07:01 AM

From Guatemala to Spain: One WCTC student’s journey to learn Spanish


Olivia Deuster, Palmyra, Wis., a level 4 Nursing student at Waukesha County Technical College, has paired her love of nursing with her interest in travel and desire to learn the Spanish language.

In January 2019, Deuster travelled to Guatemala with 11 other students and instructors for a health-focused education abroad program. The group spent 10 days learning about the culture and history of the local Mayan people and providing health checkups for pre-school aged children.

The group worked with a local non-profit agency to install fuel-efficient stoves and cost-effective water filters, and provide meals at the local community center. None of the participants were fluent Spanish speakers, which inspired Deuster to continue on an international education journey to learn Spanish.

“While I was down in Guatemala, I loved being able to help others and share love and laughter with everyone, but I had wished that my Spanish-speaking abilities were better. I have previously taken three years of Spanish in high school but was not as competent as I would have liked to be.”

Upon returning from the trip, Deuster connected with WCTC’s Global Education Center to learn more about other education abroad opportunities, and she discovered WCTC was a member of the Illinois Consortium of International Studies and Programs (ICISP). As a student of a member institution, Deuster was eligible to apply for a semester or summer program in six countries around the world.

Because of her strong desire to learn Spanish, Deuster choose to participate in a 2019 summer program at the International College of Seville in Spain with nearly 20 other students from ICISP member colleges. A unique component of this ICISP program was that all students stayed with host families along with one other ICISP student. Deuster’s host was a mother with two older daughters and a son. The mother spoke no English she and Deuster were able to communicate with the help of technology and language skills acquired through the program. “You really get to be immersed in the culture (when you stay with a host family) and it was so cool to be able to try different Spanish cuisines and recipes.”

Throughout the four-week summer program, Deuster took classes for four hours learning Spanish and Spanish culture. “Studying Spanish for multiple hours a day helped grow my confidence in speaking Spanish – especially once I returned to my host family and had to communicate with them.” A component of the Culture & Society in Spain class included excursions throughout Seville and the region. Reflecting on some of these cultural activities, Deuster commented on how religious the bull fighting felt: “I am not one to support violence towards animals but there was something intriguing about the art of bull fighting and the ceremonial way they honored the bull.”

The experience in both Guatemala and Spain helped to broaden her cultural perspective.

“It’s so great to be open-minded – especially being a nurse -- because you are going to be seeing and working with people from all different cultures. America is a diverse place and we need to be able to understand and relate to people from all over,” Deuster said.

WCTC offers six to seven education abroad opportunities every year, in addition to programs offered through ICISP. “I really want people to know these opportunities exist,” Deuster said. “There is so much negative stigma about attending a technical college, but I am attending (one of) the best nursing programs in the state and I am able to participate in a study abroad program, which will both prepare me for the healthcare field in southeast Wisconsin.”