AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBasketball roundup: Sierra Canyon, Birmingham set to face off in tournament quarterfinalsMoving to Glendale as a young teenager, Acosta had to adjust to a new lifestyle. The first was with school – Glendale High School, a large public campus. In Nicaragua, she attended an all-girl’s Catholic school. The combination of boys and girls under one rooftop was one of the most difficult parts of her new life to accept. But books and the new language she heard every day came easy to her. She had visited America six times before moving here at the urging of her parents who encouraged her to learn English, visit Disneyland and other American landmarks and to forget about war and political unrest back at home. Academics turned out to be her salvation, and after high school, Acosta headed to Glendale Community College and then to California State University, San Marcos, where she graduated with a degree in broadcast journalism. With her bachelor’s degree in hand, she immediately enrolled at University of California, Riverside, for her master’s degree in Hispanic literatures. Today she’s pursuing her doctorate in education at Pepperdine University. “You are a student for the rest of your life,” she said. “I’m a perennial student. I’ll never stop learning.” VALENCIA – If Claudia Acosta had it her way, studying abroad would be a requirement for college graduation. And in her own way, by coming to America via Nicaragua at 14, she’s been on the largest academic studying program of a lifetime. Now at age 42 and as head of the foreign language department at College of the Canyons, Acosta organizes study abroad semesters to Spain and short excursions to Central America to expose students to other cultures, politics and new ways of life. They are all lessons that she learned after moving to the U.S. in 1979, when her family fled Nicaragua after their property was confiscated during a civil war. “I learned from life what was really meaningful during the war,” she said. “We lost everything we had, and all we had left was our family – the most important thing.” When she came to College of the Canyons to teach in 1998, she saw how local teachers were going out of the area to learn Spanish in order to communicate with their young students. So she created an intensive learning program where students are completely immersed in Spanish for nearly 11 hours a day for two weeks. Eventually the course opened up to all in the community. And to encourage students to learn about other cultures, she instituted an international film festival at College of the Canyons, now an annual happening at the school. “I felt that we needed more. We needed to open our horizons and learn about culture, and what a better way to do it than with film,” she said. On Thursday, Acosta walked through the aisles of her beginning Spanish class, as students practiced vocabulary words relating to vacations and trips. In Spanish they described the magnificent holidays they could take. Some were more talkative than others. Then again, it was only 8:30 a.m. It wasn’t enough for Acosta. She asked the class why they were so quiet and playfully shook her coffee cup before them. “Double shot cappuccino, no sugar,” she said, explaining her energy. “You probably didn’t have breakfast.” The class took a five-minute break and while some dashed off for caffeinated drinks, others stayed behind and softly repeated their new vocabulary words to themselves. Svetlana Kravets was one of them. Spanish is the third language the 49-year-old from Russia is learning. Working in Russian radio, the Granada Hills woman feels her community is too insular and hopes that learning Spanish will expand her world. “I think it’s really important to speak Spanish in this day,” she said. [email protected] (661) 257-5254160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!