Step inside professor Leonor Cadena’s Fullerton College office, and it’s clear she has an affinity for international travel. The anthropology Ph.D. works surrounded by objects such as an authentic wooden carving from the Toltec region of Mexico. She has collected pieces like this one from her past foreign trips, including those where she has led students.

Anthropology professor Leonor Cadena displays a wooden carving of the Mayan god of maize in her Fullerton College office, which she picked up during her 2007 trip to the Yucatan peninsula.

Anthropology professor Leonor Cadena displays a wooden carving of the Mayan god of maize in her Fullerton College office, which she picked up during her 2007 trip to the Yucatan peninsula. Photo credit: Aaliyah Skipper

Cadena is one of two instructors leading the FC study abroad trip to Seville, Spain, in spring 2023, marking the end of the program’s nearly three-year hiatus due to COVID-19. On a recent fall afternoon, she reflected on the rewarding experience of accompanying students during such travel.

“It’s been great because I get to know students at a total different level. I get to do mentoring one-on-one when we’re sitting on the bus, when we’re having dinner, when we’re having breakfast. . . Many of them later on again continue to travel with me, and we continue to stay in touch.”

Cadena has 16 years of experience in traveling with students abroad, accompanying students on educational tours to countries including Australia, Italy, and Thailand. Until 2018, she relied on third-party companies such as Explorica and EF Tours to conduct her trips abroad. A semester in Florence, Italy marked her first time with Fullerton College’s Study Abroad Program.

In Cadena's office, two wooden dolls model the authentic clothing of the Tzotzil/Chamula Maya community (left and right). Subcomandante Marcos from the Zapatista Army of National Liberation is portrayed in doll form (middle). Cadena purchased these dolls in Mexico in 2002.

In Cadena's office, two wooden dolls model the authentic clothing of the Tzotzil/Chamula Maya community (left and right). Subcomandante Marcos from the Zapatista Army of National Liberation is portrayed in doll form (middle). Cadena purchased these dolls in Mexico in 2002. Photo credit: Aaliyah Skipper

Among the 40 students traveling to Seville, Spain with Cadena is Juliette Pinedo-Serrato, an environmental science major. She spoke about how traveling to Seville may influence her connection to her culture.

Environmental Science major, Juliette Pinedo-Serrato, lounges in the Fullerton College quad on Wednesday before sharing her experience in the Study Abroad program.

Environmental Science major, Juliette Pinedo-Serrato, lounges in the Fullerton College quad on Wednesday before sharing her experience in the Study Abroad program.

“I grew up Mexican, and so I also have a lot of Spanish and Latino heritage. Learning about a lot of my own origins is going to be really influential for me to feel more in tune with my culture so I can be more proud of it, especially since I’m a second-generation student.”

Seville will offer an array of cultural and academic offerings for those on the trip to experience.

Course highlights include an anthropology class Cadena is teaching focused on magic, witchcraft, and religion, where students will be learning at the location where witch trials took place during the Spanish Inquisition. In their off time, students can partake in opportunities such as attending the world’s largest flamenco festival and eating authentic tapas.

Students will be attending planned excursions to Gibraltar, Madrid, and Granada, which are included in the trip’s fees. They will also have the option of participating in additional excursions to Portugal and Morocco.

Fullerton College business instructor Kathy Standen and students listen as Angela Henderson, Study Abroad Program coordinator, leads an on-campus Seville information session on Sep. 7, 2022.

Fullerton College business instructor Kathy Standen and students listen as Angela Henderson, Study Abroad Program coordinator, leads an on-campus Seville information session on Sep. 7, 2022. Photo credit: Aaliyah Skipper

Pinedo-Serrato picked up extra shifts at Trader Joe’s this summer to help cover costs for studying in Spain. The trip will cost about $8,200 excluding airfare to Madrid, tuition, books, passports, and meals. Financial support is available for students through scholarships and grants, such as the Gilman Scholarship offered by the U.S. Department of State.

To be accepted for Seville, Pinedo-Serrato applied online and had a personal interview with the trip staff: Cadena, Study Abroad Program coordinator Angela Henderson, and business instructor Kathy Standen. During the process, she was provided with a sense of security about traveling during the ongoing pandemic.

“The coordinators that we’re going with and the program that we’re going with provide us with 100%, 24/7, hands-on medical help if we need it,” said Pinedo-Serrato.

Safety is top of mind for Cadena, who recently completed a summer trip to eight different European countries over the span of sixteen days. There, face masks were a necessity on packed subways despite the 104-degree weather as she strove to safely provide students with diverse cultural experiences amidst the pandemic.

COVID vaccines continue to decrease the spread of the disease, restoring the opportunity for safe international travel. According to Cadena, a vaccination requirement is in place for the trip to Seville, ensuring safety and consideration for public health. Although the NOCCCD will no longer require students to be vaccinated as of Jan. 1, 2022, students who wish to study abroad will still need to be vaccinated to travel.

The anthropology instructor compares her traveling approach to providing familial support. “If you can see your students the way you would want your own children to be treated, it’s so powerful. Because then you start caring at a different level. They become not only human beings that are important–they become your people, your family, and the way you do things changes.”

Applications for the Study Abroad program to Seville are due Oct. 17, 2022. Students can look forward to experiencing Spain under Cadena’s guidance as the opportunity for a culturally diverse education is restored.

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