Staff Spotlight: Mary Alice Soriero

SVQ CEA Study Center Academic Director
After studying abroad herself in Japan for a year, serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand and being granted a USIS Fellowship to Perú, her family could no longer deny that she was a life-long abroad resident when she settled in Sevilla, Spain. She brings to her work at CEA her abroad living experiences, 25 years in the intercultural education field and both a BA in Liberal Arts from PSU and a MS. Ed from the University of Pennsylvania.

car on bridge

What position do you hold at CEA? What has been your career path so far?

Mary Alice: I am currently the Academic Director at CEA Seville. I first came to CEA to teach the SOC 330 -- Cultural Values class in 2007. I then started teaching the Second Language Acquisition in 2011. All that I do at CEA is seasoned with over 25 years in the International Education field.

My students have ranged from middle-schoolers to those serving in the US Air Force. On all occasions I actively worked to have students both learning about their host cultural and the importance of global citizenship. I love to help people make connections to local culture and have the ah ha moments where one really comprehends what is going on locally.

Did YOU study abroad?! If so, where and what inspired you to go?

Mary Alice: I was a study abroad student to Japan. I started out as a semester student, but quickly knew I had more than a semester of learning to do. I then set about extending my visa and doing the paperwork at my home university to make arrangements to stay the next semester. As the closure of the second semester approached I again looked at my visa and saw that I had 3 months left on it.

This allowed me to stay the summer working in a local summer camp, allowing me to stay not just the academic year, but almost a full calendar year. This taught me that the only way to truly get an insider understanding of another culture was to spend an extended period of time there. Only time allows you to not just see the sights, but to make friends, understand community and see the inner fabric of the social construction of identity.

What country have you always wanted to visit?

Mary Alice: Although I have traveled to Indonesia on two occasions, my dream of dreams is to one day spend an extended period of time in Irian Jaya, the western part of the island of New Guinea. Not only would I delight in the natural beauty and wonders of this, but I would really like to spend time working to understand the intricacies of diversity and co-existence among the indigenous groups. This trip will have to wait until I can really spend time there, and not just spend some vacation days.

Why is language learning and cultural immersion important to you?

Mary Alice: The only way we can come to truly embrace peaceful co-existence is by not just understanding our differing points of view, but working to embrace and use diversity to enhance our current existence. This can only occur by spending long periods interacting in a different context. And it is not just interacting. It is moving beyond that and being able to reflect enough upon the cultural engagement to experience a shift in thinking that allows to see parallel versions of how things work.