Back to Current Spotlight

Leonardo - Leonardo was born in Lima, Peru, where he studied law, but his first love is archeology and history. So from a young age he volunteered at the archeology museum of Ica, Peru (his family hometown). Actually, Leonardo and Kay met at the archeological dig that he was directing in 1975, in which he and his workers found a communal grave with 50 mummies and many items of ceramic, cloth and jewelry.

In 1972 he was named Cultural Director of the Patrimony of Ica and director of excavations with the Museo de Antropologia in Ica, Peru. He was also invited in 1974 to accompany Dr. Marvin Allison, MD of Virginia Commonwealth University, who had National Geographic grants to study the pre-Hispanic diseases in the mummies in Ica, to an Americanist Conference in Mexico City, then to Virginia Commonwealth in Richmond, Virginia, where he was taught to do blood-typing on the mummies.

After we moved to the U.S. in 1975, Leonardo got his B.A. in Anthropology and Latin American Studies at Indiana University and then an M.A. in Spanish language and literature, also at IU. During the years at Indiana he taught classes and we jointly took part in IU's program in San Luis Potosi in Mexico for honors high school students and then created two summer programs to Dillenburg, Germany. Since leaving IU, we taught on one-year contracts at The College of William and Mary and then, since 1988, he has been teaching at NCSU in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, where he mostly teaches FLS 202, 208, 308 and various other 300-level courses. In 2000 we took the first group of students to Peru first summer session on the program which we created through the Study Abroad Office at NCSU. On the Peru Program he teaches FLS 308 - Advanced Spanish Grammar and FLS 316 - Culture and Civilization of Latin America.

Kay - At the age of 13 my family went to live in Maracaibo, Venezuela for three years, which greatly expanded my horizons, started me on my life-long study of Spanish and gave me the "travel bug". In college I majored in Spanish and minored in German for my B.A. and took my junior year abroad in Valencia, Spain. After graduating, I returned to Valencia for two more years, where I taught English and did translating and interpreting. To improve my German, I spent one year working in Hamburg, Germany, then I went to Peru for one year of graduate studies at the Universidad Católica with a fellowship from Rotary International, which is where I met Leonardo, in the manner previously described.

After we married, I went to graduate school at Indiana University, where I earned my M.A. in Spanish language and literatures and then my Ph.D. in what is called Plan C, a program which combines Hispanic literature with linguistics and educational psychology. I also earned a second minor in German. I was named the Excellence in Teaching Associate Instructor Teaching Award 1982-1983. In addition to teaching classes at IU, I taught literature on IU's summer program in San Luis, Mexico and then created a summer program for two summers in Dillenburg, Germany at the high school level. Subsequently, I taught one year at The College of William and Mary and three years at Elon College (now university) before coming to NCSU in 1991.

At State I mostly teach FLS 202, FLS 208, FLS 308, FLS 300 and various other 300-level classes. Together with my husband we created the Peru Program in 2000 and it has greatly expanded since then. In Peru I teach FLS 300 - Introduction to Hispanic Literature and FLS 310 - Advanced Spanish Grammar.

On a personal note, we have a daughter, Isabel, who is 17 and the joy of our lives and a great help as unofficial "student adviser" when we are in Peru. We enjoy living in Raleigh, teaching the students at State and taking students to Peru each year.

  • My Program
  • Advice for Students
  • Advice for Faculty Directors

Where do you lead a program?

Lima, Peru

How long have you run your study abroad program?

Our program started in 2000 and has grown each year.

What stands out as your favorite memory from the study abroad programs that you have directed?

I would not mention one specific incident, but generally my favorite aspect is getting close to the students and watching them blossom. We think of them as our "kids" and have followed many from past programs through to travel in other countries, graduate school, marriage and having children. Actually, this fall we have our first marriage of a couple who met on our program (in 2004, I believe) . The relationship, therefore, with "our kids" is our fondest memory of our programs.

I guess a specific memory would be when the students complete the grueling four-day hike on the Inca Trail and then come out to overlook the astonishing Inca remains of Machu Picchu, and seeing the look of wonder on their faces.

If you could give prospective students one piece of advice about
study abroad, what would it be?

Learn as much about the country, people and language as they can before they go to the country and be open to a life-changing, wonderful experience. This is one reason why we require so many orientation meetings before we go and give as much detailed information about what we will be doing and the places we visit as possible.

What are you looking for from the students who apply to your program?

We look for students who are dedicated to their studies, especially to Spanish, and who also are enthusiastic about Spanish and Hispanic cultures. They will be open to new experiences and have a positive attitude. But I must say that it is very hard to judge before hand how the students will react when in Peru and even the ones who may not have the best Spanish or be the most out-going, usually blossom while there. We feel that the simple fact that the student shows an interest in going overseas is of great value in itself.

If you could give new Faculty Directors of study abroad programs one piece of advice about leading a program, what would it be?

My main advice would be to have everything planned in great detail before hand and leave nothing to chance. In the same vein, most of our students have not been outside the U.S. before, often have not even visited a large city (Lima has 8-10 million people), nor been exposed to other cultures. Therefore, the students must be helped, guided and cared for especially at the beginning of the program until they can get their own bearings and can function more on their own. I think that it would be devastating to arrive in a country with a group of our kids, turn them over to families or an institution and say, "OK! We're here. You're on your own." We are available and have others there for our students at all times and I believe that this works well.

What marketing tips would you suggest to your fellow Faculty Directors to encourage more NC State students to study abroad?

First of all, the best marketing is done by students who have gone on the program, loved it and tell their friends that they have to go. We try to mobilize our students as much as possible--helping with the Study Aboard Fair, talking to classes and going to our information meeting. The information given by students is invaluable. Talking about the program in classes is very helpful and inviting students to talk about them is excellent marketing aid. Therefore, the SAO program of sending students to talk to classes is great. Putting posters around everywhere to get the word out there is also beneficial. In the fall we also have an information meeting to let students know more details about the program. When we first started the program, since we did not have students to give feedback, I cooked a huge spread of Peruvian food for the information meetings, to entice the students.