A semester in the making, Casa ACU officially closed its doors Dec. 31.
Though the university’s contract with the church leasing the building ended, the program will continue. However, the long-term goal of a homestay program will most likely be put on hold for fall 2016.
Instead, Stephen Shewmaker said students will be living in a dorm-like facility, like a hotel, a hostel or managed apartments.
“We have started on [the homestay program] in small ways,” said Shewmaker, executive director of the Center for International Education. “We didn’t make as much progress on that in the fall as I had hoped we would have, with all the work of bringing to an end our presence in [Casa ACU].”
Dr. Paul Roggendorff, assistant professor in the Department of Language and Literature and director of World Languages, has been working with the office to develop its program in Latin America. Having been raised in Argentina and participated in homestay programs during his own collegiate experience, Roggendorff was responsible for identifying good families and contacts in Montevideo for continuing and bettering the program.
However, because he remained in Abilene for the greater portion of 2015, doing so proved to be difficult. Additionally, the on-site director in the fall, Wimon Walker, expressed a desire to work part-time in an attempt to better prepare his return to residency in the United States.
Foreseeing these difficulties, the office of study abroad asked a family living in the church building to live in Casa ACU to help Dr. Beatriz Walker, the resident faculty member in the fall, manage the students.
The family, Diego and Riaza Bravo, moved in last summer and proved to be a great addition to the immersion program, practicing Spanish with students and helping familiarize them with the Uruguayan customs and sites.
Diego continues to work with the office, Shewmaker said, and will do so for awhile as the program is developed and solidified.
“We need to ensure that we have a place for students to stay. And, if at the same time we can find enough host families for students and execute that in the fall, then that’s what we would want to do,” Shewmaker said. “But if we are not able to do that, to the host family level, then we still want to run a high-quality program in the fall. So he’ll be a part of helping us.”
Though other locations in Latin America had been looked at and discussed as better sites for the Spanish immersion program, Shewmaker said they’ll most likely stay in Uruguay.
“We have some flexibility right now in being able to do that, and it would be foolish not to, but there’s a lot of unique things that make Montevideo a fantastic place for ACU students to spend a semester,” Shewmaker said.
The office is looking into property in the Pocitos area, closer to the Punta Carretas shopping area and La Rambla community area.
Roggendorff said the office has a location in mind, but nothing has been finalized.
“I think it’ll be definitive once we put down a payment. They usually bring in college students one at a time that want to do study abroad in Montevideo, and so they’re not used to working this far ahead of time,” Roggendorf said. “So, we’re actually trying to convince them to please take our deposit. But they’re really excited about us moving in and taking the whole place.”
If the property is secured, it would include individual rooms for up to 17 people, a washer and dryer, community room, kitchen, patio, grill, classrooms and bathrooms.
Many specifics, like food, are still being arranged, but the program will still include the 10-day trip to Peru, a week or so for free-time vacation, service learning opportunities, medical and traveler’s insurance and transportation between Abilene and Montevideo.
Roggendorff is traveling to Montevideo later in February to finalize everything, but will conduct interest meetings Friday at 11:30 a.m. in Admin 329 and Feb. 9 at 11:30 a.m. in Admin 329.
Spots are still available for the program, and more information can be found at https://www.facebook.com/ACUMVD16/?fref=ts