Ohio Wesleyan students visit Spain with professors Eva Paris-Huesca and Andrea Colvin to immerse themselves in Spanish language and culture as part of an OWU Connection Travel-Learning Course. (Photo courtesy of Eva Paris-Huesca)

Invaluable Immersion

Ohio Wesleyan Student Calls Travel-Learning Course the Start of Fulfilling Career Goal

By Cole Hatcher

Name: Baylin Bell ’25
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
High school: Kenwood Academy High School
Majors: Environmental Science and Theatre
Minor: Spanish
OWU Connection Experience: Travel-Learning Course, “SPAN 226 – Spanish Immersion and Walking El Camino de Santiago” in Galicia, Spain

Bell traveled to Spain for two weeks in May and June with OWU classmates Kelly Farran ’25, Emma Foster ’26, Brooke Lenigan ’25, Grace Mahoney ’24, and Graci Semptimphelter ’26 to complete a Travel-Learning Course with professors of Spanish Eva Paris-Huesca, Ph.D., and Andrea Colvin, Ph.D. During the trip, the students immersed themselves in Spanish culture by exploring its history, art, culture, language, and food, as well as walking a portion of El Camino de Santiago (Saint James’ Way).

‘I Wanted to Open My Mind”

“I have always been eager to learn more about the environment and culture of foreign regions outside of America,” Bell says of her decision to take the semester-long course and participate in the trip abroad. “In my opinion, us Americans have adopted a self-centered/closed mindset that prevents us from taking influence from or learning about foreign regions regarding methods of living life (sustainability, laws, morals, education, societal norms, etc.).

“As an aspiring environmental engineer, I wanted to open my mind to different approaches to life that are apart from what I am familiar with. I felt that there was no better way to do so than to fully immerse myself into Spain, go to school, and hike with native Spanish speakers for two weeks.”

My Favorite Moment

Professor Eva Paris-Huesca and student Baylin Bell ’25 enjoy a boat trip during their trip to Spain. (Photo courtesy of Andrea Colvin)

“My favorite moment of the trip was the boat adventure that we had after our first day hiking El Camino De Santiago. After walking nearly 15 miles through wilderness, steep hills, farmlands, and small towns, our group freshened up at a hotel and were welcomed onto a big ship. We steered the ship to a nearby shore, ate some delicious tapas (appetizers/snacks), then jumped off the boat into the water where fish were swimming about.

“We later rowed a paddle board to shore and explored the cliffs, caves, and wildlife that was near the beach. This was my favorite memory of the trip because it brought out the adventurous side of the group and gave us time to explore the environment in a fun, yet relaxing way.”

Lessons Learned

“For the first week of the trip, the participants attended an institution where we increased our knowledge of conjugations, tenses, and helpful phrases. We also learned about certain cultural and historical aspects that were specific to Galicia, the city where we stayed for the week.

“I learned that there are some things in Spanish that cannot be explained, but simply are – much like how there are things in English that may not make sense to someone who is not a native-English speaker. I also enhanced my knowledge of conjugations using various techniques and memorization methods, which was very helpful as someone who has always struggled with past- and future-tense conjugations.

Unforgettable Experience

“I will never forget this course. I truly believe that this course was just the beginning of my goal to become a traveling environmental engineer and ecologist. I was inspired by the sustainable methods that are used in Spain; they have a type of respect for their food, environment, animals, materials, etc. that is not commonly seen in America. I feel that I can implement some of their methods to some environmental projects that I have been planning for limiting waste in the U.S.”

Improved Language Skills

“If you’re like me, a visual and interactive learner, structured courses and textbooks can only take you so far. Being immersed in a foreign region, whether it be for a travel-learning experience or another traveling program, is crucial to fully understand/comprehend foreign languages, cultures, morals, beliefs, and socialization.

“While all of us students were fairly confident in our Spanish-speaking and comprehension skills prior to the trip, it wasn’t until we reached Spain that we realized how much of a difference there was between the Spanish that native speakers use versus what we are taught in school. By the end of the trip, we all improved significantly and were having full-blown conversations with one another, not only using proper Spanish, but implementing Spanish slang, telling jokes, and more!”

Campus Involvements

“I am the vice president of public relations for OWU’s Black Student Union and the co-captain of the majorette dance team, Battling Elite Stars. I am also involved in the Theatre Department for acting and technical theatre.”

Why I Chose Ohio Wesleyan

“OWU granted me tons of scholarships and encouraged me to pursue my very different majors and minor (Environmental Sciences, Theatre, and Spanish) instead of telling me that pursuing all of my interests was impossible or unlikely. They gave me hope for a future of pursuing any career I would like to pursue in the future.”

My Plans After Graduation

“I plan to be an ecologist or an environmental engineer who travels to different parts of the world to study different methods of sustainability. I would like to use my knowledge to create ways to preserve the environment and save the world from perishing.

“OWU has prepared me for this by providing me with environmental and sustainability courses, language courses, and Travel-Learning Courses that allow me to immerse myself in various regions of the world for a more hands-on experience.”