Meghann Peace: Hello, my name is Meghann Peace and I am a professor of Spanish Linguistics at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas.
Instituto Franklin-UAH: How long have you been collaborating with Instituto Franklin-UAH and why?
Mp: It is now all over two years because I first began in January 2016 as a field director and since then I have had very positive relationships with the Instituto Franklin-UAH. I have been highly collaborating.
IF: What are some highlights of your stay here at Instituto Franklin-UAH?
MP: Well, obviously getting to know the city of Alcalá de Henares, being able to teach a class and do research.That felt so nicely, so much better than I have ever managed any other semester that I’ve taught. They were perfect, they went exactly together. The class that I taught, the world from the other… It was wonderful students. And it was simply of course living in Alcalá de Henares, being able to travel around Spain, being able to meet so many people here in Alcalá.
IF: What opportunities have you had access to during your stay at Instituto Franklin-UAH? (research, conferences, etc.)
MP: When I was here, I was able to contribute to the blog Diálogo Atlántico. I wrote an entry on US-Spanish and the differences and misunderstandings that may occur when speakers of Spanish come to the US to study abroad. They speak the language but they speak a very different version. I also, with Isabel Kentengian, from the college of New Jersey, we were able to present a teaching and interpretation on US-Spanish to master students in the Universidad de Alcalá. That was a really wonderful experience. Also, I was able to attend a conference on discourse in Pamplona.
IF: Is it easy to run the program here?
MP: Oh, yes. It is very easy to run the program here, there is so much to point at the Instituto Franklin-UAH. There are many issues to highlight, there are many right people you have here who are ready to assist you and they advised me about what I needed to do… There are excellent opportunities such as trips to Madrid, Toledo, to Zaragoza and Extremadura. Definitely, it is very easy to run the program.
IF: How is the staff here at the Instituto Franklin-UAH?
MP: It is wonderful, I love seeing you, I love working with you. The fact that it is two years later and that when I arrived I said ‘Hello, coming back’ and everybody received with such a more welcome…
IF: Why should other professors do this program?
MP: First of all, I tell the students all the time: you have to study abroad because once you graduate from University you won’t have the opportunity to travel to another country for three or four months. I did have that opportunity thanks to Instituto Franklin-UAH and it was incredible, and then, your teaching, your research, your relationship with your students and your ability to connect with them.
IF: What do you think Alcala offers that a large city like Madrid does not?
MP: I think Alcalá is rather perfect, actually, because it is a small city that looks like a town sometimes. It is comfortable and it is very safe. When I started walking around to visit La Plaza Cervantes and other places, I’ve never felt unsafe. Then, of course, the benefit is that it is very close to Madrid, so if you would like to have the big city experience, you can get there very easily. Thus, it offers a small town and city all together. It is incredibly easy to get to the airport as well, everything is very well connected: the bus, the train…
IF: How can this program benefit other professors in their careers?
MP: Well, everything I have done is wonderful for my career. I have already talked about the talk that I decided to give to the masters students in the Universidad de Alcalá, I have talked about the conference that I was able to take in the Universidad de Pamplona and then I insist on all the research that I did here and that I simply couldn’t do in the United States. Since then, I have had some success with all the work that I have done, I have written several manuscripts which I hope to have published, I have done multiple confidence presentations with background on the manuscripts that I wrote. I have run other extra research projects such as one that was based on the class activity that I had done. I asked three students to participate and that lead my research to success. The presentation was accepted as a conference in Indiana, actually.
IF: How can this program benefit students? Do you think it is better for the students to be here for a semester or just for a month program?
MP: I think what would benefit students most is to come here for the whole year. I think the more you can do it the better, and I do understand that, because when I was an undergraduate I wanted to study abroad for the whole year. The program that I applied to had a semester and a year program. I really wanted to do the year but I couldn’t. Obviously, a month is better than nothing, and a semester is better than one month, but a whole year is better than a semester. As much as you can possibly get within your degree plan try to create it because there are ways to make it work.
IF: Is there anything you wish you would have known before coming here?
MP: I felt very comfortable because I knew I was familiar with the country and with the language and I knew that was not going to be a problem. Nevertheless, for those people who have no experience with the country, mostly for the students, a cultural introduction is helpful because sometimes you don’t understand people and you think they are being rude but this is just the way they are. Telling these differences first would be very helpful.
IF: For sure. Okay, Meghann. Thank you very much. It’s been a pleasure.
MP: Of course, it was a pleasure. Thank you.
Meghann M. Peace is a Ph.D. teacher from St.Mary´s University San Antonio, Texas who has been bringing students to Study Abroad in Alcala for several years. This is her experience collaborating with the Instituto Franklin-UAH.