BMCC’s Study Abroad Programs

BMCC students in 2008, on the way to dinner in Lucca, Tuscany.

BMCC students in 2008, on the way to dinner in Lucca, Tuscany.
January 20, 2009

BMCC is fortunate enough to sponsor overseas learning opportunities for students wishing to study in another country, and this summer, BMCC students will be studying abroad in Ghana, Africa; Oviedo, Spain and Viareggio, Italy.

Its History and How it Works

BMCC has offered study abroad programs since 1973, but funding for the programs was not finalized until the 1980’s, when a referendum was passed allowing money— roughly $90,000—from Student Activities to be designated to fund study abroad programs.

This money is overseen by the BMCC Association, and is used to cover 60 percent of the program costs for all BMCC students taking their first study abroad course. (Naturally, these students meet the requirements necessary to be selected for the program.) This money is generally referred to as the BMCC Association Scholarship.

The remaining 40 percent must be paid by the students; however, there is a CUNY-wide scholarship called the STOCS scholarship that students can apply for to cover much of this additional 40 percent.

Most students do not receive STOCS funding, but those who do may receive enough money to cover all but $100-$200 of the costs, when coupled with the BMCC Association money. Additionally, students must pay tuition and fees for the study abroad courses, just as if they were taken at BMCC during the summer.

Green Light: Italy, Ghana and Spain

Five proposals were submitted this year to the BMCC Administration and Study Abroad Committee, for programs in Italy, Ghana, Spain, Costa Rica and France. But because of the budget, not all proposed overseas courses can operate; this year, the Committee recommended that Italy, Ghana, and Spain all run this summer, for four weeks, with Costa Rica and France on standby.

This summer, students heading to Viareggio, Italy will travel with BMCC Professor Michael Giammarella, who has worked with the study abroad program since its inception.

Students studying abroad in Ghana, Africa will accompany BMCC Professor Andrew Smallwood; Professors Alicia Perdomo and Francesca Suarez-Coalla of the Modern Languages Department are coordinating the Oviedo, Spain program. (Perdomo will be traveling to Spain with the students).

Meanwhile, the two standby programs to Costa Rica and France are spearheaded by Professors Segundo Pantoja and Valerie Thiers-Tiam, respectively.

“I love culture and want to see the world,” said BMCC student Yury Delatorre at the Study Abroad Informational Fair, which was held at BMCC in early December. “I’m a video arts major and I want to someday make documentaries about the countries I’ve been to. I want to see the world.”

Delatorre didn’t know yet which program interested him most. “All of them,” he said.

Student Daniel Lee said he was curious about the Italy program. “These programs seem interesting, and I want to try something new,” he said.

Last summer, a group of BMCC students taking classes in France and were excited to be ‘minor celebrities’ when they were interviewed on French television and radio. Also in 2008, the BMCC students studying in Italy had a surprise visitor—BMCC President Antonio Pérez and his wife, who joined them on a weekend excursion.

What to Expect

Professor Giammarella stresses that these programs are academic, and students are expected to meet their academic requirements when abroad.

“For Italy, it’s 5 days a week of classes including immersion courses taught by the faculty of a host school,” he said.

Last year, BMCC students attended classes at Istituto Linguistico Mediterraneo. According to Professor Giammarella, they had morning classes, taught by faculty of the host school and in the afternoon. Students took a combination of various social science courses such as history, geography and current events.

“They’ll learn about the Italian political system. They will have exams and presentations and textbooks,” said Professor Giammarella.

In Italy, students lived in a hotel close to the school and had two meals a day, which in included in the tuition fee. They also went on two excursions.

Students studying abroad meet in advance to learn more about their overseas classes and what to expect from their overseas journey. They are either assigned—or can request—their roommates. Everyone flies and returns together.

Professor Smallwood, of BMCC’s Center for Ethnic Studies, said the Ghana students will be staying at the University of Ghana campus, and traveling to different parts of the country visiting historical sites.

“They’ll have the opportunity to not only learn about the history of Ghana and West Africa, but there’s a hands-on aspect—they’ll be meeting people and bringing the campus to the community and community to the campus.”

Smallwood says students will even study some Twi—one of the official languages of Ghana—although a fluency in Twi is not a specific language requirement for the program.

Perdomo says the purpose of her SPN 476 Hispanic Heritage class this summer is to “consolidate knowledge of popular and sentimental Spanish literature and expose students to the different aspects of Spanish culture and history.”

BMCC student Loreni Cespedes studied abroad in Italy last summer. “I like history and I knew Italy had so much of it,” she said. “I advise students to listen to the language and get accustomed to hearing it.”

Requirements for Study Abroad

The requirements to attend a study abroad program vary slightly. Depending on the program, some level of fluency of the language is required. To be eligible for study in Italy, Ghana or Spain this summer, BMCC students must complete 12 real credits by deadline and have a minimum GPA of 2.5. The study abroad programs are actual 3-credit courses.

Roughly 12-15 students attend each study abroad program, and can be of any major.

This year’s BMCC study abroad students will be overseas June 2nd to June 27th for Ghana; and July 4th to July 30th for Oviedo and Viareggio.

“The college is very supportive of our students receiving the best education possible. Here at BMCC, we ask students to participate in an academic experience that is very rewarding and and allows students to get a taste of what’s beyond the classroom experience,” said Erwin Wong, BMCC’s Dean of Student Affairs.

“It’s not a vacation—you’re going to get an academic experience that is supplemented by Student Activities,” he said. “It’s a very enriching experience.”


Students can pick up program applications, and find out more information, from the following coordinators. Please Note: The dates for these programs coincide with the Summer I and Summer II sessions.

Dr. Andrew Smallwood, Office: S640,
AFN 253: The Black Experience in Africa; Ghana, Africa
Program runs June 2nd, 2009 to June 27, 2009

Prof. Alicia Perdomo, Room: N546,
SPN 476 Hispanic Heritage; Oviedo, Spain
Program runs July 4th 2009 to July 30, 2009

Prof. Michael Giammarella, Room: S329,
SSC 150 Field Experience in Italy; Viareggio, Italy
Program runs July 4th 2009 to July 30, 2009

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