This past summer I had the amazing opportunity to go on a Study Abroad to Alcalá de Henares, Spain with the University of Arizona. My advisor had told me about the possibility of going on a Study Abroad to Spain my freshman year and since then, I have been saving and preparing for this trip. Visiting Spain has been my dream ever since I saw Cheetah Girls 2, so I was really excited for the trip and knew that Barcelona was a city I needed to visit.
Arriving in Spain was different from what I was expecting. In the preparation meetings leading up to the trip, they had told us a little about what to expect from the people and the culture, but experiencing it myself was very different. Some things, like the very prevalent smoking by seemingly everyone, I never got used to, but after a little while it was easier to adjust to the later eating schedule and the foods that were typically served there.
Some of my favorite experiences in Spain were the classes I took and the trips we took as a U of A class. These offered me a different perspective of Spain I wasn’t expecting, and I am very thankful for them.
My classes covered the entire history of Spain, from the Phoenicians to Contemporary Spanish History. Through these classes I gained a fuller understanding of Spanish history and how the empire it was in the past has shaped its current government and culture. I appreciated knowing the history and background of different places, because it made visiting them on our class trips so much more meaningful. I could recognize certain Muslim or Jewish influences on the Spanish architecture or artwork, and it made me really happy to be able connect what I was learning in class with the beautiful places we were visiting.
Each of class trips we took involved a tour of the major city landmarks as well as free time to explore the city on our own. I loved these trips as they offered me the chance to see and explore the ancient Muslim city of Alhambra in Granada and Ieronimus, the bell tower tour of one of the cathedrals in Salamanca. I am thankful for these excursions, because I would not have thought to visit Avila, Burgos, or Cordoba and explore their history without their being on our itinerary.
My favorite cities that we visited as a class were Salamanca and Granada. In Salamanca, the history and pride that the city has with both of its cathedrals and its nearly 800 year old university make it the perfect blend of a college town and historical city. In Granada, the cultural influences of the Muslim people can be clearly seen in the architecture and street markets, and I loved that I could be a part of the mix of cultures that had been a part of Granada’s history for centuries.
Another city I enjoyed visiting was Barcelona. The absolute beauty of the city blew me away, and I filled up my phone’s storage taking pictures of the Sagrada Familia and Park Güell, as well as the other landmarks I visited. The works of Gaudi are seen throughout the city, and it was an absolute treat to see how his style influenced the architecture of the city.
This trip to Spain has truly opened my eyes to all of the beauty the country has to offer in its cities, but also the struggles and shortcomings it has had in its past. I am truly thankful for this amazing experience and my understanding of what it means to be a Spaniard grew throughout the month I spent there. I await the opportunity to return once more so that I can visit the cities I missed on this trip and continue to learn more about Spain.