The university administration is considering updates to the study abroad programs in Leipzig, Germany and Montevideo, Uruguay.
During the February board meeting, a motion was made and approved to delegate to the Finance Committee the authority to approve the purchase and renovation of a property at a total cost not to exceed $4.7 million in Leipzig. In the southwestern hemisphere, restructuring for the Montevideo study abroad program will continue to develop.
Slade Sullivan, general counsel for the university, said the board’s decision will allow the university to purchase permanent property for the program in Leipzig. However, the finalization is subject to a recommendation from the administration with a rationale for the purchase and renovation price, as well as a proposed deal structure and suggested financing strategy.
Stephen Shewmaker, executive director of the Center for International Education, said the university has been looking at several properties in Leipzig.
“We’re moving forward with investigating options and properties, and have a couple of specific opportunities that we’re interested in right now,” he said. “But things are progressing and the university feels like this is the right time for us to take this next step there.”
In past years, ACU administration did not purchase land for the Oxford, England study abroad program when they had the opportunity. Now, the real estate prices have risen to the point that procuring of property at a reasonable price is a challenge.
Shewmaker said this was most likely an influence on the board’s decision, but not the driving factor.
“We can see that the real estate market has appreciated in Leipzig quite a bit and that will last a decade, and it is likely for the kinds of property that we would want, but also need just in terms of size, that those are not available to the extent that they were ten years ago,” he said. “And all the projections are that they will continue to increase in value in the areas and neighborhoods we would want to be in.”
For the location, Shewmaker said he’s looking into the same general area because the current location is close and connected to a great area for the students to flourish in. However, none of the prospective facilities are located in the same neighborhood.
“We’ll continue to look but we do feel like that’s something that we would like to accomplish in the short term, in the next 12 to 18 months,” Shewmaker said.
He said the recent attacks in Belgium are not deterring the university from keeping the Oxford and Leipzig programs in place.
“All of our programs will run as normal this summer,” Shewmaker said. “We are restricting student travel from Belgium, so for Oxford students or Germany students, we’re asking them to not travel to Belgium for the time being. We’ll probably keep that in place for our summer groups, too.”
Shewmaker said no students have dropped out of this summer’s programs because of safety and security concerns.
“I think that people have grown accustomed to things happening in the world and its naturally more concerning when they’re places that many people have traveled to or feel some connection to,” he said. “But yes, it’s certainly something that we’re thinking a lot about, always have.”
As for the program in Montevideo, Shewmaker said the university is renting property in the Pocitos neighborhood only for the fall semester. However, the university is still investigating operating a homestay program, which is something Shewmaker said he hopes will be done sooner rather than later.
Dr. Paul Roggendorff, director of world languages, said the location, local coordinators and meals were determined, but many other aspects of the program are still under discussion.
Breakfast and lunch will be catered by a Raijes Alvarez’s nearby restaurant in the Pocitos facility. Alvarez is the sister of Riaz Bravo Alvarez, one of the local coordinators that’s been working with the university to develop the study abroad program after Casa ACU closed.
Roggendorff is now working on figuring out the classes portion of the program. He said the same teachers will be used to teach grammar, communication and literature classes, but he doesn’t know if university will continue to send students to the Catholic University for classes or have the teachers come to the facility.
Additionally, Roggendorff said he is hoping to contract with a non-governmental organization called Montevideo International Students. The operators of the NGO, two women who graduated from the Catholic University with a degree in hospitality, wanted to address the problem of students arriving in the city and not knowing how to integrate into the social aspect of the culture.
Rogendorff said MIS meets once a week to hang out, play volleyball, complete volunteer work and more. He said it could be a way for international students from any university to interact with Uruguayans. Additionally, Roggendorff said he hopes the NGO will help in planning some of the program’s outings, such as those to Peru, Argentina and Rocha, Uruguay, and possibly make it a more fun experience because the young women would know what the students were interested in.
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