Study abroad returns, Carrieres lead Italy trip
By Jessica Arroyo
Bridge contributing writer
Published Thursday, April 14, 2022
[Editor’s Note: This story is a follow-up to our February 2022 article titled “TAMIU study abroad returns.”]
With trips around the globe back on the menu, students can once again explore through faculty-led programs.
Texas A&M International University language studies faculty members Julien F. Carriere and Melody Carriere plan to lead their program once again as study abroad returns May 31 to June 29. The destination is Florence, Italy, for their first trip since 2019—before the pandemic began.
“We’ve been leading abroad programs since the early 2000s,” Melody Carriere said, “but we’ve been traveling together since ‘98 in terms of just going abroad.”
The Carrieres explored new horizons for years and have the experience to take students to a new destination.
“That’s one thing I actually should probably tell the students more, because I feel like a lot of programs—maybe the faculty are maybe new to the country as well,” Melody Carriere said, “but that’s definitely not the case with us. Since we’re language professors, we’re really familiar with both France and Italy and the places that we take our students.”
They have the awareness and proficiency to handle newcomers to international travel.
Furthermore, the students can expect to learn about art history, language and culture while simultaneously living with a family in their homes.
“It’s an emerging experience,” Melody Carriere said. “Our students live with families also. They are with another student but in a family, so they get to know the Italian or French families in question, and they form bonds with that family.”
Despite the pandemic, the demand for the trip returned.
“Recruiting has been challenging, but demand is still strong, people still want to go,” Julien Carriere said.
He said with little-to-no recruiting they were still able to obtain 34 or 35 interested students.
“Usually in the fall semester we recruit 50,” Julien Carriere said. “We expect to have 30.”
Even so, there are resources offered to students who are thinking about joining the program.
“TAMIU has a lot of resources, a lot of scholarships, a lot of grant money and financial aid is also applicable,” Melody Carriere said. “So, I feel like sometimes a lot of students don’t know about that, and they immediately close themselves off and just think I can’t go. That’s what I want students to also know—that it is possible.”
Alumnus Raul Seca Jr., who attended the Peru program before he graduated, said he is excited to see these trips return.
“I was very fortunate to experience studying abroad in January 2020, just a month before the COVID-19 pandemic,” Seca said. “I felt very lucky and blessed to go on my very first trip out of the U.S., to a whole different continent before the world changed.”
In Peru, he discovered a new perspective that would change his life.
“When I returned home after two weeks, I felt like my life became different,” he said. “I missed everything about Peru. Being back home was a real shock.
“Coming to my everyday world, to my everyday surroundings, with my everyday family and friends, was something I felt I had to readjust to. I didn’t quite know it then, but my trip away to Peru would become so monumental in my life.”
Current TAMIU student Karen Esquivel anticipates being one of the 35 students who initially signed up to go to Florence.
“I’m looking forward to stepping out of my comfort zone and connecting with different people from a different part of the world,” Esquivel said. “I’ve heard so many amazing things about this specific program from students who have studied abroad with [Drs.] Julien and Melody Carriere and have been told on numerous occasions that the Italian program is the best one offered at TAMIU.”
For their first time back after the start of the pandemic, the Carrieres said they are overjoyed with experiencing their home-away-from-home once more.
“Just returning again, we are used to being over there every summer, and we haven’t gone since 2019 because of COVID,” Melody Carriere said. “So, just being able to go back and jumpstart the program again for the students.”
Julien Carriere added, “Study abroad is so weak in the United States—generally speaking. It’s like 2% or less of students in the U.S. [who attend] study abroad, and it’s such an important thing that we want to make sure that it keeps going.
“Paris 2023, that’s our next destination.”