Meet Rich Kurtzman, Director of one of AmeriSpan's Barcelona Study Abroad programs
What is your background?
I graduated from a small, liberal arts university in Illinois in 1998 with a double major in Spanish and Russian, but also studied Marketing and Psychology. I earned my M.A. degree in Spanish Applied Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition from University of Illinois-Chicago where I also taught Spanish. I came to Barcelona in 2002 planning to stay for 1 or 2 years, but like many others, fell in love with the city and haven’t left. I got married in 2010 to my wonderful wife – who is originally from England but has lived in 3 countries in Europe since 2000. We live in a lively, eclectic barrio of Barcelona within 5 minutes walking distance of our Spanish, Catalan and international friends.
Do you travel abroad often?
As much as I possibly can. From Barcelona, it’s a quick flight to so many European cities, but I also try visit other parts of Spain because everywhere I’ve been, I’ve loved. There is only one region of Spain that I haven’t yet been to, hopefully next year!
Have you studied abroad?
The first time I left the U.S. was to spend a summer in St. Petersburg, Russia. That started my love affair with travel and learning about new cultures. I then studied for a semester in Madrid, did an internship in Milan, volunteered in the Philippines, and have traveled to numerous other places for vacation.
Which languages do you speak or have studied?
I have studied – some for more time than others – Spanish, Catalan, Russian, Italian, French, Hebrew, and a very little bit of Japanese. I cannot say that I still speak all of those however.
How and why did you get into the Study Abroad market?
I started working in study abroad right after I graduated from college. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life so I decided to get a job in what I knew I loved and what made a difference in my life – Study Abroad. It combined my passions for travel, language learning and exploring new cultures.
When did you start/join your organization?
Barcelona SAE began in 2009. After having worked for other much larger companies for many years, I decided it was time to start a smaller program with more interaction with students so they could have the best experience possible.
What is your job or function at the organization?
I am the director.
What do you enjoy the most about your job?
The absolute best part of my job is at the end of the program at our re-entry workshop when we work with students on how they can use this experience to get a job, and I get to hear how much they have learned in Barcelona, how much they have grown personally and professionally, and how much the experience meant to them.
Tell us one of your biggest mistakes in your job, studying/teaching a language and/or traveling abroad.
I once called a store clerk in Russia a very insulting word, over and over, when I thought I was just pointing to the orange juice behind her and thought she couldn’t understand my accent! It turns out I had the wrong word for juice – oops.
Can you tell us about your school’s philosophy, specialty and/or why you think it is special?
Our goal is to get students to learn as much about the local culture as possible while they are studying here. We do that both inside and outside the classroom with our courses designed towards learning about Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain or the Mediterranean, with our weekly cultural activities, language exchanges, and weekend excursions.