SUNY New Paltz will celebrate 50 years of study abroad at the College as part of Alumni Reunion Weekend on Oct. 13, 2018. Alumni will have the opportunity to share and reconnect with former and current staff, and Professor Emeritus Dr. Louis Saraceno, the first study abroad faculty director, during an afternoon reception on Saturday.
Saraceno joined the Department of Foreign Languages at SUNY New Paltz in 1965 and helped establish the College’s study abroad programs in Spain, at the University of Oviedo and the University of Seville.
“We had our first study abroad experience in 1968,” said Saraceno. “What started as a seven-week program in northern Spain has transformed into one of the most exciting opportunities for students at New Paltz.”
From the beginning, the program practiced total immersion for those traveling. Students on the first trips were encouraged to not speak a word of English and were required to talk to locals and to learn through first-hand experiences.
“There’s a tremendous contrast in Spain and so our students were able to see the differences this way,” said Saraceno. “We would fly over all together and our bus would be waiting for us. Even our bus driver was with the program for 40 years. We all have a lot of fond memories and hopefully many will join us during the reception to reminisce.”
A half century has passed since the program began and now nearly 25 percent of all SUNY New Paltz undergraduate students undertake a study abroad experience during their time at the College, among the highest figures in the SUNY system.
The Center for International Programs has for years partnered with the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) to create international opportunities for students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, and was recognized for these efforts with an Institute for International Education’s 2015 Andrew Heiskell Award for Innovation in International Education.
Saraceno and his wife, Frances, remain committed to the program. They established the Louis and Frances Ricciardi Saraceno Scholarship, which provides financial assistance to students participating in the College’s study abroad programs in Spain.
“We really hope this Reunion event will help to build the connections among alumni who studied abroad as students at New Paltz,” said Saraceno. “We all have so many stories to share and we look forward to hearing what others will have to say about their experiences abroad during all the decades that have passed.”