When Colby Presley was encouraged by faculty in Southern Utah University’s Spanish department to apply for a scholarship to study in Spain he thought his chances of getting it were slim.
Out of hundreds who applied for the National Study Abroad Scholarship through Sigma Delta Pi, the National Hispanic Honor Society, Presley was one of the few selected to study in La Universidad de Alcalá in Alcalá de Henares, Spain, a suburb college town of Madrid.
“When I was selected, I realized how amazingly invested the professors of SUU are for their students, especially in the Department of Languages and Philosophy,” he said. “I would not have heard of or even applied to the scholarship had it not been these professors.”
Alexandra Perkins, SUU assistant professor of Spanish, was one of the professors who urged Presley to apply for the program. She said, “I recommended Colby for this program because he possesses an incredible desire to learn from others and to learn about other cultures. He has an outstanding record of academic achievement as well as community and global service.”
Iliana Portaro, assistant professor of Spanish and advisor for SUU’s chapter of Sigma Delta Pi, said of Presley’s acceptance into the program, “Colby is a very bright student and this scholarship is very well-deserved,” she said. “He has many diverse academic interests, but he has managed to incorporate his passion for language in all of them. He is a clear example of how beneficial it is to pair a language with any major.
During his month in Spain, Presley, a political science and Spanish double major from Blythe, Calif., studied medical Spanish and worked with a dermatologist while in the program. He said American medicine and Spanish medicine were not as different as he had originally thought.
“I learned that in medicine, communication, no matter the language, is beyond important because you have to understand your patient, not just their pain or illness,” Presley said. “I was taught how to communicate and speak with patients in order to always treat my patients as a person who needs help opposed to simply a patient who needs medicine."
He said he will bring his love of medicine back to campus in the fall where he will be assisting students in the Rural Health Scholars (RHS) program with breaking down cultural differences, especially for students in the program who are traveling with RHS to Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.
Presley went to say that the program will have a long lasting effect on how he studies and practices medicine. “We must realize that we are human beings who beat with one heart,” he said. “We have to take care of each other, no matter the cultural or language barrier that exists. Competition gets us no father as humanity in general but compassion moves us much farther in development.”