When I started my PhD, around the expectations and outcomes of USA students in Study Abroad programs in Spain, the University of Sevilla didn’t know which mentor professor would be tutoring my research; they could find no expert on Interculturality related to foreign non European students. The reasons were simple but somehow shocking.
Intercultural affairs and cross-culturality in Spain are mainly understood regarding two different processes: the migration of Spaniards towards other European countries during the 50’s and 60’s, and the immigration of citizens mostly from South American and Northern African countries to Spain from the 90’s on. According to the Instituto Nacional de Estadística (NIE), from 1998 the number of foreign citizens registered in Spain increased by ten, going from 1’6% of the total population in 1998 to a 12’2% in 2016, meaning 4’6 million people. Provided this, interculturality initiatives were mainly thought for this new population and most of the efforts done to improve intercultural sensitivity were addressed to multicultural classrooms and environments where children born from immigrants are learning and living together.
If we look at the University level context, classrooms have always been filled with Spaniards and some European students through the Erasmus Program, but the incorporation of USA students to local University classrooms is a “new” scenario. And these students usually share a different profile from that of the European students; they have a different background, different needs and different expectations. But local faculty and administrators have still little knowledge of what these are. Study Abroad programs are doing their best trying to incorporate USA students to local classrooms as a way of integration into the culture, and in order to do that, they need to let local faculty and administrators know that USA students are also active participants of this intercultural environment, that they are not only tourists enrolled in an educational program, but individuals who aim to achieve a good level of integration and are willing to be part of it.