UI Student Wins Study Abroad Award

By Brian Morelli, The Iowa City Press-Citizen

A semester studying abroad turned into much more for a University of Iowa student who received a 2010 award recognizing academic accomplishments while studying overseas.

Lauren Sieben, 21, a UI senior from Naperville, Ill., traveled to Philadelphia to accept the Council on International Educational Exchange 2010 Student Recognition Award earlier this month. She was nominated for an article she wrote about a controversial class required in Spain’s school system during her time studying in Seville, a city in southern Spain.

“I was really surprised,” said Sieben, a double major in journalism and Spanish who expects to graduate in December. “This is cliché, but my semester really was so rewarding on its own. This was something above and beyond what I would have expected out of it.”

For a class assignment during her semester abroad last spring, Sieben took on an investigative project about a government-mandated class called Education for Citizenship and the Human Rights. Her article, “Morality goes to school,” which was published in the bilingual student magazine mas+menos, focused on people’s reactions to the class on both sides of the issue.

“It was my first time in Europe, and my first time living outside the Midwest, so it was eye-opening on a number of levels.”

The class has been required at elementary and high school levels since 2007 when it was introduced by Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Spain’s prime minister and a member of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party. The class was met with opposition from people who claimed it blurred the line between underpinnings of the Spanish way of life into socialist indoctrination.

The experience working on the project helped Sieben put aside her inhibitions in order to dive into Spanish culture, learn her way around the city and discuss complex issues in Spanish, she said.

“It forced me to get out into the community and into Seville. It forced me to get to know the community on a deeper level,” she said.

Both the project and the study abroad experience as a whole has helped shape Sieben’s future goals, she said.

Sieben is applying for jobs in and out of journalism for after graduation. Whatever job she lands, her hope is to use her fluency in Spanish and, if she winds up in journalism, to focus on international issues, she said.

“It was my first time in Europe, and my first time living outside the Midwest, so it was eye-opening on a number of levels,” Sieben said.

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