The Collegian
Thursday, February 29, 2024

Exchange coordinators express benefits of education abroad

Patricia Campo, of Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, hasn't been relaxing during her visit to the University of Richmond.

As part of a two-week visit that began Nov. 3, Campo, who is the study abroad program coordinator at Pompeu Fabra, has been meeting with faculty, visiting administrative offices and meeting with future study-abroad students. She has also been helping Michele Cox, the director of international programs, in the Office of International Education.

Pompeu Fabra has been one of Richmond's partner schools since 2006, Cox said.

There are currently 10 Richmond students studying there, Campo said, taking classes in both Spanish and Catalan, which is the official language of Barcelona and the main language of the university. There aren't any Pompeu Fabra students at Richmond this semester, because they typically come during the spring, Cox said.

Campo's job at Pompeu Fabra is to work with the American students and help them if they have problems, such as difficulties with housing or academics, she said. Senior Laura Simion said Campo had helped her create her class schedule when she studied there.

Because Pompeu Fabra is well-known in Spain for its business program, said Sharon Feldman, an associate professor of Spanish and the chairwoman of Latin American and Iberian Studies, many Richmond students go there to study business. Pompeu Fabra, with an undergraduate student body of 10,000, Campo said, also has a good biology program.

Campo's visit to Richmond was funded by the Catalan government, said Cox, who thought it was interesting that "the government has invested this money for professional development of staff working at universities in Spain."

Many faculty and staff members from partner schools have come to visit Richmond, she said, but Campo is only the fourth one to come on an extended visit. Her stay has been the longest, with people coming previously from Queen Mary University and the National Taiwan University. Her exchange also differs because the other visitors' universities had paid for them to come, Cox said.

Campo said her experience at Richmond would help her back at Pompeu Fabra because she had learned more about Richmond students' study abroad expectations.

"Because we work so differently," she said, "sometimes you're surprised by some of the questions or issues that may come up. But now that I've been here, I know how they work. So more sympathy for all of their issues."

Campo is not the only one who will benefit from her visit; so will Cox and other staff in the Office of International Education. Cox said Campo's visit would help strengthen relationships between the international education offices of the two universities, something that usually could only be done through e-mail. Cox also said since she had not visited Pompeu Fabra yet, she would get to learn more about it.

One of the aspects Campo praised Richmond for when talking about the two universities' differences was the services that Richmond provided for students. She said Pompeu Fabra, a much larger public university, didn't have the same funds and therefore couldn't offer its students the same treatment.

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Referring to the dining hall, Campo said: "I would say not even in a good, private Spanish university you would find such a variety. Not only as food is concerned, but you know, in all the senses."

Campo, who is not a native of Barcelona but considers herself "half-Catalan" after living there for more than six years, has been working at Pompeu Fabra for five years. She likes having the opportunity to build relationships with students studying abroad from other countries, she said, although she deals with so many students that it's not possible to get to know them all. The international education office at Pompeu Fabra gets 400 students every three months, she said.

She loves working in Richmond's Office of International Education, and has learned a lot during her stay, she said.

"It's so different," Campo said, "from where I come from, where I work, it's been a wonderful experience, and I'm still learning. I wish I could stay longer, maybe until Christmas."

Contact reporter Elizabeth Hyman at elizabeth.hyman@richmond.edu

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