Associate Professor Idoia Elola, International Faculty at TTU
Dr. Idoia Elola is an Associate Professor in the Department of Classical and Modern Languages and Literatures where she teaches Spanish, Applied Linguistics and Second Language Studies. She is also the academic director of the Spanish program for the Texas Tech University campus in Seville, Spain. Recently, she was recognized as a Texas Tech Integrated Scholar and was an Office of International Affairs Global Vision Award winner for the Donald R. Haragan Study Abroad Award in 2017. Dr. Elola grew up in the Basque country of northern Spain. After completing her undergraduate and master's degrees in Spain, she received her Doctorate in Foreign Language Acquisition Research and Education at the University of Iowa. She joined the faculty at Texas Tech University in 2005.
Dr. Elola embodies the essence of study abroad. She spent her senior year of high school as an exchange student living in a small town in Illinois. “I am the result of a study abroad program. It changed my life in such a positive way. I fell in love with English when I came to the United States and I learned so much not only about language and culture, but also about myself.”
Dr. Elola sees the same transformation in the Texas Tech students who study abroad in Seville. One of her many passions about teaching Spanish is encouraging students to study abroad. She explains that when Texas Tech students first arrive in Spain, they are happy and excited to be there. Later, many students go through a period of uncertainty as they learn to deal with a new culture. “At the end of the program, it's amazing to see a student embrace the study abroad experience and realize that they can be a part of this culture. For me, that moment is great.” Dr. Elola has worked hard to improve the Seville curriculum so it maintains high academic standards while increasing the student's cultural awareness. Since Dr. Elola started at Texas Tech in 2005, over 3,400 students have studied abroad at the Seville campus, all benefitting from the excellence of the Spanish program.
Dr. Elola also loves to see the growth in the graduate students who spend time teaching in Seville. She is instrumental in the selection of instructors to teach in Seville and mentors them through weekly skype sessions during the semester. “Teaching in Seville allows the graduate students to look at their curriculum with a different perspective, incorporating the city of Seville into their lessons. They are more creative when they are in Seville and come back more confident about their teaching.”
Dr. Elola feels that one of the challenges of her job at Texas Tech is helping the university understand the importance of study abroad. The university promotes the idea of global citizenship, but she feels that to really become a global citizen, a student should experience another culture by spending time in that country. “Higher education should be more about providing opportunities for students to get out of their comfort zone, either in Texas, the United States or another country. Many times, we tend to say that studying abroad is great for a student's professional life. You learn another language, you get a better job and earn more money. I agree with that. But more important is the personal growth and understanding about what global citizenship really means. It is important to eliminate the concept of the “other person” as someone who is opposite from you. The study abroad experience allows the students to have a better understanding of people who come to this country as well.” One of the biggest obstacles for students to participate in a study abroad program is the cost. Dr. Elola would like to find a way to make studying abroad more accessible to students. Her mission is to expose as many students as possible to the transformational experience of study abroad. As the Seville program continues to grow, this mission is well on its way to success.