationally Recognized Organizations of Catalonia) on our volunteering program. The purpose of this assembly was to illustrate how foreign students can be integrated in FOCIR members’ efforts to internationalize. This was an ideal forum for showcasing the advantages of setting up volunteering agreements with CEA Barcelona, especially for the many local organizations in sore need of English speakers. Ana outlined how volunteering fits within CEA’s experiential learning framework and furthers our goal of intercultural awareness. Katryn pointed out that the number of students volunteering has been steadily increasing and provided a summary of the already impressive roster of organizations with which CEA has agreements, including, among others, the Department of Education of the government of Catalonia. Representatives from local organizations raised their concerns about the challenges of integrating volunteers staying for only a semester and about the impact of students’ limited knowledge of the local cultural context. In response to this Ana and Katryn emphasized the importance of placing students in organizations and roles which take advantage of students’ strengths, namely their knowledge of English. She also made clear that CEA provides substantial logistical support and follow-up to both students and host organizations to ensure that placements are productive for everyone involved. Under Ana and Katryn’s leadership volunteering at CEA Barcelona has expanded and evolved, and it is heartening to see further inroads being made with local partners.
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