Spanish and Business Major Studies Abroad

Kevin Beck sets up his own study abroad program at Pontifical Catholic University of Peru

Visiting the amazing world heritage sites Machu Picchu and the Nazca Lines, seeing Lake Titicaca and taking a trip through the Amazon jungle are but a few of the things Kevin Beck, a junior at Roanoke College, did during his year abroad in Peru. He wanted to improve his Spanish language skills and learn more about Hispanic customs. The only way he saw of fulfilling his ambition was to completely immerse himself in a foreign culture.


Beck is a double major in business administration and Spanish and a part of Roanoke's Honors program. "I couldn't imagine finishing a Spanish major without studying abroad and actually seeing the culture and getting into the language," he says. That is why he made the decision to study at Lima's oldest private higher-learning institution, the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru.


Beck chose one of the most prestigious universities in Peru as his destination. Although Roanoke College did not have a direct exchange program with the institution of his choice, he had no trouble arranging for credits to be transferred.


Dr. Lynn Talbot, chairperson of the Foreign Languages Department and Beck's academic advisor, was impressed with his ambition to study in Peru. Talbot helped Beck decipher some of the official documents and suggested possible classes that he could take while at the host university. "I've never had such a resourceful student before - he found what he wanted, and then created his own study abroad program," she says.


Beck overcame the language barrier and adapted to the new culture while taking unusual classes with demanding professors. "It was challenging, but it was what I wanted to do," he says. Beck lived in Lima with a Peruvian family arranged through his host university. He chose this option because it allowed him to immerse himself in the culture completely. "It was great. I lived right down the street from the Pacific Ocean," Beck says.


The two children spoke English, but the mother and the maid spoke only Spanish. Originally from Huntington Station, N.Y., Beck had never been outside the United States before. He explains that Peruvians were not completely dissimilar to people where he was from; the only differences he saw were cultural.


Beck received the Fowler Legacy scholarship to assist in his travels abroad. The program provides opportunities for students to pursue educational experiences related to public issues that extend beyond the classroom. It enabled Beck to experience the culture by visiting amazing ancient locations such as the lost city of the Incas and the gigantic geoglyphs located in the Nazca dessert.


Talbot says that Beck had a clearly outstanding experience. "Not everyone could have done what Kevin did because it requires an adventurous spirit and a willingness to face the unknown alone, but for someone like Kevin, this was a perfect option," she says.

Released: May 25, 2007